Currently being featured in a big front-page splash at Huffington Post's Gay Voices veritical is the story of 11-year old Marcell Neergaard, who has endured so much bullying for identifying as gay in the Tennessee public schools his parents had to take him out of the system and homeschool him.
I am Marcel Neergaard, and I am 11 years old. This year I was homeschooled for sixth grade because of severe bullying. If I had gone back to public school, there is a great possibility that I would have taken my own life. That possibility would have grown if a certain bill introduced in my home state of Tennessee had passed into law. This bill was known as the "don't say gay" bill. Though that bill never became a law, Oak Ridge's own representative, John Ragan, introduced a new version of the Classroom Protection Act. It is the "don't say gay" bill, just more homophobic. While he crafted this horrifying bill, he received an award. I wrote a petition to take a stand against this.At issue is Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst naming the author of the "Don't say gay" bill, Tennessee Rep. John Ragan Jr., educational "Reformer of the Year" in 2012. When called out on this in April, StudentsFirst was clear they didn't support the bill, but made no moves to distance themselves from the bill's sponsor, or make any other conciliatory promises that such a egregious oversight would not reoccur.
Ultimately their weak response lead Salon to conclude that "Michelle Rhee’s group stands by anti-gay honoree." The educational advocacy group has not taken any issue with that report.
But the Neergaard family finds that unacceptable. Marcel's petition asks:
We want StudentsFirst to withdraw their award to John Ragan as educational "Reformer of the Year." Instead, they should work to protect all bullied students, including LGBTQ, by supporting Tennessee's Dignity for All Students Act, as well as the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.The petition can be found here. I do hope you sign it and encourage your friends to as well by spreading it through your social media network. It has picked up 7,000 signatures just this morning alone!
Update: This is kind of cool, yes? SIGN!