When I heard about this on a radio news broadcast this morning, I got so upset I nearly had an accident.
When I got to a computer I checked the radio WCBS website and found this Associated Press story about seven-year old Marcus McLaurin who was punished for telling a classmate his mother was "gay." Initially I was not going to use the young boy’s name, but it is already prominently displayed in tens of newspaper articles.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Marcus was waiting in line to go to recess when a classmate asked him about his mother and father. Marcus responded that he didn't have a mother and father; instead he has two mothers. When the other child asked why, Marcus explained that it was because his mother is gay. The other child then asked what that meant, and Marcus explained, "Gay is when a girl likes another girl."
His teacher, in front of Marcus' classmates, scolded Marcus saying "gay" is a bad word and he should never say it at school. Marcus was not allowed to have recess, but instead he was sent to the principal’s office. Marcus was then required to attend a special behavioral clinic at 6:45 in the morning, where he was forced to repeatedly write "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again."
As if violating a young boy’s right of free expression and telling him that it is wrong to talk about his family wasn’t bad enough, the school required Marcus to complete the this “behavior contract.” This document is worth viewing even though it takes too long to load. The teacher explained at the top of the form:
“He explained to another child that you are gay and what being gay means.”
I can’t believe any school administrator or teacher would find it appropriate to force a seven-year old to complete such a “contract.”
The “school behavior report” is also worth viewing. This “report” signed by the school's assistant principal, contains these remarks from the teacher, “Marcus decided to explain to another child in his group that his mom is gay. He told the other child that gay is when a girl likes a girl. This kind of discussion is not acceptable in my room. I feel that parents should explain things of this nature to their own children in their own way.”
Marcus’ mom was shocked by the school’s draconian overreaction:
I was concerned when the assistant principal called and told me my son had said a word so bad that he didn't want to repeat it over the phone. But that was nothing compared to the shock I felt when my little boy came home and told me that his teacher had told him his family is a dirty word.The ACLU sent a letter to the school demanding that school officials take no further disciplinary action against Marcus because of this incident, remove all records about the discipline from Marcus’ files, assure that they will not censor, discriminate, or retaliate against Marcus or his mother and apologize to both Marcus and his mother.
The Lafayette Daily Advertiser reported today that the superintendent of the Lafayette Parish School District said Marcus was not disciplined for using the word “gay” to describe his mother and vowed that the district would not apologize.
“An apology is not due. The child was not singled out because his parent is gay.”The superintendent strongly denied that the child was made to write repeatedly, “I will never use the word ‘gay’ in school again,” as alleged by the ACLU.
According to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, the superintendent asserted early on Tuesday that Marcus was actually sent to a behavioral clinic a week later because he was disrupting the classroom and not completing a classroom assignment. However, he couldn’t explain why the school district didn’t have the documentation to support the real reasons for the child’s discipline. Later that day the superintendent said he couldn’t release the additional documents to the media, because they involved the discipline of a child and would violate child privacy laws.
I realize that there is always two sides to a story. Usually the truth is found somewhere between the two versions. The school looks very bad so far and the superintendent is destroying the school’s credibility.
I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of this story.