an apple a day

When La’Daytra Walker’s 13-Year-Old Gay Son Was Targeted By A Teacher, The School Shrugged It Off

The idea that students are the only bullies in school tormenting gay kids was long ago shot down. As we know, sometimes teachers are the culprits, or at least the co-conspirators acting in unison with a homophobic classroom. For La’Daytra Walker — the mother of a 13-year-old gay student in Montgomery, Alabama (not pictured) — alerting the school about an abusive teacher didn’t help things.

Walker hired attorney Julian McPhillips to reach out to the school after her son came home and told her one of his teachers demanded he “quit acting like a girl and start act­ing like a boy” in front of classmates. The school responded, as is becoming increasingly expected, with nonchalance; the comment was taken out of context, the school district’s attorney Ramadanah Jones replied. Jones insists Walker’s son was acting out, and the teacher said only “to stop acting like that, boy.”

Either way, it wasn’t the apology Walker was hoping for. Her attorney, however, was satisfied with the Montgomery Public School District’s assurance such behavior wouldn’t happen again, and it hasn’t. So long as that remains, McPhillips says he won’t pursue the matter.

So the teacher goes unpunished? Apparently so, even though the instructor is allegedly responsible for targeting one gay boy as well as another girl, the Montgomery Advertiser relays.

The letter that McPhillips sent to Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Bar­bara Thompson stated that the student who was involv­ed is gay. McPhillips said in the letter that Walker told him that her son’s teacher has “continuously harassed her son about his ‘gayness.'” The letter to the school dis­trict states, “Ms. Walker in­forms me that not only her son, but also another girl in his class, have informed you (that the teacher has) contin­ually harassed (the student) every day, blaming him for things you do not blame oth­er students for.”

The letter states that a cer­tain female in the class has confirmed in writing that the teacher said to Walker’s son, “Stop acting like a girl and act like a boy sometimes.” “The same female student says that you, (the teacher), criticize (the student) even for the way he looks, dresses, sings, talks and walks,” the letter said. “You have also criticized the appearance of (the stu­dent’s) hair,” the complaint said. “The female student says you criticize (the stu­dent) virtually every day.” In his letter, McPhillips stated that he considered the “continued harassment to constitute ‘anti-gay bully­ing.'”

So while it appears Walker is leaving the situation alone for now, she’s still not comfortable with how the school approaches issues of bullying, especially of the anti-gay variety. Teachers “shouldn’t even be in a posi­tion where they can’t deal with situations,” Walker says. “I just hope out of this, that nobody else will have to go through it. I hope it is a message to the teachers to wake up and have to deal with it. I didn’t want to come off as a person trying to make something out of nothing. It really hurt me and my son.”

It certainly doesn’t sound like she’s making something out of nothing. The situation is this: a gay tweenager believes he’s being targeted by his own teacher because of his sexuality, or his expression of it, and the school simply says “nah, that can’t be true.” But in the eyes of the student, he doesn’t feel safe in the classroom. Apparently, neither does one of his female classmates. So whether the teacher is purposefully marginalizing this young man because of his sexuality, or acting in a way that makes him feel he is, the situation is important enough that school officials need to address it. Perhaps with mandatory training about how not to make students feel ashamed or singled out because of their gender, sexuality, or any outwardly display of it? It sounds so simple, when we’re talking about a place that’s supposed to foster acceptance and critical thinking.

And yet.