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Utah Middle School Outs 14-Year-Old To Parents—For His Own Good

Do you think it’s wrong for a school notify the parents of a 14-year-old student that he might be gay? As reported by KSL 5 News, administrators at Willowcreek Middle School in Lehi, UT, found themselves in that very predicament.

The situation originated with a seemingly innocent assignment, in which students were asked to create an advertisement about themselves. One boy (we’re not mentioning his name) created a poster that clearly indicated he was gay.  The student was fine with it being hung on the wall alongside other contributions, but administrators worried he was getting bullied because of his openness.

So they went and told his parents, a move which the boy apparently did not support but which the school stands by.

willowcreek-middle-school-utah“When there started to be a little bit of a negative response to that, the administration called him in and got involved,” said Alpine County District spokesperson Rhonda Bromley. “In that case, it’s absolutely important that we include parents any time there is a safety issue that has to do with the student. It’s the responsibility of the school to include the parent.”

According to the report, the teen’s father says the school handled the situation exactly the way they should have.

Many adults—parents especially—seem to agree. But young friends and classmates of the student created a Facebook page voicing their opposition to his outing. (The page has since been taken down.)

This is uncharted territory. Yes, the school’s priority is making sure the boy is safe in their hands—and keeping the parents apprised of bullying at school is essential—but should it have gotten his explicit consent? Will the boy suffer possible physical or mental abuse at home because of being outed? Should he have expected privacy at home when making his sexuality public at school? Give us your two cents in the comments.

Source: KSL, ABC4 News

By:           Evan Mulvihill
On:           Dec 15, 2011
Tagged: , ,
  • 36 Comments
    • JElder
      JElder

      The school needs to take everything into consideration because their actions could have directly created an unsafe environment for this child at home. He could have easily dealt with a multitude of varying reactions from his parents or family members ranging from acceptance to assault, rape or being homeless. What would the school have done then? Would they still claim it was the ‘right thing to do’ if this kid had to live out his remaining HS years on the streets?

      Dec 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Pozitive Link
      Pozitive Link

      With recent incidents of young children committing suicide because of bullying; and with the school administrators being concerned with his safety, I think they did the right thing.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Matt
      Matt

      Wrong decision,

      there was no reason to out kid to his parents.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike in Asheville
      Mike in Asheville

      The kid, quite bravely, outed himself. Certainly information such as this would have spread like wildfire in a junior high — a few days at most before the news would have reached the student’s family.

      All-in-all, I think the school and its principal took the right actions. While the student decided to not participate in the meeting between the principal and the parents, the student was interviewed by the principal first and did not indicate that he felt he was in physical danger at home.

      That the national debate about bullying has forced action to be taken, is good news. That the teacher and school supported the student’s right to express himself as gay is good news. That the school took preemptive and preventive action is good news too. And it will be great news when incidences such as this one are not news at all.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 5:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ponies!!!!!!!!
      ponies!!!!!!!!

      I think, given the incidents of this specific circumstance, the school did exactly what it was supposed to do. The kid was effectively outing himself at school and putting a target on his head. Of course, ideally this wouldn’t be the case. But the reality of the situation, being from Utah, is that he was putting a target on his head.

      I think a parent should be involved whenever a child’s safety is in question and in this situation the school clearly felt his safety was in question. Instead of ignoring it like a lot of other schools have done, they acted upon it and worked to make sure the parents knew what was going on. More schools should react this way, maybe there would be less suicides from bullying. The fact that the school initiated a non-judgmental conversation about it will 1) make the school a safe place for the kid and 2) make the parents aware that someone else knows whats going on. If they’re having trouble with it, they can talk to someone at the school. If they kick the kid out of their house or beat them, they know the school will know, and can call CPS if necessary, etc. It removes the intimacy and privacy that a lot of such asshole parents thrive on.

      If the kid told a teacher, in confidence, that he was gay and didn’t know what to do then that teacher decided to call his parents specifically to tell them that he said he was gay, that would be an entirely different thing. Or if the school called the parents to tell them their kid is going to hell because he’s gay, that’d also be a whole different thing. But as far as I can tell, neither of these happened.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 5:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Johnny Q Doe
      Johnny Q Doe

      Perhaps they should have met with the boy first to discuss it (seems reasonable) and discuss how they needed to speak to his parents at this juncture and ask him how he would like them to proceed when going forward.

      But in the end, I agree that the school did the right thing ultimately even if their methods were a bit crude.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 6:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MEJ
      MEJ

      So schools won’t tell parents that their kids are bullies, but will tell parents their kids are gay?

      Dec 15, 2011 at 6:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • W.
      W.

      This is somewhat of a touchy subject as suggested. As it says in the article the second the boy started to receive the negativity at the school, they felt the need to step in. If they had continued to let the negativity go on, what would have happened? I’m sure many of us know all to well what happens when the school finds out their fellow student is gay. Sure some of it it just words but others get physical and then even attempt to instill fear of assault. Recently a boy killed his self leaving behind his passwords to everything showing just that. Although the school was making sure the safety of the student was at its highest interest, I have to side with the school to a point. They stepped in. However, they most definitely asked the boy what he wanted to do about the negativity. Not just reacted as quickly as possible. Either way the consequences could have been severe.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 6:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • W.
      W.

      ^^ Should say should have asked him what he wanted to do! Sorry

      Dec 15, 2011 at 6:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • randy
      randy

      We need more information. How did the parents handle it? Are they going to send him to an ex-gay camp, which the mormons are notorious for doing? Or will they accept him for what he is?

      IF the school believes it must tell the parents, then at least they should direct the parents to the local chapter of PFLAG, if there is one. Or they can at least direct the parents to websites that are not mormon controlled, about how to deal with a gay child.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 7:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ponies!!!!!!!!
      ponies!!!!!!!!

      @Johnny Q Doe: Did you even watch the video? they spoke to him and cleared it with him first before talking to his parents.

      @MEJ: you’re bunching schools together like one being. they’re not. SOME schools won’t tell parents their kids are bullies/being bullied and SOME OTHER schools will tell their parents their kids are gay (after clearing it with the kids first)

      gosh, didn’t anyone teach you two close reading in school?

      Dec 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ponies!!!!!!!!
      ponies!!!!!!!!

      @randy: the video says how the parents handled it…It says the parents handled it well and have been supportive and think the school did the right thing in talking to them about it.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • TheIntern
      TheIntern

      They had no idea how his parents would react! This is dangerous stuff, people! This must seriously be considered and pointed out as a strategy that should not be used when dealing with a situation such as this. People have KILLED themselves due top being outed by people who obviously do not care about them, their feelings, or their well-being. What if this young man had taken his life as a result of this? What if he does? One’s sexual identity can only be expressed by that person, otherwise whose identity is it really?

      Dec 15, 2011 at 7:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • pedro
      pedro

      Let’s get real, these people are Mormon whackjobs. They outed him in the hopes that his parents will send him off to one of their cult ex-gay torture camps.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PopSnap
      PopSnap

      I’ve been out of the closet to everyone BUT my religious parents since I was in eighth grade. I am now in college.

      They still haven’t a clue. So no, this wasn’t the right move.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 8:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ChrisM
      ChrisM

      The school asked the student before telling his parents, and sounds like maybe they pressured him a little bit into agreeing. I think they were trying to do the right thing, so this bad press is really disappointing and sends mixed messages to schools.

      His parents sound pseudo-supportive, though. “Whether we like the decision or not, we’re his parents and we love him.” Hopefully the version of support and love that they have in mind is not ex-gay therapy.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 8:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      This is EXACTLY the way the Mormon church always tries to keep control of it’s members.

      They threaten to bring in their family, or embarrass them at church, and say things like “Won’t they all be ashamed?” etc…

      They expect the family to keep anybody from breaking with the accepted narrative.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 17 · ChrisM wrote, “The school asked the student before telling his parents, and sounds like maybe they pressured him a little bit into agreeing.”

      Pressuring him is a problem. According to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/12/15/national/a160748S55.DTL&tsp=1 “Andy Marra, a spokeswoman for the New York City-based Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, said such cases aren’t confined to Utah. “It’s something we’ve seen in the past and something school administrators will continue to grapple with,” Marra said. She agreed it was important for school officials to address bullying behavior but added that schools should notify parents of bullying without disclosing the child’s sexual orientation.”

      Outing a kid prematurely can have serious long-term consequences for him. His parents don’t have to go to the extreme of throwing him out of the house – it could be as subtle as not encouraging the kid to get a college education. It all depends on what sort of parents he has and school officials don’t know.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JohnAGJ
      JohnAGJ

      The school did the right thing in this case. I don’t get to say that very often, but for this one I do. The kid’s safety comes first.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • adfdsfa
      adfdsfa

      http://news.yahoo.com/utah-family-supports-school-outed-gay-son-154123202.html

      Maybe you guys should read actual news and learn facts. This overinflated and sensationalistic website needs to reign in the drama and start using actual journalistic knowledge if it wants to be taken seriously.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 11:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 21 · adfdsfa wrote, “Maybe you guys should read actual news and learn facts. This overinflated and sensationalistic website needs to reign in the drama and start using actual journalistic knowledge if it wants to be taken seriously.”

      Read No 19, where I cited an article from the San Francisco Chronicle. The Yahoo one got it wrong. The problem is not this kid’s specific situation (maybe his parents are supportive and not homophobic), but the fact that the school seemed to have pressured him to allow them to notify his parents. Even if he has the best parents imaginable, not every kid does, and some could find themselves in serious trouble if their parents were told that they were gay. Hopefully that will change, but we are not there yet.

      We don’t need to know the kid’s name or any personal information about him, and we should respect his privacy. But we can legitimately discuss the school’s policy and whether they handled the situation in a way that doesn’t risk putting some kid with unreasonable parents in an untenable situation.

      His parents’ comments are irrelevant for that question – they are naturally viewing it from a different perspective (their situation and that of their child) and did not consider whether the school’s actions would have created a major problem in some other cases.

      Dec 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Peter
      Peter

      @Mike in Asheville: actually, its very easy to be out at school without telling your parents, and many gay people I know have done so.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 12:15 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Duncan Clark
      Duncan Clark

      I went to a school my mother WORKED AT, and despite being in the same school, I was semi-out, long before she found out. Also, there is the perception of seperation that may be false the student may have. I feel that having worked in a school, it would certainly be the responsibility of the school to consider discussing it with their parents. However, I feel that it is also irresponsible to not at least pull the student aside, and inquire as to if they feel it would create an unsafe situation at home, or also give them a chance to discuss it with their parents themself first.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 12:58 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Zeus
      Zeus

      That is a bad decision simply because I’m sure they had no clue how the parents would actually take the news. If they’re fine with it, then all is well and good, but what if they were the kind of parents who would hate their kid/have a terrible time with it/try to kick him out of the house??? Something like that they have no business in doing.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 1:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Debby Young
      Debby Young

      The school handled it exactly as they should have! This child needs his parents help at this time in his life. This is probably just a phase this child is going through. Why do liberals want to believe that every child who has these feelings is gay? I just read that 9% of children in school consider themselves gay. This is due to all the hype about being gay. I would say that most of them do not know at this time. They are often confused because of the strong feelings that they might have for a friend. Give them space and time to mature before you label them and make them believe that they are gay.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 1:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Arthur
      Arthur

      Ideally people have full control over their coming out, but the kid’s decisions really forced the issue – perhaps earlier than he’d have wanted with his parents. But when he’s seen in public displays of affection with another boy, when he’s putting presentations on the wall to be seen, the ship has sailed. The school could have done nothing and the parents would have been informed not too much later by a phone call from a concerned parent from another student. I think the teacher might have done a better job by asking the kid if his parents were in the loop, and finding out they weren’t, offering credit for the assignment but recommending it NOT be made public. He might still have pushed to have it posted but perhaps should have gotten a better talking to about the consequences.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 1:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Adam
      Adam

      This kid is living in Utah, he knows the gossipy nature of Mormon culture. He knows that if he puts a single toe out of line, someone is going to see it, either a kid or a teacher, and it would get back to his parents one way or another.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 4:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Hudston
      Michael Hudston

      Byouting this boy the school could have placed him in more danger! this was such an irresponsible act. The officials responsible should be sacked.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 4:34 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Global Traveler
      Global Traveler

      It sounds to me like people are looking for an elegant solution where one doesn’t exist.

      No matter the school’s actions, there are going to be people who vehemently oppose or support them.

      Good luck to this young man.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 9:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • James
      James

      This is a seriously double edged sword. I think that especially with the way things are today that with bullying, schools need to be on the ball and this school succeeded in that aspect but what i want to know is wouldn’t it have been better for the student counselor to sit down and discuss things with the kid first before going to the parents. did they at least let him know before hand that they were gonna be contacting the parents so he could brace himself. did they find out if there was any potential abuse situation at home before they outed him. what steps were taken to insure the child’s safety all the way around. Especially with homosexuality being such a touchy subject, especially in a state like Utah that has such a strong christian extremist reputation?

      Dec 16, 2011 at 10:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ousslander
      ousslander

      damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If something happened to the kid then everybody and the parents would be all over their shit and call for firings. Was the school not supposed to tell the parents why he was being bullied?

      Dec 16, 2011 at 10:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • redball
      redball

      @MEJ: I agree with this.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ostutzo deCiutiis
      Ostutzo deCiutiis

      I’m with the school and the parents….Since when does a 14 year old child have a “right to privacy” regarding sexual anything…orientation and/or activity… that kind of thinking boarders on Pedophilia. kids should be thinking about their studies and other decent things, even for heterosexual kids it’s the same. Why should this even be “controversial” ?

      Dec 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anjouan
      Anjouan

      Tough call. Thanks for reporting both sides of the story. I honestly don’t know what I would do in the situation.\

      Dec 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 31 · ousslander wrote, “damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If something happened to the kid then everybody and the parents would be all over their shit and call for firings. Was the school not supposed to tell the parents why he was being bullied?”

      You probably don’t want to tell a kid’s parents why the kid is being bullied if telling the parents will result in them bullying him as well.

      There are other ways of handling it. For instance, in a meeting with the parents (and their child) they could say that he wrote something or drew something that some other kids interpreted as meaning he was different from them due to a tendency of children to jump to conclusions and tease other children over trivia. That’s pretty much what it amounts to, but it gives the parents a “life preserver” if they really can’t accept having a gay son. If the parents indicate that they don’t care if their kid is gay or not, the kid will feel a lot more comfortable in telling them.

      Dec 16, 2011 at 4:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • btseven
      btseven

      If you out yourself at school, how are you going to keep it quiet at home? “Yeah, Mom and Dad, I am only gay at school”… since he so young he probably didn’t think it through all the way. The school, did the right thing if they felt that they needed to protect him from being bullied. They could of used a better approach though…

      @James.. the dominant religion in Utah is Mormonism

      Dec 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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