Silence please

// 22 August 2008

100x120-Double_Venus-color.jpgI read the report, Many support ex-principal in gay rights case (link here) in the NWF Daily News with an increasing sense of incredulity and outrage. It raises so many questions, but it seems that the judge’s view is that the only relevant one appertains to the attempted silencing of dissent. I’d recommend reading the entire piece, but here are some extracts from it:

When a high school senior told her principal that students were taunting her for being a lesbian, he told her homosexuality is wrong, outed her to her parents and ordered her to stay away from children.

He suspended some of her friends who expressed their outrage by wearing gay pride T-shirts and buttons at Ponce de Leon High School, according to court records. And he asked dozens of students whether they were gay or associated with gay students.


The friends donned gay pride T-shirts and rainbow-colored clothing when they found out how Davis had treated her, and he questioned many of them about their sexuality and association with gay students. Some were suspended.

“Davis embarked on what can only be characterized as a ‘witch hunt’ to identify students who were homosexual and their supporters, further adding fuel to the fire,” U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak recounted in his ruling. “He went so far as to lift the shirts of female students to insure the letters ‘GP’ or the words ‘Gay Pride’ were not written on their bodies.”


The American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued the district on behalf of a girl who protested against Principal David Davis, and a federal judge reprimanded Davis for conducting a “witch hunt” against gays. Davis was demoted, and school employees must now go through sensitivity training.


Many in the community support Davis and feel outsiders are forcing their beliefs on them. Griffin, who kicked Davis out of the principal’s office but allowed him to continue teaching at the school, said high schoolers here aren’t exposed to the same things as kids in Atlanta or Chicago.

Although this does, as I said, raise many questions, it is interesting to note the judge’s opinion, which states: “I emphasize that Davis’s personal and religious views about homosexuality are not issues in this case. Indeed, Davis’s opinions and views are consistent with the beliefs of many in Holmes County, in Florida, and in the country. Where Davis went wrong was when he endeavored to silence the opinions of his dissenters.”

(Cross-posted from bird of paradox)

Public domain image via Wikipedia Commons.

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Comments From You

Laurel Dearing // Posted 22 August 2008 at 10:55 am

they feel outsiders are forcing their beliefs on them? im sorry but i saw much more of him forcing his beliefs on everybody!

i cant believe he was lifting girls shirts up and that something like that can be besides the point. not only was it disgustingly homophobic and probably pretty scary for the students but there was a huge breach in freedom of speech.

it disturbs me that he was only demoted. not for the belief but for that awful behaviour.

Elise Sebastian Conolly // Posted 22 August 2008 at 11:01 am

I think saying that the silencing is the only problem is clearly wrong – the sexual assault of students can hardly be condoned, and the school has a duty of care and a responsbility to prevent harrassment.

That said, I fully support the principal’s right to hold and express his views, however abhorrent

Juliet // Posted 22 August 2008 at 1:00 pm

That principal should be put in jail and never allowed near students again. His behaviour is an outrage.

Anne Onne // Posted 22 August 2008 at 8:51 pm

No way. Sorry, but his attempting to silence his dissenters was in no way the only unacceptable action.

Let’s go through the others:

He outed a girl who came out to him in confidence, who trusted him because she was experiencing bullying from students. It is not his province to reveal what is said in confidence, and whilst cases may arise where confidences are broken with good intentions to help a student, it is clear that this man had no good intentions towards this student who pleaded for his help. There was no emergency reason to tell her parents, nor was it related to her school work. He did it because he viewed her as fundamentally worthless because of who she is, and he had no compunctions about deliberately causing her distress (as being outed to your parents no doubt would be) for no reason.

He suspended pupils for what they wore. Regardless of how dearly he holds his beliefs, it is inexcuseable that he should be allowed to excersise discrimination against anybody whose lifestyle or beliefs differ from his. Assuming that this school is, like the majority in the US, a school with no official uniform, this is too far. Even in schools with uniform, you’d expect a level of cooperation, not all-out warfare on pupils for wearing the wrong t-shirt.

He went around pulling up the shirts of female students, lest they have GP or Gay Pride SECRETLY written on their bodies. How the hell is what is not visible and under clothing any of that pervert’s business? As far as I’m aware, even if schools do have rules forbidding tattoos and the like, it’s the visibility that’s the problem.

This is highly inappropriate, and should in itself be enough reason for suspending him. I can’t imagine the reaction a teacher at the school I went to would get if they were found to have lifted up girls’ shirts to check for writing underneath, but it would be severe. The fact he has not been is very worrying.

He also went around interrogating students as to whether or not they are gay or affiliated with gay students. Not only is this none of his damn business, and blatant discrimination based on sexual orientation, it is also extremely inappropriate that he was misusing his status and power as the PRINCIPAL to carry out his vendetta against LGBTQ students. This is especially problematic BECAUSE of his beliefs, and there is no way that his beliefs can be disentangled from his actions. He didn’t just hold the beliefs, he armed himself with them for justification, and I don’t care how many people in the same town agree with him, he had no right to so that.

Had he merely privately been disgusted by homosexuality, but otherwise ignored it, ie had he not gone witch hunting, interrogating, practically strip-searching his students, there would not be an issue. As a person, he is entitled to his beliefs (despicable as they are) as much as the next person, but (this is the important part) AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT INFRINGE THE RIGHTS OF SOMEONE ELSE. His rights to hold his beliefs are completely a separate issue to the manner in which he is allowed to act on them. A person may believe anything they wish, as sincerely as they wish, but everyone else has just as much right to hold their own beliefs and live their own lives, free of his meddling.

In this case he did much more than simply hold his beliefs. He used them as a convenient excuse to terrorise students under his care because he could. He used his beliefs as a cloak under which he felt free to denigrate other people’s beliefs, and erode their rights. His pupils have the right to live life in peace, whether they be gay or not, and certainly have a right to withold that information from him.

Despicable actions. He shouldn’t be anywhere near children (as Juliet said), or near anybody else for that matter. A person who is so easily tempted to use power and responsibility they are trusted with to further their own twisted agendas is not fit to have any place (certainly not one of power) in a civilised society.

Sara Pulis // Posted 23 August 2008 at 2:12 am

People like Davis are the reason spitting was invented.

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