Sharon Huff was notified by phone that her 7-year-old son had said a 'bad word' to a classmate at Ernest Gallet Elementary School in Lafayette, Louisiana and had been told never to say that word again. All would be explained in a note that her son, Marcus, was bringing home. Huff read the note from the teacher saying that Marcus had 'explained to another child that you are gay' with the word gay underlined twice. At first, Huff decided to take the path of least resistance and go along with what the school outlined was going to be the course of action — an in school suspension for Marcus, involving him showing up early an extra hour each day and repeatedly being required to write 'I will never use the word "gay" in school again.' Even when Marcus complained to Huff, she told him to just keep quiet about it.
But something kept gnawing at Huff. Because, in fact, she was gay and in a committed relationship with another woman. It was no particular secret to Huff's employer or her neighbors that she was gay and had a partner. But Huff didn't approach the school over the note or the punishment it dished out to Marcus. She contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who have sent a letter to the school demanding that they apologize to mother and son and expunge the disciplinary record. According to the ACLU lawyer appointed to this case:
"You can't censor children talking, as long as it's not creating a major disruption to the school environment. [Marcus] wasn't talking about sexual acts. His remark was about as innocuous as you can get."
The actual conversation that caused all of this tumult went this way. Marcus and a classmate were talking in line at school. The classmate began by talking about his mommy and daddy and then asked Marcus about his. Marcus said he didn't have a mommy and daddy; he had two mommies. He said his mother was gay. When the classmate asked what that meant, Marcus said, "'Gay is when a girl likes another girl.' The teacher overheard this exchange and immediately scolded Marcus and sent him to the principal's office and the rest is history.
The teacher, Terry Bethea remains convinced that she did the right thing, offering this to school officials, 'This kind of discussion is not acceptable in my room. I feel that parents should explain things of this nature to their own children in their own way.' The superintendent of the school district said that no apology would be forthcoming because Marcus, 'was not singled out because his parent is gay.' The school board president offered his opinion, 'I feel like any discussion by a child of a parent's sexual orientation is inappropriate.' Of course that brings into question why the child with the heterosexual parents was not also counseled. But not everyone feels that being gay is automatically a bad thing down in Lafayette, one member of the school board says that Huff and Marcus are owed an apology and the sentiment of many callers to the local radio station are on Marcus' side in the matter. How would you, as an adult explain alternate family lifestyles to kids? What would you be comfortable with having children discuss at this age? What is a good age to begin discussing sexuality with a child? Could you come up with a better, more straightforward explanation of what gay means than Marcus did?