Like Michigan high school teacher Jim McDowell, Georgia drama teacher Dave Dixon was just trying to instill some tolerance among his students. So he screened a film about a man who was kidnapped and attacked for being gay, and after a brief suspension was just fired by the school board.
Officially Dixon, who has been teaching at Haralson County High School in Tallapoosa for four years, is in trouble over the curse words used in The Reckoning, a 2007 short film starring Dixon’s friend Bruce Hart and described by IMDB thusly: “An administrator of a (fictitious) Gay and Lesbian Center is abducted by two thugs with intent to harass and humiliate him. He is bound in a chair in a darkened warehouse. As they continue their taunting of the gay man their harassment escalates and quickly turns into a hate crime. This tale of gay bashing and murder turns the corner with a surprise macabre revenge twist as the film takes on the elements of a tgay themed Twilight Zone episode.’ Contains strong language and violence.” You can watch the whole thing here, where you’ll definitely hear lines about “anal” and “You fuck your man in the ass, don’t you?” So yes, it’s got some pretty graphic language. It’s also a film explicitly about a gay man violently attacked for being “proud,” so there are certainly some teachable elements in here.
Dixon screened the film for some of his acting students in October — and was slapped with a suspension shortly thereafter pending disciplinary action.
Last night, the school board voted to fire him.
It’s unclear how administrators found out about the film, but as is often the case, students tell their parents, and those parents take up the issue with administrators.
“During this time of so many kids hurting themselves over bullying, I thought it would be a good subject,” says Dixon to Talk About Equality. “I was wrong. I teach my students about the human condition in my theater classes, and to play a part means to understand the character. Through that understanding, I hope my students will become more tolerant of all types of people, regardless of background, race, orientation or behavior.”
Moreover, Dixon says he knows of three students he’s personally counseled out of taking their own lives — though Principal Charles Needham (pictured, bottom) says his school has “no more incidents of bullying than any other high school” and doesn’t know of any gay students. There is no gay-straight alliance at the school.
And now Dixon has lost his job for screening a film that includes language that students use all the time, and can be found in the movies other teachers have screened. Writes one parent, Amy Baker, in support of Dixon on a Facebook group: “This is a totally unfair verdict. Mr. Dixon has taught 3 of my children. He goes above and beyond any teacher in this county and teaches real life experiences. Do these people really think our children will never leave Haralson County and need life skills. They need to know whats going on in the world. There will not …be another teacher that is as devoted as Mr. Dixon and his whole family have been to our children. People will regret this. I am having my kids drop drama if Mr. Dixon is not back where he belongs!”
Not that Dixon is a stranger to controversy: After moving to the school district from Michigan, he took issue with the school’s custom of having new band camp members be “auctioned off” to upperclassmen and play their servants for the summer; the boosters weren’t happy with his interference.
This year, Dixon was to lead students in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.