All of my children attended the Virginia Beach public schools and for a time I was a pro-education activist striving to see programs that the city now boasts about put into place. To say I was hated by some on City Council and the Virginia Beach School Board is probably not an overstatement. Frighteningly, some of the same players who in my opinion consistently put the best interest of students, especially those who were different, last are still on the School Board - Board Chairman Dan Edwards being a prime example. Now the Board has gotten itself embroiled in seemingly anti-LGBT controversy which is garnering national and international attention via the Washington Post and numerous LGBT blogs and news outlets. Virginia Beach likes to see itself as a first class city, but until small minded individuals like Edwards are removed from positions of governance, the city will remain petty ante at best. What I find most disturbing is that the mealy mouthed excuse given for cancelling a long scheduled gay-straight alliance assembly is that it suggests to me that the School Board may be cowering before demands of Christofascist within the city who are likely emboldened by Donald Trump's naming of anti-gay zealot Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The disturbing and to me telling part of the excuse is as follows via the Virginian Pilot:
Cox, a school division spokeswoman, said the event was postponed “ in order to give school organizers, led by school counselors, an opportunity to involve a variety of student and community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”
“The decision to postpone was made in an effort to be more inclusive of all groups and students, not to marginalize any particular student, group or organization,” Cox said.
If you haven't followed the activities of the Christofascists around the country - or even in Gloucester County where a pastor began the lynch mob mentality against Gavin Grimm's restroom usage - you might not catch the language that parrots their favorite excuse for torpedoing anything that might suggest that LGBT students have equal rights and should be free from bullying. The language: "community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”
Translated, this means that the Christofascists - be they from Regent University, The Wave Church or other "Christian" groups dedicated to making life Hell for LGBT individuals as they force their beliefs on all - want to be involved to (i) kill any pro-LGBT activity, and (ii) argue that "tolerance" includes allowing them to persecute other citizens who do not share their beliefs.
I hope this story continues to get much media coverage and show Virginia Beach for the back water that it remains. As the Virginian Pilot reports, there is growing blow back from citizens, including my friend Janet Wren Moore who addressed the School Board:
Hours after the school division announced that an assembly hosted by Cox High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance has been rescheduled for an evening in January, pushback from the community continued Tuesday night.The assembly scheduled for Monday during school hours was to have included a speech by the president of Hampton Roads Pride and a question-and-answer panel hosted by students. School administration decided Sunday to postpone it.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Tuesday said it was looking into the postponement.
Speaking before the School Board, Janet Moore, a Hampton Roads Pride board member whose son came out as gay while attending Tallwood High, said the worry is that some students will not be able to attend the January event because it begins several hours after school ends.
She condemned the administration for making its decision to postpone the assembly less than 24 hours before it was scheduled, saying the students who planned it for months “didn’t have any time to regroup.”
“It’s unfortunately encouraging misunderstanding and mistrust – a fertilizer for bullying,” she said of the last-minute decision.
She wasn’t alone in her disappointment at the administration’s actions.
Nearly 200 people have signed an open letter [authored by friends' now adult daughter] in solidarity with Cox High’s Gay-Straight Alliance, many of them Virginia Beach parents or former students of the division.
The ACLU has requested access to or copies of records on speakers at school assemblies at the 12 high schools in the city dating back to September 2014.
“Students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, and content-based distinctions by the school division in the regulation of student speech would raise significant legal concerns,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director.