Precinct 333

Saturday, February 12, 2005

That's Gay!

Lord, how I hate that phrase! I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to break my students of the habit of using the term "gay" as a synonym for "stupid". I've suggested to them that their test packet really doesn't have a sexual orientation, and that they would be offended if I used "black" or "Hispanic" the same way. I've even pointed out that they ought to show more respect to their classmates who are gay (some of them quite openly so).

That said, I think this school in Swansea, Massachusetts went well beyond the limits of common sense in this case.

A high-school sophomore has returned to his classes after a one-day suspension for using profanity, but he's still sore about the punishment.

"It's made me sick," said the student, Chris Carreiro. "I've been nerved out about it all week."

Carreiro, 16, and a former class president, says he was suspended for telling a guidance counselor that a teacher was "being gay" a week ago Thursday.

He said he was using "gay" as a synonym for "stupid" or "lame," and was not implying anything about the teacher's sexuality. He and his friends often use the word in that context, he said.

The administration has said the Joseph Case High School student isn't giving the full version of events - that Carreiro was suspended for more than just the use of the word "gay."

But Carreiro says letters his family has received from the school corroborate his story. During a phone interview, Carreiro read one, sent to his mother, which lists the reason for his suspension as "inappropriate language and behavior."

"If there was more to the story, wouldn't they have told my mom?" he asked.

Both Carreiro and the school administration agree that his suspension stemmed from an incident last week.

Carreiro said he was helping a friend with books, and was late for computer class. The teacher sent him to the guidance office for tardiness, he said.

In the guidance office, he told counselor Edward Pettine that the teacher was "being gay," but not that the teacher actually was gay.

"There's a difference," Carreiro said. "There was no homosexual thing. I wasn't using profanity."

Carreiro said the guidance counselor shouted at him, and dismissed him from the office. He later found out that he was suspended, and that Pettine wanted him to serve detention.

Come on -- SUSPENSION over the issue? And since the document sent to his mother gives that as the reason, it is disingenuous for the school to come back with a response that there was more to his suspension than the use of the word "gay." In addition, I would have to think that the one place where a student should be able to speak freely would be in the counselor's office.

I'm also curious -- how many other students has the school suspended for the use of the word "gay" in a derogatory fashion?

(Hat Tip to The Education Wonks. Also, be sure to consider making an entry into their Carnival of Education.)


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