by Shelly Roberts
WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?
Dja hear that?
Oh. Well, it was kind of quiet. Kind of lost in the vast cacophony (a word that is usually much harder to work into a sentence.) of tolling bells and victory shouts and whistles.
What was it?
Nuthin' much. Just the sound of the tectonic plates of your world shifting.
Kinda funny, though. You'da thought that such a momentous and monumental reordering of the universe woulda made a lot more noise.
What was it?
Oh, sorry. `Thought I answered that. It was a 21-year old gay man getting an out-of- court settlement for nine-tenths of a million dollars. (Makes it seem like more than saying "nine hundred thousand," doesn't it?)
What's the big deal? I know. I know. Gay bashed guys are now regularly getting a voice in court, and their money back. We're practically used to that by now.
There was this one guy in Detroit who got ten million bucks for getting beat up. And not even from the guys who hit him. From the company that employs the security guard who watched the guys who hit him. Now that's a much bigger award so why didn't that qualify for changing life as we know it in the homosexual cosmos?
It was impressive. And a lot of money. A loooot of money. And, yes, maybe it might convince rent-a-bouncers at tacky clubs everywhere to stick their noses in to determine whether the totally blasted trio out brawling by the Bronco are just nosed-over in controlled substances, or are denying a homosexual citizen his constitutional rights.
Yeah, right. Something about pigs flying, and geographies of the divine totality freezing over.
So let me finish my story.
Seems there was this guy, this young gay boy who regularly got pushed around in middle and high school by the bullies, because he was gay. They called him the usual unpleasant names we all kind of get used to, or at least callused over. They trapped him in the shower in the boys gym. One time they kicked him in the stomach so often that he had to have surgery. I think they pee'd on him too. Boys will be obnoxious, er, uh, boys at that age, won't they? Not the prettiest of our coming-of-age stories, eh?
Well, guess what, it got worse. This young man got so harassed, he dropped out of school. Good thing he didn't decide to just drop out of life. We all pretty much know that horrible teen statistic:1/3 of all teen suicides are gay teens who couldn't take it any more. Didn't entirely stop our boy, though. First, he got his high school equivalency. Then he got even.
He sued. Yup, the school.
But he also sued the principal (at last a chance to use that other spelling in one of my columns) of the middle school, and the principal and assistant principal of the high school. And here's where the Richter scale moves. The school district was found Not-Guilty of discrimination.
Seems the good folks of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, had non-discrimination policies already on their books. And, well, just maybe the administrators of the area schools just kinda winked and nodded at those politically-correctors who had them instituted. Everybody knew they were in place just for this occurrence. If they got sued, they were covered. Except.
And doncha just love this exception. Seems the administrators actually were bound to uphold those policies. And much to no one's surprise, they didn't. So the court ruled that they had violated our young man's rights by not protecting him from years of harassment by other students. Nine hundred thousand bucks worth. Which will be tough, I bet, on a principal's salary. Much less a vice's.
And lo, the word will go out from hamlet to village to shire: And let it be known to all the school administrators, and teachers and librarians (though most of them are us), support staff and janitorial custodians in the land. That your fairies and faggots and dykes, oh my, are as much your responsibility as any other child in your care. And if that obligation should get somehow passed you, the court no longer winks or nods at [BEGIN ITALICS] unwritten [END ITALICS] rules. Not only will the price be very high, but it will come out of your own pocket.
Nothing like making your point where it pierces, huh? Finally, with an expensive precedent like this, kindergarten teachers and biology lab leaders and everyone in between should be a lot less tolerant. Of bully behavior that makes our kids feel less than they have - now- the legal right to.
And that's the earthquake that will change our world. Imagine what this will mean for every one of our generation Y and Z'ers. Imagine what you're life would have been like with this decision in place. And isn't that a fitting end to a bad old tradition?!
There wasn't a whole lot about it in the metro papers. Or the nightly news. But isn't it amazing how such a very small noise can make such a big, sweet sound.
Shelly Roberts is the author of the #1 best-selling Roberts' Rules of Lesbian Living. Spinsters Ink.
© 1996. Shelly Roberts. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.
©1997 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.