Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Proposal to the Pride Foundation
to support Seattle Public Schools sexual education program, FLASH, in partner with Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

Contact Information

Seattle Public Schools
John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence (JSCEE)

2445 3rd Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98134
Phone: 206.252.0000

Contact Person: Alexander LaCasse, public school advocate and GLSEN member

Brief Description of Organization

What is now called GLSEN initially started out as a group of 70 gay and lesbian educators as the Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network in 1990. At its genesis, the country had two recognized Gay-Straight Alliances as well as one state that had policy in place to protect LGBT students. It was not until 1995 that the organization made its national debut. Chapters across the country began to quickly crop up. Today GLSEN staffs 40 individuals, has a board of 20 and has registered nearly 4,000 Gay-Straight Alliances around the country.
GLSEN strives to create an atmosphere of acceptance of others through education, ensuring that all students are safe in their schools regardless of sexual orientation. The mission was established early on and states that GLSEN “envisions a world in which every child learns to accept and respect all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.”
GLSEN works collaboratively with state legislature and and school districts in order to address the issues surrounding the young gay and lesbian population. The vision of GLSEN can be broken into four categories:
1.Convince education leaders and policymakers of the urgent need to address anti-LGBT behavior and bias in our schools.
2.Protect students by advancing comprehensive and effective safe schools law and policies.
3.Empower principals to make their schools safe places to learn.
4.Build the skills of educators to teach respect for all people.
Seattle Public Schools, a publicly funded entity, understand and respects GLSEN's efforts to create a more cohesive and accepting atmosphere for all of its students.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Peta: An Unfortunate Reality

Peta presents clear and distinct images to viewers which are both appropriate and effective. Their message is obvious--animal cruelty is unacceptable.

The use of varying images such as altered logos as well as often brutal video conveys Peta's message as an organization determined to fight unjust behavior against animals. Emotionally speaking, the videos provide a specific personal element attracting viewers to adopt their specific school of thought. And, it works. Most specically Peta has a video chronocling the process of chicken slaughtering in order to be prepared for KFC restaurants. If the video had not had images of the process itself it would not have warrented intense review. However, because the narration was coupled with actual shots of what was being discussed, a certain sense of validity was added to Peta's argument. It is safe to assume that the medium shapes the message. Because of the "shock and awe" presented by Peta, a message of humane treatment and sympathy is automatically created thus hopefully motivating individuals to act.

Visual representation has an incredible impact on viewers. While one may not agree with Peta's mission as a whole, it is difficult to argue with images of animals being beaten by human beings. It is there. Radical and impactful images stay with us longer as viewers and have a lasting impression. Peta sets a reality for viewers--a reality that is amplified by shocking and startling images.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Our country is changing at a rapid pace.

The economic crisis is in full swing, our first African American president has taken office and our climate is altering every moment. All of these issues are in response to something--poor spending, greater racial acceptance, irresponsibility with sustainability ---that have caused us as a collective to change our paths, minds, education and direction.

It is time we respond to another pressing issue, and change direction yet again.

With greater legalization and the continuing normalization of same-sex couples in America, there arrives the need to address it in one of the largest arenas we have--our schools.

As I walk through the halls of our public schools, I hear slander left and right coming from the mouths of six and seventh graders.

"That's gay!" and "You're a fag!" run rampant in our schools. This is hate-speech. Our kids are effectively using hate-speech as a means to communicate and it has become normalized behavior. Since when is it ok for our children to use language not unlike that of a slave-owner? Is the socially taboo "N" word that far off from the language these students are using? According to one specific study, more than three quarters of students have reported being called "gay" or a "faggot."

This is unacceptable and as a community we should be ashamed.

Lets investigate the term "faggot" and where it comes from, to perhaps give some background to the offensive word. Many people justify the use of it because it refers to literally a bundle of sticks. What most people do not know, however, is that the term faggot refers to a moment in history where men suspected as sodomists would be burned alive in public.

We should not be praising this nor accepting it in our schools.

Schools are a safe-haven for our children. At least, they should be. They are fundamentally places to foster growth, motivate our youth and provide them with tools of acceptance.

Fundamentally this is an issue of respect and dignity. Sexual education should be comprehensive. This is to say that all avenues of life should be presented for students as a means to expose them to reality. Believe it or not, there are gay people in the world. And believe it or not, they are active members in our society who everyone will interact with at some point or another.

As a gay man, it would have been incredibly beneficial to have been introduced to the idea of homosexuality at an early age in school. Instead, my perception of what it meant to be "gay" was left to the kids on the playground. Gay automatically became funny and consequentially something I did not want to be.

Our schools are in the business of helping students, not harming them. Lets provide them with reality and stop living in the fantasy.

Maternal/Paternal Responsibility

With the case of "Octomom" Nadya Suleman, D. Parvaz makes it apparent in his editorial that her self-ignorance and irresponsibility is largely to blame. Bringing eight additional children into the world after a batch of six ushers in questions of responsibility and where it lies---especially considering her socio-economic status. The fact of the matter is, the larger society will ultimately be placed in responsibility of providing and taking care for these children. Suleman herself has no job, is in debt and lives off her mother (what little she does have.) Comparing Suleman's case to AppleBaum's piece on mothers in war, again there arrives issues of responsibility. AppleBaum makes a successful appeal to the rationale behind women in war--while freedoms and rights are applauded for women in war, the extent to which women who are planning to have children or are pregnant during their military career is questionable. I would even argue selfish and ignorant. The responsibility lies with the mother, not the state to take care of these children. If a woman is planning to enlist, then it would be a wise decision to perhaps not have a child at that time. When AppleBaum mentions instances of a child being left with no parents my heart aches for that child. It is these types of people who should not have children. Having a child is a lifetime commitment. To have a child and then ship both parents abroad is irresponsible, immoral and ignorant. This is not an issue of larger government. These are both issues (Suleman and war moms) of personal choice. The fact of the matter is, women do have a choice whether or not they want to enlist. That is great. More power to them. They should have that right, and be deemed equal under law. This is not under question. However, women are also free to choose whether or not they have children. Men are also involved in this decision. It is a collaborative affair with distinct choices.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Letter of Intent

To whom it may concern,

SafetyNet is a non-profit organization striving to provide Seattle Public Schools with comprehensive sexual education curriculum, including specifc curriculum promoting the acceptance of homosexuality. We have been in existence for 10 years in the Seattle community and are a certified non-profit.
SafetyNet is proposing a reconstruction of Seattle Public Schools current sexual education program, FLASH. This would include an intensive review, update and comprehensive inclusion of issues pertaining to gay and lesbian youth. Our schools are inundated with hateful language--fag, homo, etc--derived from a lack of knowledge when it comes to homosexuality. Our schools need to represent reality--homosexuality is one of these realities. To make it invisible within our schools is to make it mysterious and consequentially unaccepted. Introducing curriculum specifically designed to reduce prejudice and creating a safe place for students is beneficial to both schools and society. We are proposing a grant at a monetary base of $20,000 to provide for curriculum update, research and teacher training. SafetyNet has a history of working within the community and has been a beacon for the public schools in years past. The review process will plan to take one full academic year.
We are asking for your help in educating our students. This proposal is first and foremost a way in which our public schools can provide useful, applicable and respectful resources to our students. We ask funding of roughly $20,000 in order to provide a systematic review of the FLASH program as well as implementation of a same-sex based curriculum. Teacher training is also included. This proposal will be followed up with a phone call. Thank you so much for your time and attention. It is greatly appreciated.

Funding Project.

Proposal: A comprehensive sexual education program would include proper materials as well as trained educators in order to provide a medically accurate, socially representational and respectful sexual education environment for students in the Seattle Public School district. Most importantly, as it is often lacking in already well-established programs, funding would seek to implement a specific chapter covering issues pertaining to the homosexual. This is to say sexual education would include curriculum designed to teach students about the acceptability and varying viewpoints of "different" lifestyles. It is a presentation of the issue and a representation of the reality in our society then subsequent moral/value judgment by students themselves. Money would be needed for this, and thus this is where grant writing comes into fruition. This is an easily arguable and acceptable proposal since we are dealing with children--our society's greatest commodity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Open Letter to Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson

Today, I mourn the loss of five Seattle Public Schools. The decision to do so puts a mark of shame and fault on the district, a mark identified not by its academics and success but rather by its failure to serve our number one commodity--students. This is an enormous social blunder. We are facing a loss to our community, one that will have impacts for years.

The closure of the five schools is an issue of social justice, not one of capacity management or financial relief. You have decided to uproot these students from their communities.

Let me share a story with you.

Two years ago, I worked for the district as a mentor at Meany Middle School. There I met with a boy named Deshawn---a shy, quiet, sensitive yet eager young man who thrived when he was at school. Deshawn was an amazing kid. He had the demeanor of a tough guy, but the swagger of a gentle soul. When we would be talking or working together, he would seek my approval. Deshawn would be proud when he got a question right, looking up to me for that "Great job" or a simple glance of boastfulness that "my" student had done something incredible. Seeing his face put a smile on mine everyday.

While his academics were below average, school was the one place he had consistency. Deshawn's father was not present in his life, and his mother had died. He was cared for by his grandmother. Late in the year Deshawn's grandmother died of a heartattack. He was devastated. While he had a minial support group at home, school was the one place he had as a source of safety and comfort. Meany Middle School became his family. His teachers, myself and his peers were his brothers and sisters. Deshawn became even more attached to Meany and the community that surrounded him. Without this at the time of his grandmother's death, Deshawn would have been lost.

It is this kind of story that stretches across your school district, and these stories that will be affected by your recent decision to close five schools. A consolidation of schools does not mean an increase in educational equality. What you fail to realize is that these closures signify a destruction of a community--a community founded on cultural competency and diversity.

What are we teaching our students by closing these five schools? That they don't belong at the school they've called home for the past 4, 6, 12 years? What does it tell them that the district is closing all minority, low income schools?

This is an issue that needs to be readdressed. Not for the sake of my arguments, but for the sake of the children who are being so dramatically affected. Transferring students like Deshawn to a completely new environment will only yield negative academic and personal results. Let him be. Let him thrive in a community he calls home.