Investigation clears gay Fort Worth teacher

Kristopher Franks set to return to work Friday after 4-day leave stemming from allegations of improper behavior

FWISD School board member Carlos Vasquez

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Gay Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks, put on paid administrative leave on Monday, Sept. 26, following allegations of improper behavior, has been cleared of all allegations and was set to return to work today (Friday, Sept. 30).

Franks is the teacher who  became the target of ire from the religious right after he sent a student in his German 1 class to the principal’s office for saying in class that as a Christian he believed “homosexuality is wrong.” The school’s assistance principal then suspended the student, setting off a controversy that made headlines around the country.

That student, freshman Dakota Ary, and his mother enlisted the assistance of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause in fighting the suspension on the grounds that Franks and the school had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech.

District officials quickly reversed their decision, lifting the suspension.

But Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that the allegations leading to Franks being put on leave were unrelated to the incident with Ary.

Franks, who had not spoken to the press previously on the advice of his union representative, said Thursday afternoon that he had just met with Fort Worth Independent School District administrators, who told him the nearly weeklong investigation had determined that the allegations against him were unfounded. He did not elaborate on the substance of those allegations.

Franks also said administrators had given him the option of returning to teach at Western Hills High or transferring to another school in the district.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet what I’m going to do,” Franks told Dallas Voice by phone Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to go back to work tomorrow, and I will talk to my boss [the district’s world languages supervisor], and see what she says and decide what’s the best thing to ­do from there.”

FWISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez told Dallas Voice in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.

Franks said Thursday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, carried out by an independent investigator, and that interim FWISD Supt. Walter Dansby was “very nice” when they spoke.

“I think they did the right thing,” Franks said. “I can go back to work, which is great. But now I just have to figure out how to fix the damage this whole thing has done to my personal life.”

Franks said since the investigation is closed, he is no longer being represented by a union attorney. He has, instead, retained the services of attorney Stephen Gordon to “represent me on any aspects of this whole thing going forward.”

He also indicated that he and Gordon would be discussing what possible actions he might take against “those people who have lied and made false allegations against me.”

While Franks had previously declined to speak to the media, Daokta Ary, his mother and Krause as their attorney went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.

Krause this week told Dallas Voice that he and his clients are satisfied with school officials’ decision to rescind the unexcused absences the suspension left on Ary’s record, but “we would still like for them [school officials] to completely vindicate him and say that he did nothing wrong. He should never have been written up for an infraction. He should never have been sent to the office, and he should never have been suspended.”

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.

Dakota Ary

But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.

Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.

During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.

Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.

Franks’ friends also said that the teacher, a Fulbright scholar, has been the target of anti-gay harassment for at least the last two years, including having hateful messages left in his classroom and, in one case, having his car vandalized.

FWISD teacher Martin Vann, spokesman for the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. that was formed about a year ago to help protect students and teachers in the district from anti-gay discrimination and bullying, said that Franks told his version of the incident last week, before the current investigation was launched and Franks was required to sign a statement saying he would not discuss the incident with other teachers, administrators, parents or students. Vann said Franks denied getting angry and yelling at Ary, as Ary had said, and reiterated that Ary’s comments were not pertinent to any discussion in the class at the time.

Vann said Franks told him that another student had asked him what the German word for “Christian” was, and how, if he moved to Germany, he could find an English translation of the Bible. That’s when, Franks told Vann, Ary looked directly at him and said loudly that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

It was not, Franks told Vann, a simple statement of belief or opinion but rather an intentional effort to insult and harass the teacher that Ary perceived to be gay.

Krause this week again said that Ary did not direct his remark in class that day at Franks, and that Ary had nothing to do with tearing down the photo of the men kissing.

The attorney also said that Ary told him he did not know to whom Franks was referring when he talked about Ary’s “three friends.”

The Franks case comes in the wake of months of scandal over allegations by teachers that administrators routinely allowed some teachers and administrators to harass and bully students and other teachers, and that teachers who complained often faced retaliation.

Vasquez, who is openly gay, said Wednesday that he believed the Franks investigation would be fair, that he would watch the situation closely “to make sure all the proper procedures are followed,” and that he believed Dansby would handle the situation fairly.

“Considering all the problems we’ve had, I know he [Dansby] will be watching this closely,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said it is the school district’s responsibility to make sure there is “no harassment in our schools, whether it’s from the teacher to the student, or student to student or even student to teacher. I know that happens, sometimes, too.

“There should be no harassment whatsoever in our schools,” Vasquez , himself a former teacher, said.

Fort Worth ISD has been credited with having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the state, having adopted individual policies within the last year to include prohibitions against harassment and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, for both teachers and students.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Photo: Crocheted Wall Street Bull

Bull 

Before the blizzard hit this week, NYC street artist Crocheted Olek hit Wall Street with her most recent stealth art piece. I've posted her work before (see here) but it seems to be getting a bit more monumental.

Olek (whose real name is Agata Olek) crocheted a coat around the famous Wall Street bull, which lasted for about two hours, she says.

Olek writes: "It was truly a year of guerrilla actions that opened a new path in my crocheted investigations.
I started it with a bike and ended up with the Charging Bull as a Christmas gift to NYC and a tribute to the sculptor of the bull, Arturo di Modica, who in another guerrilla act, placed the bull on Wall Street in Christmas of 1987 as a symbol of the 'strength and power of the American people' following the 1987 Stock Market crash."

Bull2

(images via animal and agata olek)


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Adoption now official: NOM the proud parent of one over-the-top Facebook wall

For months now we’ve been telling you how the National Organization For Marriage has been slowly incorporating Louis “gays want pedophilia, polygamy, and prostitution” Marinelli‘s online initiatives into their strategy. Now they have made it even more official, declaring that Louis’ often incendiary “Protect Man One Woman” Facebook page is now NOM’s organizational home:

Screen Shot 2010-09-28 At 9.55.25 Am

[NOM's official Facebook wall]

So it’s now one billion percent official, folks: The incredibly eye-opening, “ex-gay”-backing “Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman” Facebook page that was created by newfound NOM strategist (and bus driver) Louis Marinelli is NOM’s “new home on Facebook.” Just a reminder: This is the same Louis J. Marinelli who has used Paul Cameron’s research to say that “gays have shorter life spans,” who thinks that all gays are single even if they are married or in a committed relationship, who thinks that Peter LaBarbera and his fringe “Americans For Truth” group is merely “tell[ing] the truth about homosexuality,” who says that marriage equality is “a mockery and a hijacking of the civil rights movement,” who flat-out calls gays an abomination, who says that “Deviance” describes actions or behaviours that violate cultural norms – homosexuality is far from a cultural norm. Therefore, it is deviant,” who claims that “Homosexuality and gay marriage are wrong and harmful to society,” who thinks that “there shouldn’t be any recognition of homosexual relationships because that is saying that homosexuality is OK,” who says that “what they do is blantantly [sic] immoral. :) [smile his own], ” who has compared our unions to that which might exist between a sterile brother and sister, who resorts to blanket character assassination in saying that one should “#nevertrust activists of the homosexual agenda – they are deceitful people who care only about themselves and not what’s best for society,” and who has made an egregious video declaring that modern LGBT rights activists want the “3 P’s: Prostitution, pedophilia, and polygamy“:

This is the same Marinelli who has also hit up this site’s comment threads, continuing his attempts to link gays to pedophilia and polygamy. And also remember: This Marinelli-crafted Facebook wall is the same one where a commenter recently suggested that California should be “glassed with nuclear warheads,” one where gays have been called “victims of mental illness,” where commenters pose questions about whether or not “gays are heterosexuals misguided by satan,” and where jaw-drops are a daily occurrence. All adopted by NOM.

We remain shocked that folks as politically savvy as Maggie Gallagher and Robert George would allow this to happen. But whatever — they have. So use it. And spread it widely.

**

**UPDATE: Among the pages that this newly official NOM Facebook page counts as a favorite? Regina Griggs’ incredibly fringe “ex-gay” advocacy group:

Screen Shot 2010-07-13 At 5.05.07 Pm-1

***

**EARLIER: Reliably volatile messaging’s on the wall, but NOM doesn’t seem to care. Seems to like it, even. [G-A-Y]

Who needs a militant agenda? NOM has allowed selves (and message) to be hijacked [G-A-Y]




Good As You

—  John Wright

Even the Wall Street Journal supports repeal of DADT

Yes, we’re linking to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal. Even the notoriously conservative editorial page of that paper supports repealing DADT. It’s sub. req., but here’s an excerpt:

For a more sober view of the subject, turn to Dennis Laich, a self-described “old, bald, straight guy.” Mr. Laich has none of the glamour of Lady Gaga, but on this subject he has one valuable credential: He retired from the U.S. Army in 2006 after a 35-year career in the reserves that began in field artillery, included tours of duty in Honduras, Germany, the Netherlands, Kuwait and Iraq, and culminated in a command position at Ft. Devens as a Major General. Unlike Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman who has also expressed reservations about the policy, he has no liberal political masters to please. But he still thinks DADT is nuts.

The strength of the general’s case is that it’s not about “rights,” gay or otherwise, much less whatever Lady Gaga happens to think is in the Constitution. It’s about the interests of the military itself, starting with its values. “If you talk to most theologians, ethicists or philosophers, they’ll tell you there are two kinds of lies, of commission or omission,” he says. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell represents a lie of omission that is inconsistent with the values of a military organization that presents itself as values-based.”

And the conclusion:

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that there are an estimated 48,000 homosexuals on active duty or the reserves, many of them in critical occupations, many with distinguished service records. If they pose any risk at all to America’s security, it is, paradoxically, because DADT institutionalizes dishonesty, puts them at risk of blackmail, and forces fellow warfighters who may know about their orientation to make an invidious choice between comradeship and the law. That’s no way to run a military.

Republican senators are now bellyaching that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to jam the repeal amendment into a bill they have no real choice but to vote for. They should be silently thanking him. He’s giving them the chance to do the right thing while blaming the Democrats for it. It’s a GOP twofer, plus a vote they’ll someday be proud of.

Yes, even the WSJ. I know SLDN worked hard on this editorial. In fact, the above-mentioned Dennis Laich serves on the SLDN Military Advisory Council.

This is such a no-brainer, it hurts.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Brian Brown added me to wall, then put up a wall. But verbal firebombs still make it over

Remember when NOM president Brian Brown, completely out of the blue, added yours truly to his Facebook “friends” list? Yea, well, an update: After I left one perfectly fair, in no way personal comment defending LGBT people against the typical misinformation, Brian removed me. No harm, since I never asked to be on his list anyway. And let’s get real: Do I really need to know how B-dog’s doing in Farmville or Bananagrams?

However, since I did comment that one time, I still get emails whenever people respond to what I say. Followup comments that say things like this:

201009091057

Stay classy, anti-equality!




Good As You

—  John Wright

Reliably volatile messaging’s on the wall, but NOM doesn’t seem to care. Seems to like it, even.

They’ve been featuring it on their Twitter page for months. But now the National Organization For Marriage has solidified their bond to Louis “gays want pedophilia, polygamy, and prostitution” Marinelli‘s incendiary “Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman” Facebook page, embedding that very F’book wall into their TwoMillionForMarriage site:

201008261335-1

TwoMillionForMarriage

So why is this a thing of note? Well, because this is a Facebook page where conversations like this one are playing out on a daily basis:

201008261335

This is the same F’book wall where a commenter recently suggested that California should be “glassed with nuclear warheads,” and one where gays have been called “victims of mental illness.” Where not only the commenters bend towards the fringe, but where even the moderator posts Paul Cameron-quipping pages that claim gays are “propelling our society toward a premature demise”:

Screen Shot 2010-08-26 At 1.50.00 Pm

And it’s all now an official part of Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown’s National Organization For Marriage.




Good As You

—  John Wright