Sunday, August 27, 2017

Joey Slivinski & Thomas Swartz “Most likely to Succeed” (in my book anyway)



In most high schools across America, yearbooks contain quotes under seniors’ pictures.  You’re familiar with the common ones:  “The only way to have a friend is to be one,” or “She walks in beauty as the night.”

Imagine the shock when Seniors Joey Slivinski and Thomas Swartz opened their yearbooks to find just their photos, names, but no captions underneath.  Without advanced warming from their Yearbook Committee or School Board in Western Missouri, their quotes were eliminated.

Why?  Because the two boys were openly gay and made amusing self-deprecating references to their sexual orientation.  Here’s what Joey wrote: “Of course, I dress well.  I didn’t spend all that time in the closet.”  His classmate Swartz penned: “If Harry Potter taught us anything it’s that no one should have to live in the closet.”

Swartz and Slivinski were outraged and told television station KCTV5 and The Kansas City Star that they found their quotes inspirational.  Slivinski said “thank you to Kearney School District for making me feel like you’re ashamed of having a gay student. The School District stung.”

Who robbed their quotes and their dignity?  Who didn’t give them the opportunity to change the quotes?  Kearney High School principal Dave Schwarzenbach and School District Superintendent Bill Nicely.

Their rationale for this homophobia?  “In an effort to protect our students quotes that could potentially offend another student or groups of students are not published.  It’s school practice to err on the side of caution.”

The school district later publicly apologized and spoke of the “incident” as a “learning opportunity to improve the future.”  This happened only because School Board official Matthew Ryan Hunt received hundreds of phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages from Kearney students, past and present, and parents in support of Swartz and Slivinski.

Hunt, who is the first gay Board Member, commented “none of them ( School Board officials) know the sacrifices made and the courage shown by these two individuals to come out as gay in high school.”

Was this incidence a form of bullying by the school district?  It’s not always the students who bully!  Surveys report that the under age 30 group accept gender diversity. The students weren’t offended, the school officials were!

Swartz and Slivinski are now making stickers, quips into their yearbooks as well as those of their friends.

Maybe these proud gay students should have been nominated “most likely to succeed?”



Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Bells Are Ringing For You and Your Child



After what seems like a long summer recess, parents often look forward to their children returning to school.  But not so for their children, if they are LGBT. For them,  school means more than new back-to-school clothes, freshly stocked backpacks, and revisiting friends.  It also may mean being bullied or worse, cyberbullied.

Here are tips from http://stopbullying.gov. to help parents cope with this frequent and invasive crime:

For Their Safety

To lessen cyberbullying, talk to your kids about online issues.  Emphasize that they can come to you for help. You want to gain their trust! Don’t overreact or underreact.
Don’t blame your kids if they are victims of cyberbullying.  Some kids are scared that they will have computer privileges taken away so they do not report incidents to their parents and may use the computer secretively.
Monitor your child’s online usage. Set a time allowance for non-homework use.
Keep the computer in a public place.
Look at their profile page, Facebook, My Space, and Twitter accounts. Review their “buddy list.”  Ask who each person is and how your kids know him or her.
Tell your kids not to give out their passwords nor personal information online. Don’t send controversial photos that can go viral.  Once received, they can’t be erased.  Don’t open e-mails from people they don’t know.

Once The Invasion Has Occurred

Don’t allow your kids to respond to the bully. They shouldn’t retaliate when angry. Tell them not to forward messages.
Print out messages.  Take screen shots. Keep records of e-mail, texts, with dates, times.  You may need these for law enforcement or school.
Report cyberbullying to the web and cell phone providers. You can see what’s appropriate usage by reviewing their terms and conditions on rights and responsibilities sections.  
Block users.  Change settings to control whom can contact them.  Visit social media safety centers so you can report cyberbullying to them. They can take action against users abusing terms of service.

Get Law Enforcement Involved If:

There are threats of violence.
Sexually explicit messages,  photos or child pornography are sent.
A photo has been taken of someone in a place such as a public restroom where he/she would expect privacy.
If stalking or hate crimes occur.
The National Crime Prevention Council has site maps to find out more about your state’s anti-bullying laws and policies.  Just a click away!

All kids should be educated about the possibility of cyberbullying and how to combat this insidious affront.  Unfortunately, kids who are “different” are prime targets of cyberbullying.  Forty percent of LGBT kids report not feeling safe in their own communities.

Next week, I’ll talk about bullying in school.  The strategies are different.