As a life long public school educator and administrator, my father, Earl Throckmorton stood for values that have long been a foundation for American education. He would be out of step with today’s NEA and their ex-homophobia.
Academic freedom and equality of persons and ideas meant much to my father. He backed up his beliefs in action even when it could have been professionally damaging. For instance, when he was told in the mid-1960s as a principal at a predominantly African-American elementary school in Portsmouth, Ohio that there were two sets of rules, one for whites and one for blacks, he replied, “Not while I’m here!” He then proceeded to make that school one of the few color-blind schools in the area.
People were people to my dad and his personal views on issues did not prevent him from giving all people equal time to have their say.
The NEA could learn a valuable lesson about fairness from my father the teacher. Witness the recent behavior of the nation’s largest association of school personnel, the NEA.
At their recent convention in New Orleans, the NEA had the usual exhibit hall with numerous vendors and political causes represented. This is a highlight for many convention goers, gathering up free stuff to take home to the kids and maybe even learning something about new products and ideas in the process. These exhibit areas are supposed to be available to all comers, provided they pay a fee for the space. However, one organization was not allowed to take part in this thoroughfare of products and ideas.
What group was deemed too subversive to expose to the convention participants? Was it the Rush Limbaugh Youth Corps? No, it was the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays (PFOX).
PFOX? PFOX is a grassroots organization that seeks to support individuals, or “ex-gays,” who once identified themselves as gay or lesbian but now are living heterosexually. The leaders of the organization, including president Regina Griggs, asked for space at the 2002 convention to exhibit their information and services to sexually questioning youth but were denied the opportunity.
Initially, the NEA told PFOX the exhibit space was completely sold out. This was 2 months after the NEA’s exhibit vendor cashed the PFOX application check. Moreover, other organizations were accepted after PFOX was denied.
Applying again for this year’s convention in New Orleans, PFOX leaders were simply told their application would not be accepted. The NEA’s press office did not respond to my phone and email attempts to get their take on the issue.
Seeking fairness, PFOX filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. The reasoning is simple: if groups who work with students to affirm a gay identity are allowed to exhibit, then a group (PFOX) who works with those not wanting to affirm a gay identity should also be allowed access.
The complaint will be heard later this month. The NEA may be forced to reverse this exclusion but the leadership has indeed demonstrated their position on the matter. Tolerance is a pretty great idea as far as it goes. But apparently there are two sets of rules, one for gay activists and one for ex-gays.
With the NEA stonewalling attempts to present ex-gay information, one wonders what the leadership fears from ex-gays. What possible educational purpose is served by suppressing information?
It’s time for the NEA to work through their ex-homophobia.