Memphis principal outs gay students

Less than a week after the annual Day of Silence action, a principal in Memphis displayed a list of couples in the high school — including gay couples, outing some of the students. The ACLU is suing the school on behalf of two of the students.

In September of 2007, the principal at Hollis F. Price Middle College High told teachers she wanted the names of all student couples, “hetero and homo,” because she wanted to monitor them personally to prevent students from engaging in public displays of affection. The two students now represented by the ACLU, Andrew and Nicholas (who have asked that their last names not be revealed), were two A students who had been seeing each other for a short time and were attempting to keep their relationship quiet and private. The principal heard about them through another student, then wrote their names on a list she posted next to her desk, in full view of anyone who entered her office.

ABC News reports,

“I really feel that my personal privacy was invaded,” Nicholas, one of the young men who claims his sexuality was exposed without his approval by his principal, told ABC News’ Memphis affiliate Eyewitness News Everywhere. “I mean, Principal Beasley called my mother and outted me to my mother!”
“It was actually frightening,” Nicholas said of the incident, which occurred in Fall 2007, “to see a list with my name on it where not just other teachers could see but students as well.”

Of course it was frightening, giving recent events like the murder of 15-year-old Lawrence King, who was killed by a classmate because he was non-gender-conforming. And a recent report shows anti-gay hate crimes remain a big problem in Tennessee.
The principal, Daphne Beasley, says she made the list of couples in an effort to combat public displays of affection. (Related news this week: Some people are so upset by gay couples kissing in public that they think it’s necessary to involve the police.) Beasley claims it was a “personal call list” used to notify parents (which, hello!, is problematic in itself), and it was never posted publicly. But the ACLU says the list was highly visible in her office.

[ACLU lawyer Christine] Sun, who told that she believes the Memphis school district to be “homophobic,” said that Nicholas’ mother — who was “shocked” to hear that her son is gay — reported that Beasley said she “had a problem with homosexuality” and that “homosexuality will not be tolerated.”

Advocates for Youth has issued an action alert, and is encouraging people to write to the Memphis City school board to demand that policies be implemented to protect students from future harassment by school staff.
For more on making schools a safe space for students of all sexualities and gender presentations, check out GLSEN. GenderYOUTH also does great work, and right now they’re conducting a survey of how schools and campuses are doing in terms of prohibiting discrimination and promoting awareness of gender identity and expression. Click here to tell them what’s going on at your school.

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