As the parent of a child with special needs, I must admit to having an affinity for children with "differences", particularly those with high levels of vulnerability. It is no wonder then, that I believe schools should be safe zones for all within their walls, regardless of ability or beliefs.
My most recent challenge has been an 11-year-old, seemingly engaged in a gender struggle. This boy openly talks of his preference for wanting to be a girl and to do girly things (to the disgust of others), uses bathrooms for females, and tries to walk like a girl. He tells me that he doesn't talk about his feelings to his mother as she goes crazy when he attempts to do so.
Many of you are already thinking that maybe he was molested, he needs counselling, or why not just beat it out of him? No, it doesn't appear as if he was molested, and you may all be right, or you may be dead wrong.
The fact is that he may have been born gay — there is enough scientific proof that some people are just born gay — maybe some kind of biological mishap such as irregularities in hormones. But more important, this child could be our son! Are our institutions safe for him? Our schools especially must be safe for all students. Would we want our son in an education system where teachers are insensitive to a child like this? Where students routinely think it's okay to bully him — verbally and physically? Where his mother is worried about school placement at the next level (high school) based on present experience?
Many people unfortunately, even educators and misguided guidance counsellors (and there are many who confuse religion with counselling), will object to any civil rights policy or policy for the accommodation of diversity in education which even mentions gay students. They will probably opt for "Don't ask, Don't tell", but too often you can tell, or think you can, without asking, and children, even at the primary school level, suffer the consequences, as they become the object of all-round prejudice and derision.
Patricia E Johnson