This is a scary story in so many ways…
After students at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tennessee wanted to start a Gay Straight Alliance, not a single teacher stepped up to sponsor it, effectively killing the group.
Last week, Chris Sigler, a 17-year-old senior at the school, wore a shirt supporting the GSA. It read: “GSA: We’ve Got Your Back.”
And this is how Principal Maurice Moser reacted:
Sigler says that Moser then ordered all students out of the classroom, except for Sigler’s sister Jessica, who refused to leave. According to both students, Moser then grabbed Sigler’s arm, shoved him, and chest-bumped him repeatedly while asking “Who’s the big man now?” Sigler’s mother reported that when she arrived at the school, she saw her son seated in a desk with Moser leaning over him and shouting in Sigler’s face.
How does that happen? How could one man be full of that much bigotry that he threatens a student over a t-shirt with a harmless message? How is a man like this in charge of students’ education? How is he a role model? How is he anything except a bully and a man who has no business staying in this position?
“We demand that Monroe County Schools state in writing by Tuesday, October 11, 2011 that it will permit any Sequoyah High School student to wear clothing or accessories that peacefully express an opinion regarding the proposed Gay-Straight Alliance free from threats of discipline or physical intimidation or assault. We further demand that Chris Sigler be permitted to finish or retake the economics test that was administered last Friday, that he not be charged an absence for any of the classes he involuntarily missed due to Mr. Moser’s objection to his exercise of his right to free speech, and that he not be subject to any further punishment or retribution. If we do not receive a satisfactory response by October 11, we anticipate filing suit and seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent further censorship at Sequoyah High School.
Sigler — who happens to be straight — is putting himself at risk because he knows that the GSA has the right to exist and he deserves a lot of respect for that. Because of him, the rest of us get to witness what gay students and allies have to deal with on a regular basis when they’re surrounded by bigots.
The principal hasn’t made any public statements yet. I don’t know how the hell he plans to defend himself, but Queerty has a suggestion:
If Principal Moser did assault Sigler, we should at least thank Moser for giving his students [a] real-world education in free speech, civil rights, institutional discrimination and the judicial process. Maybe he’ll even teach them about high-profile lawsuits, job termination and public apologies.
The school district would be smart to make an example out of Moser. But I don’t think they should fire him just yet… that would be too easy and it wouldn’t stop the next principal from being equally bigoted.
Have Moser issue a public apology to Sigler, apologizing for what he did and reiterating the school policy against bullies. Do it in front of the student body. While he’s at it, let him publicly sign the papers giving the GSA approval to form at the high school. Then, force him to attend their first year’s worth of discussions. Maybe he’d start to understand why groups like the GSA are so vital for high schoolers, especially in conservative areas.
(Thanks to Vanessa for the link!)