Texas High School Suspends Student for Opposing Homosexuality

Posted: Sep 27, 2011 9:27 AM

This story popped up in my Twitter feed late last week, but I'm just now getting around to covering it because of my frenetic travel schedule.  Though it's a local report and is no longer breaking news, its implications are important enough to highlight and discuss.  Independent of one's stance on gay rights, the initial actions of the Fort Worth School District in this case were appalling:

An honors student in Fort Worth, Texas, was sent to the principal’s office and punished for telling a classmate that he believes homosexuality is wrong.  Holly Pope said she was “absolutely stunned” when she received a telephone call from an assistant principal at Western Hills High School informing her that her son, Dakota Ary, had been sent to in-school suspension.

“Dakota is a very well-grounded 14-year-old,” she told Fox News Radio noting that her son is an honors student, plays on the football team and is active in his church youth group. “He’s been in church his whole life and he’s been taught to stand up for what he believes.”  And that’s what got him in trouble.  Dakota was in a German class at the high school when the conversation shifted to religion and homosexuality in Germany. At some point during the conversation, he turned to a friend and said that he was a Christian and “being a homosexual is wrong.”

“It wasn’t directed to anyone except my friend who was sitting behind me,” Dakota told Fox. “I guess [the teacher] heard me. He started yelling. He told me he was going to write me an infraction and send me to the office.”  Dakota was sentenced to one day in-school suspension – and two days of full suspension.

The boy's family sought legal advice, and once an attorney from the Liberty Counsel entered the fray, the indefensible suspension was lifted and expunged.  By the sounds of things, young Dakota was the unwitting target of an instructor with a clear sexual-political agenda:

“They’ve righted all the wrongs,” said Matt Krause, an attorney with the Liberty Counsel. “This should have no lasting effect on his academic or personal record going forward.  I told the school that he should never have been suspended for exercising his Constitutional rights,” Krause told Fox News Radio. “There has been a history with this teacher in the class regarding homosexual topics,” Krause said. “The teacher had posted a picture of two men kissing on a wall that offended some of the students.”  Krause said the picture was posted on the teacher’s “world wall.”

“He told the students this is happening all over the world and you need to accept the fact that homosexuality is just part of our culture now,” Krause said.  The school district would not comment on why a teacher was discussing homosexuality in a ninth grade German class.

Perhaps they wouldn't comment on it because they know sexuality-based discussions have absolutely no place in a ninth grade foreign language class, and they've settled on silence as a damage control strategy.  While this episode was eventually resolved appropriately, its underlying elements remain unsettling.  A high school freshman was sent to the principal's office and suspended because a teacher overheard him sharing a personal religious view with a classmate.  This young man leveled no threats and used no slurs; he simply expressed a sentiment that offended an agenda-driven teacher during a conversation that should never have taken place to begin with.
This is political correctness on steroids.  In the eyes of the most militant members of the PC squad, mere tolerance is no longer sufficient.  Total acceptance is demanded, and if you're unwilling to go along with the program for whatever reason, you'd better keep your mouth shut -- or risk punishment.  This 'thought police' mentality is an insidious affront to our free and open society, yet it's an impulse that some on the Left demonstrate with distressing regularity.  Fortunately, we still have a First Amendment in this country.  If we didn't, we might not be too far behind Canada, where a "Human Rights Commission" ordered a pastor to cease all public criticism of homosexuality in 2008, and instructed him to pay $5,000 in damages to an "aggrieved" plaintiff.  The ruling, thankfully, was overturned the following year -- but "hate speech" laws remain on the books in the True North, Strong and (not quite so) Free.  
Along somewhat similar lines, American hate crimes laws also make me queasy because they inch society closer to the criminalization of thought.  The motive behind any crime could obviously be instrumental in determining and proving guilt, and should therefore be investigated aggressively.  It should not be the basis for harsher penalties.  First-degree murder is first-degree murder, regardless of what motivated the killing.  According to the 14th Amendment, every American is afforded equal protection under the law.  I don't see why any group should be "more equal" than another, based solely on immutable characteristics.  For instance, if one cold-blooded sicko decides to murder a defenseless elderly woman in order to steal her money, then a fellow cold-blooded sicko kills an African-American just because he hates black people, the law could mandate a harsher sentence for the latter homicide.  How is that equal protection?  Let's protect all life and prosecute all violent offenders to the fullest extent of the law.
I realize this post has gone a bit far afield, but I'm driving at a broader point.  Society seems to be evolving to extend a broader panoply of rights to gay people.  That's an objective observation; people from across the spectrum (see the millions of Obama voters crossed over to support Proposition 8 in 2008) will quarrel over the subjective question of whether or not that's a positive development.   Like many people in my generation, I'm significantly less opposed to gay rights than many of my elders -- even though I respect the traditional family structure as the fundamental building block of our society.  This trend toward relationship equality is evident even among self-described conservative and evangelical Millennials.  Nevertheless, I find the Fort Worth incident, and others like it, rather discomfiting.
Since these discussions and debates are often framed using the language of "rights," let's not forget two of the most explicit and imperative rights enshrined in the First Amendment:  Freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.  Again, totally irrespective of where you come down on, say, gay marriage, we should all come together to recognize and affirm that people of faith have an absolute right to express their views and peaceably participate in the political process to influence policy.  The tendency of some political correctness fetishists to trample on these bedrock rights in order to enforce universal acceptance of other, newly-conceived ones isn't just off-putting.  It's un-American.

Parting thought experiment:  If the student had been named, oh, Muhammed, and his objections to homosexuality were expressed a bit more sharply, which strand of political correctness would have taken precedence down at the principal's office?