We had a little excitement around our corner of the jungle this week. Apparently, some students came to school wearing T-shirts saying “Homophobia is Gay” on them. Some teachers asked the students to remove the shirts as they were in violation of our dress code that prohibits “offensive” sayings.
I am told that some students changed into other clothes (gym strip or put on a sweater) while some students took off their shirts and passed them off to someone else to wear to see if they would get caught.
Next thing I know, there is a story in the paper and on the news about how my school is trying to stop kids from expressing their beliefs. When I discussed this with my monkeys the next day, I was quite surprised by many of their thoughts on the incident.
Some of the monkeys thought that it was terrible that they were made to change their shirts because they have the right to free speech! Yes, we do, young monkey, but we also have to show respect for our educational facility. The shirt may be fine for the mall, but not at school. (As are low rider jeans with a thong sticking out… you get the idea.)
When I asked the monkeys what homophobia meant, some thought it meant the same thing as homosexual and therefore were a little confused as to why such a fuss was being made since “a homosexual is gay”. Another monkey thought that by saying something was gay, weren’t the students actually implying it was “stupid” therefore offending gays by using that word? I asked them if it would be wrong to wear a T-shirt that said “Christianity is Gay” and they informed this Head Monkey that that would be totally wrong and disrespectful to Christians! I am so proud of my monkeys for being so brave and discussing openly with me their thoughts and opinions while staying respectful. I wish more adults could do the same.
While reading the Saturday paper, you can imagine my displeasure to see a letter to the editor that described her “disgust at the staff of this school” and how we were “woefully unaware how savvy children are”. She further went on to claim to “people who found the T-shirts offensive, perhaps it is your world view that is offensive.”
Okay, I can’t have me and my peeps being dissed that flagrantly, so I had another cup of Joe and wrote my reply, remembering everything I teach to my students about disagreeing respectfully. I managed to write a clean and clear rebuttal – and I didn’t even swear or call her a name once! Does this mean I am growing up???
I am a big advocate of monkeys of all ages standing up for what they believe and fighting for what they feel is right. I am also a big advocate of doing things the right way. I don’t feel that by wearing T-shirts that many of the students didn’t understand anyway and showing disrespect for school rules was an effective strategy for the cause. I frequently talk with the monkeys about ways to “find your voice and use it” and we also offer a class called “Social Justice” as an option. I see this incident as a great teaching opportunity as we frequently see demonstrations gone wrong. Lately we have had a few incidents of politicians getting pies in the face when they are out in public. People apparently wanted to show how angry they were at the government by physically assaulting our leaders. That’s right – I don’t like your policies so TAKE THAT! How often do our monkeys get to see effective demonstrations? The news definitely don’t cover those boring peaceful demonstrations!
So what do you think? Were the students effective in their demonstration? Should they have been asked to change their shirts? Should they have been punished/disciplined further? I would love to hear your opinions.
Til next time,
The Head Monkey