Update on the Student Who Said ‘Homosexuality Is Wrong’ in His German Class

A few days ago, I posted about a Christian student who said in his high school German class that “being a homosexual is wrong.” That student, Dakota Ary, was suspended after he said that when his teacher, Kristopher Franks, cited him in a disciplinary referral.

I defended Ary at the time, but noted that we were only hearing his side of the story…

Now, we’re starting to hear the teacher’s side.

The Dallas Voice reports what a spokesperson for a local LGBT rights says about the case:

The gist of these reports [in the media] is that Ary, during a discussion about religion and homosexuality in his first-year German class, expressed the opinion that “I am a Christian, and I believe that homosexuality is wrong,” and was subsequently sent out of class with a disciplinary referral by his teacher, Mr. Franks, and then given a three-day suspension from an assistant principal.

Concerned that only one side of the incident was being reported, we met Friday night with Mr. Franks. His account contradicts Ary and his lawyer’s version of events, and has been substantiated by several of the other students in class at the time. We found Mr. Franks’ explanation entirely credible.

On the particular day in which this incident occurred, Mr. Franks was opening class when the topic of Christianity in Germany was broached by one student, who asked what churches were there, another whether they read the Bible in English, etc. Franks asserts that the topic of homosexuality was not broached in any way, and that Ary‘s assertions to the contrary are entirely false. At this point, Ary declared, with a class audience, “Gays can’t be Christians; homosexuality is wrong,” looking directly at Mr. Franks. Franks says he understands and affirms students’ right to free speech, and that he is perfectly prepared to lead a respectful discussion on topics such as gay rights that allows for the assertion of opinions with which he disagrees. He has led such discussion in the past in his sociology classes. But in this case, [he] feels the context makes it clear that this remark was made ad hominem, aimed specifically at him to devalue him and any information he might share on the topic of religion, on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation.

Joe Jervis explains the significance of this revelation:

Read the entire linked article and you’ll learn what many of us already suspected — that the student in question has a long history of Christianity-fueled anti-gay misbehavior. Clearly, if the teacher’s story is true, the suspension was the inevitable result of a running pattern of harassment. The case has been trumpeted on virtually every Christianist site as evidence of rampant homofascism, but you can bet that the teacher’s side of the story will see zero attention.

No doubt more of this story is going to unravel over the next few days. I hope Mr. Franks is able to speak out a little more. I also hope the students in that classroom find the courage to do the right thing and share their own recollections of what really happened. This is more than just a miscommunication. While students have a right to their beliefs, they don’t have a right to harass teachers any more than they do other students.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    another whether they read the Bible in EnglishWe all know that God wrote the original Bible in King James English.

  • PJB863

    No surprise here.

  • Anonymous

    My brother used to do this shit all the time in school.  And yeah he got his ass suspended, and nearly expelled because he kept up with the disrespectful and violent commentary in class.  And yep, he sure tried to pull the innocent “What did I say???” puppy eyes as well.  So I never fall for that nonsense.  Course the Christian far right groups are all in on the con so they will never concede this point.

    • Brian Macker

      What violent commentary?

  • http://disienai.tumblr.com/ Semipermeable

    Stories like this are hard to gauge because it isn’t just what was said, but how it was said paired with the context of how the student and teacher have interacted in the past.

    That said, it seems like the student was leading the class discussion down a path to his own opinion of homosexual relationships for the purpose of throwing out confrontational statements. If this behavior occurs frequently, then I can see him possibly being suspended for frequent abduction of discussions for the purpose of attacking/ irritating the teacher into a confrontation. In and of itself, high school students trying to verbally challenge and irritate potentially disliked teachers vocally in class is fairly common if my own high school memories stand true. What makes this incident news is the particular subject the student chose to poke at with a stick, paired with the infamous ‘everyone is attacking us’ mentality some wide spread religious groups seem to have, justified or not. 

    • JM

      ^Agreed. The whole situation will be hopelessly politicized beyond recognition by all sides unfortunately.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

        Yeah, I get flamed by both sides when I try to talk reasonably.   Many don’t care about understanding things from the position of the other side, nor taking a more nuanced view of their own position.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

       I’ve had so many teachers on both the right and left who have used substantial amounts of classroom time to push political agendas.  Often with endless streams of confrontational questions directed at victim students.   It’s quite irritating.    Had one philosophy teacher who was religious directing all sorts of asinine barbs at science all the time.   Really stupid stuff.   He would call on the students,  no one would raise a hand.   So I’d raise mine and demolish his nonsense.   

      For examples, he used zeno’s paradox as some kind of proof against science.   I had never heard of it but it too me all of two minutes to realize why it was nonsense.   Raised my hand,  pointed out that 1+.5+.25+… equals 2, and if traveling at the same velocity each segment would take the proportional amount of time.   So at 2 feet per minute, the first foot would take a minute, the next half foot a half minute, and so forth.  You’ll reach your destination in two minutes.   They only way you wouldn’t would be if each segment took the same amount of time, which would mean you were decelerating at a rate that would prevent you from colliding with the wall.

      I got a D in the class.  My only D.  It was retributive for making him look like the idiot he was.

  • Anonymous

    I wish Hemant Mehta would stop assuming that the homophobes are on the side of the angels when stories like this come out. First, he rushed to the defense of Jerry Buell’s homophobic comments, and then he rushed to the defense of Dakota Ary’s homophobic comments. In both cases he’s been wrong to do so. Is he going to finally learn a lesson here? Maybe a person being a homophobe says something about their character — that maybe you shouldn’t jump to believe everything they say?

    • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

      He hasn’t been flip-flopping back and forth; he’s been giving these yahoos the benefit of the doubt even though they don’t deserve it. Both stories were presented in the light of “this the the evidence presented – it’s probably not the whole story, but let’s see what we can learn from it until more evidence is presented.”

      I think that the ability to see that there may be more to a story that your preferences or politics or point of view AND reserve judgement is one of Hemant’s biggest blogging virtues.

      • Anonymous

        I didn’t accuse him of flip-flopping. I accused of him defending people who didn’t deserve to be defended. In a story without all the facts, which involves a homophobe and a homosexual, Hemant defends the homophobe rather than the homosexual. Consistently.

        • Himmer

          Straw man. He’s not defending anyone based on the virtues of their character. He’s evaluating the situation based on the US Constitution.

          • Anonymous

            1) You don’t know what a “straw man” is. 2) He admits, in this very post, that he defended the student. It’s in English. Read it.

            • Rich Wilson

              He defended the student based on his (the student’s) constitutional right to be an asshat.  You can have “defended the student” and “based on the constitution” at the same time.

              I agree the one-sided story stank.

              but

              We define our own freedoms in the way we defend the freedoms of others.

        • CanadianChick

          Uh, no – he says “let’s wait to have all the info before jumping to conclusions” – as any rational, skeptical person would do. Saying that Hemant always “defends the homophobe, not the homosexual” is inaccurate & hyperbolic.

          • Anonymous

            That’s true, except that he didn’t wait. He defended him at first and came to the conclusion that the suspension was wrong.

            Waiting would have been reporting the incident but staying neutral

        • CanadianChick

          Uh, no – he says “let’s wait to have all the info before jumping to conclusions” – as any rational, skeptical person would do. Saying that Hemant always “defends the homophobe, not the homosexual” is inaccurate & hyperbolic.

        • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

          Hmm, ok, I think I understand what you mean. I think, with an emotionally charged (well, for me, anyway) issue like equality in the classroom, Hemant refused to cast blame on the homophobes before having sufficient evidence. I think it’s less of a defense and more of a reserving-judgement sort of thing. 

          So perhaps you’re seeing Hemant defending the homophobes – if I may use your words – when I see him as simply choosing not to go after them. Maybe it’s the initial stance – how the bully in the instance is treated in the blog post – should be a bit more stern?

          • TheBlackCat

            Once again, he does cast blame on the teacher without having all the evidence.  “Reserving judgement” != “blame one side”.  He post clearly has a tenative judgement, it is right there in the title of the post.  “The Student Who Said ‘Being a Homosexual is Wrong’ Didn’t Deserve To Be Suspended”.  That is a judgement.  He readily admitted he didn’t have all the facts, and the story seemed suspicious, but he still chose to make a judgement anyway.  

            I wholly agree reserving judgement was the right thing to do in that circumstance.  But it is definitely NOT what Hermant did, he says right in the title of the post that he thinks the teacher was wrong.

    • Anonymous

      Maybe he just sees the best in people rather than assumes the worst.

      • TheBlackCat

        Except he assumed the worst on the part of the teacher.

        • Jln Francisco

          It’s an understandable bias. He is mostly concerned with ensuring students are protected and taken care of so he’s going to be  much harsher on those in a ‘teaching’ role.

          Still not sure how he didn’t see through that other homphobe’s bs though. :/

          • http://profiles.google.com/erickson.val Val Erickson

            He is concerned with protecting straight students, yes. Gay students are on their own.

            • Rich Wilson

              Gay students are on their own.

              Sure, becuase Hemant has no history of supporting gay students…

              • Jln Francisco

                True but given the last couple of cases he’s come out supporting a bigot over the concerns of those they’re targeting you can’t exactly fault Val Erickson for his/her frustration, can you? Especially considering how ‘It’s My Right!’ is the most popular religious excuse out there.

              • http://profiles.google.com/erickson.val Val Erickson

                Point being? Past Hemant does not justify present Hemant.

              • Rich Wilson

                Keep in mind that when Hemant supports the free speech rights of bigots, he’s also supporting the free speech rights of gay students and allies.

                And you’re right Jln- I can’t fault the frustration.  I guess I just don’t want to throw baby Hemant out with the bathwater.  He’d still go well with roasted potatoes.

                • http://profiles.google.com/erickson.val Val Erickson

                  But what rights are he defending here? In every case mentioned in the thread comments and in the post above the issue is that he defended “speech rights” before he had enough information to determine whether the “speech rights” even existed in each particular scenario. I strongly object to the notion that he is doing anybody’s free speech rights any favors by jumping ill-informed to the defense of bigots who are clearly in the wrong when submitted to closer scrutiny.

                  In each case when he wants to give the benefit of the doubt in the absence of complete evidence, he has sided with the religious person each time. Hemant is the one throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater in throwing gay kids under the bus during his attempt to draw media attention to how conciliatory atheists (specifically Hemant Mehta, Atheist) can be.

                  At least people know that if they make news bullying gay people, Hemant will be there to defend their free speech. I imagine that all the gay kids out there will take great comfort in knowing that free speech is being so vehemently defended on their behalf.

      • TheBlackCat

        Except he assumed the worst on the part of the teacher.

    • http://profiles.google.com/erickson.val Val Erickson

      I would add that the press always seems to get some great soundbites out of Mehta before he forms a public opinion that is actually based on the facts. Given the consistent pattern, one wonders if this approach isn’t intentional: He is  presented with a controversial issue regarding the rights of homosexuals and/or children, takes the side opposing the homosexuals and/or children, provides quotes to the media backing up that position, and then quietly retracts on his personal blog when the facts come in. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1607022278 Anonymous

    I’m sure many of the christians’ sites are acting victimized by what happened.  They never stop to wonder why they get picked on.  Perhaps it’s because of your bigoted views :-O REVELATION!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1607022278 Anonymous

    I’m sure many of the christians’ sites are acting victimized by what happened.  They never stop to wonder why they get picked on.  Perhaps it’s because of your bigoted views :-O REVELATION!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

    I don’t think Mehta has been biased one way or another. Simply covering the story and updating as new info has come out. From what we knew the first round I would say his opinions were dead on. Normally I don’t like the way he handles most stories like this but he’s done a nice job of being balanced I feel. This coming from a Christian conservative.

    As a teacher, I have seen students try to ask baited question or toss out loaded statements. I’ve never had to send someone to the office for it though. But then again, it sounds like he might be a repeat offender. I’m not there so I can’t judge that.

    But as for Mehta’s coverage on this one so far: A-. I say innocent until proven guilty is always the way to go. I’m guessing the story’s not over yet though.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

       “I say innocent until proven guilty is always the way to go.”

      So you’re assuming that the teacher and school are innocent until they’re proven guilty?

    • Anonymous

      Innocent until proven guilty is the way to go. We know (and knew before) that the student is guilty of homophobia, and we didn’t have any information on the teacher’s guilt or innocence of anything. But Mehta condemned the teacher and defended the student — that didn’t make any sense to do.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        Can we simply drop the word homophobia unless its actually true? I’m pretty sure there aren’t that many people that are actually, literally scared of same-sex relationships. You will find people that do not believe they are moral, but really? People actually being scared of them? 

        • Rich Wilson

          Sure.  At the same time as we drop the idea that homosexuality is a choice.  I’m pretty sure there aren’t that many people who get to choose their sexual orientation.

          (not that innate/choice makes a damn bit of difference when it comes to human rights.  Choices that don’t hurt anyone else shouldn’t cost us rights)

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

            I think that many of  those who say it is a choice distinguish between attraction and action.   They understand that homosexuals like the same sex, and think it is a sin for them to act on it.    I disagree with that but let’s be honest in our criticism.

            I also understand that many do not make such distinctions.

            The official position of the Catholic church is that for some individuals the desire is not a choice and in others it is, however the decision to act on those desires in both cases is a choice.

            I can’t make sense of the idea of a desire being a choice but there you have it.    I certainly can see that you could be influenced by the environment to change your desires but that is not about choice.   For example, being naturally attracted to blondes but after many bad experience losing that desire via negative reinforcement.

            So I think the politically correct positions on both sides are in fact probably wrong.

            • Rich Wilson

              I think that many of  those who say it is a choice distinguish between attraction and action.

              Happy to be corrected, but I don’t think momma J is one of them.  At least when she talked about choice in the last thread, I’m pretty sure she was talking about the desire not the act.

              • Brian Macker

                 I wouldn’t know.    She’ll (or he’ll) have to tell us.

            • Anonymous

              Separating desire and action isn’t any less ridiculous and inhuman. For
              anyone but a Catholic priest, one naturally follows the other.

              Suppressing one’s  sexuality isn’t a healthy way to live for most
              people. Especially when, like for many of these evangelical nutjobs,  it is combined with creating a fake heterosexual persona.

              • Brian Macker

                Nonsense.   Liking food doesn’t necessarily lead to overeating.   Desiring a car doesn’t neccesarily lead to stealing it.  Etc.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7TNTICAML3WLO7GT6WWDH53E3Y John Dixon

                  One would have to be in real love with food or a car to marry it.  We’re not talking about inanimate objects; we’re talking about real people.  Your argument is a poor attempt to dehumanize the real people affected.

              • Brian Macker

                “Suppressing one’s  sexuality isn’t a healthy way to live for most people.”

                It is if you are a pedophile, or attracted to women who refuse you.

                Besides the argument isn’t about if it’s healthy or not.   They are concerned whether it gets you into heaven or hell.   From their perspective, their world view, that is the issue.   It’s the act that gets you into hell, not the attraction.  So from their perspective it is a choice that has consequences.

                There are many possible choices where there are both good and bad consequences.   Their position would be that it’s not “healthy” to get yourself sent to hell, despite the 15 minutes of sexual pleasure.

        • Donalbain

          Pronunciation:/ˈfəʊbɪə/
          noun
          an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something:

          I fucking HATE that “but I am not afraid of gays” response from homophobes.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

             So the options are “extreme aversion”, “extreme fear”, “irrational aversion” and “irrational fear”.

            Classical phobias, the ones that this definition are based upon, are not something which we consider people morally deficient for.   That they are naturally fearful of snakes, or cotton balls, for instance is not a choice, but part of who they are, just like sexual preference is part of who homosexuals are.    Obviously being afraid of snakes is not a matter of irrationality unless the snake is the harmless kind.  Obviously cotton balls are no threat so the fear is irrational.

            Some phobias are inborn and some are learned responses to traumatic events.

            This is quite distinct from say bigotry.

            Certainly one would expect ophidiophobes to rip pictures of snakes off the walls of classrooms.    One would also expect them to make all sorts of objections to being around snakes, for instance being against the biology teacher keeping them in the school.

            If homophobia is really a phobia then perhaps you should stop persecuting these people for what amounts to inborn aversions over which they have no control.

            We really need some suffix that indicates bigotry.

            Perhaps heteroism?

            • Sulris Campbell

              i think the suffix phobia in homophobia is used correctly.  arachnophobia is not some magical inate biologically programmed fear of spiders.  a baby doesnt know what a spider is or how to feel about them.  it is a learned response from the existance of spiders picked up over time from those around them.

              people scared of spiders who rip up posters doesn’t make us as angry becuase we dont care about the feelings of spiders.  though if it took us a long time to make the poster we might be a bit peturbed. 

              when homophobic people  show their aggression towards the thing they fear we care becuase we care about the victims.  

              having a phobia does not make you not responsible for you actions.  if an arachnaphobe mr. A killed a man mr.B who kept spiders in his own home as pets becuase that was his hobby we would have reason to be upset.

            • Sulris Campbell

              i think the suffix phobia in homophobia is used correctly.  arachnophobia is not some magical inate biologically programmed fear of spiders.  a baby doesnt know what a spider is or how to feel about them.  it is a learned response from the existance of spiders picked up over time from those around them.

              people scared of spiders who rip up posters doesn’t make us as angry becuase we dont care about the feelings of spiders.  though if it took us a long time to make the poster we might be a bit peturbed. 

              when homophobic people  show their aggression towards the thing they fear we care becuase we care about the victims.  

              having a phobia does not make you not responsible for you actions.  if an arachnaphobe mr. A killed a man mr.B who kept spiders in his own home as pets becuase that was his hobby we would have reason to be upset.

              • Brian Macker

                The example was snakes and it is an inborn fear.

                Yes, having a phobia can make one not responsible for ones actions.    If you were to walk up to someone who you know has a phobia of spiders with one hidden in your closed fist then open it in front of him then he would not be necessarily responsible for his actions.

                Motive, mens rea, matters in such situations.   If you were on a subway platform and he pushed you back to get the spider away from him (in his panic) and you died on the tracks we wouldn’t hold him responsible.

                He might have reacted by jumping onto the tracks, and since you knew he had the phobia, we would charge you with manslaughter.

                 

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7TNTICAML3WLO7GT6WWDH53E3Y John Dixon

                  The difference here is that we are not talking about a fear nor aversion to spiders or snakes, but to another of your own species who has done no harm to the person who has the phobia.

                  People were once deeply fearful of electricity, but have since grown used to it being everywhere.  Wouldn’t teaching someone to fear or have an aversion for electricity would be considered quite out-moded and irrational.  Homophobia – a societal / cultural condition – is frankly no different.  Using a book as an excuse is still an excuse.  Until one of these bible-thumpers can show me how real harm has been done to them or society through the existance of homosexuals in our midst, they need to keep their religion – a “personal relationship with God” – personal.  Stop telling the rest of us how we’re supposed to agree with their misguided interpretation of their own holy book, in which I am not required to believe.  

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1674805833 Beryl MacLachlan

          Xenophobia doesn’t mean doesn’t normally mean “fear of strangers” either, and it’s about the best-established “phobia” word around.  Take it as a lesson from Greek that fear and hatred are close relatives.

        • Anonymous

          I use the word ‘homophobia’ to describe any kind of negative attitude towards gay and lesbian people or homosexuality. This is how the word is commonly used, and you know that. Yes, the student doesn’t believe gay and lesbian relationships are moral. That is homophobic and immoral of him to believe so.

          • Brian Macker

            What about people who just think anal sex is disgusting, including when practiced by heterosexuals?   They think it is perverted, and it disgusts them because of the fact that in involves feces.

            They may not have a problem with homosexual men loving other men, but think their desire for anal sex is a perversion.

            Of course since they believe that homosexual men have anal sex they would have a negative attitude towards them and their behavior.

        • Noturavguy

          “homophobia.” Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc. 11 Oct. 2011. .

  • Anonymous

    The fact that the teacher is perceived as being gay sheds new light on this incident. Now, I’m more inclined to think the fundy student was purposely being an ass and deserved suspension.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      I thought I saw a complain that he was pushing a homosexual agenda in his classroom.    Pictures of men kissing stuck on the wall tend to reinforce that claim.

      It may be that he was making a point of trying to educate these ignorant kids on homosexuality and they were pushing back. 

  • Gus Snarp

    What this brings up is standard school district policies of not commenting on ongoing cases and not allowing teachers or other personnel to comment. From a legal standpoint this is standard and good advice, but it results in a media firestorm when the other party can and will say anything they want to in the press. The right wing groups who start these things know this, so they get out in front of the media and win the public opinion battle early, even getting Hemant to weigh in on what is probably the wrong side. And that’s probably all they care about. They may lose in court, or before the school board, or wherever, but as long as they can add to their ongoing story about the homosexual agenda, or the atheist agenda, or the war on Christmas, they’ve won the only battle they care about. This teacher needs to be able to get his full story out to the press early. If his lawyers want to vet the story first, so be it, but they need to move. In all likelihood it is not his lawyers (if he has any), but the school district keeping the muzzle on him. And that is bad for the school district and bad for the teacher. It’s the old media approach and it needs to end.

    • Sulris Campbell

      i think hemant said that IF the student was telling the truth the teacher was wrong and that the story was one sided in favor of Ary.  i think saying he weighed in on the “wrong” side is a bit incorrect but i liked the rest of your post. 

      it would seem to me that everything he said in the previous post still applies.  the IF statement is still true,  the fact that Ary was not telling the truth does not change its validity.

      • TheBlackCat

        The title of the post was “The Student Who Said ‘Being a Homosexual is Wrong’ Didn’t Deserve To Be Suspended”  That is coming down pretty strongly on one side of the story without even hearing the other side. He gave some consessions to the possibility that he might be wrong in the middle, but the conclusion of the article was pretty straightforward.  

      • Gus Snarp

        I agree with TheBlackCat – the title states a clear position, it’s misleading at best to try to amend that with an “if” in the actual text. In a case like this it seems to me that weighing in at all when all you have is the word of one student is a mistake. But I’m not so much trying to slam Hemant as to point out that this story was so well spun and controlled by the Liberty Institute (that’s the one, right? I can’t keep my right wing hate groups straight) that Hemant thought it sounded like a free speech case at all.

  • Nkendall

    I really hope this kid didn’t take German for some “fascist points”.

  • Trina

    Reserving judgment until the facts were in was the only wise thing to do.  That said, of course in some cases there’s misbehavior on the part of teachers, & sometimes on the part of students.  And, sometimes, both.

    I had a physics professor at my university who wasted precious class time *at least* once a week (out of three classes) orating on the subject of ‘black helicopters’ and such.  I’d say it was an average of 20 minutes of class time per incident.  He didn’t make much sense at all & was obviously paranoid & delusional.  I described the behavior in my end-of-semester evaluation which went to the department head.  The fellow, though well-meaning, shouldn’t have been doing that.  Perhaps fortunately, he was obviously near or at retirement age.  I hope that was his last semester teaching!

    On the other hand, the most homophobic/gay hating student I knew came out of the closet about ten years after graduation… not that an attempt to deny & cover up sexual orientation is any excuse for gay-bashing. 


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