Safe, caring schools are a must
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Feb 07, 2013 | 1533 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In just 90 seconds, Bob Grisham, a Rogersville high school coach and psychology teacher, revealed hostility toward Michelle Obama. The hostility was expressed with hateful words based on body size, sexual orientation and race.

While calling homosexuals an abomination on God, Grisham led a classroom conversation that included calling Michelle Obama a “big fat gorilla” and stating that our country is going “straight to hell.”

I learned about the 2012 Coach of the Year’s rant to his class last Thursday at an Alabama Safe Schools Coalition meeting in Birmingham. The ASSC engages volunteers — some driving for hours and dedicating countless days — developing and providing professional learning for educators about legal and ethical responsibilities for all youth, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and homosexual students.

For years, ASSC has advocated anti-bullying policies and educator-training resources that include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. For years, political roadblocks have prevented passage of comprehensive anti-bullying policies and continue to give a nod of approval to educators like Grisham to sow hatred and bigotry.

I was struck by the contrast of ASSC’s steadfast commitment to helping all students and the tremendous damage that an educator can reap on students in just 90 seconds. Insisting that educators and leaders examine the impact of their own bias on the mission of serving and empowering achievement for all children is essential. Providing safe and caring schools is the vital cornerstone for success — on and off the field.

Rhonda Thomason
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