Jenna Bissell, an 11-year-old fifth grader at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, says she tripped outside on the school playground, cut open her face in a fall that left her bloody and with two loosened teeth, and was denied even a visit to the school nurse by her teacher — because, she says, she has two gay moms.
At first, even we thought this was a stretch: A grade school teacher would be that vindictive to a tween girl because she happens to have lesbian mothers? And then came this:
Shannon Peterson, one of Bissell’s mothers, said she called the school after Bissell came home injured on Feb. 26. She said she talked to Bissell’s teacher, asking why she hadn’t been notified and why the girl went without treatment. Peterson said she asked, “Is this because she has two moms?” and that the teacher replied with a raised voice that yes, this was the reason and that Peterson should take her children to another school.
District spokeswoman Kim Vesely said any teacher who discriminated against a student would be disciplined. Bissell’s former teacher is still teaching and Vesely would not say whether she has been disciplined, citing personnel privacy. Vesely also said “there are differing versions of what occurred,” but declined to give the district’s version.
Peterson said there was a pattern of tension between Bissell and her teacher, including over an assignment in which students were asked to write a book about themselves. On one page, they were asked to write about something they did over the summer, and Bissell said she wrote about her parents’ wedding in Iowa, where gay marriage is legal. “She threw out the whole page about where my moms got married and how beautiful it was,” Bissell said, referring to the teacher. “She said, ‘This is gross, this is horrible, you need to write about something else.’”
As it stands, the Bissels say they are planning a civil rights lawsuit against the school district Rio Rancho Public Schools. At the very least, they should be suing for neglect; no teacher who witnesses a student’s bloody injury, and fails to immediately arrange medical attention, has a place in the classroom.