A holy war over homosexuality has erupted on the campus of a San Francisco Bay area high school, as five teachers are refusing orders to display a pro-”gay” banner because of their religious beliefs.
The rainbow-flag poster with pink triangles and other symbols of homosexual pride carries the message, “This is a safe place to be who you are. This sign affirms that support and resources are available for you in this school.”
The banner, designed by the Gay-Straight Alliance at San Leandro High School south of Oakland, Calif., was ordered by the school board in December to be posted in all classrooms.
“This is not about religion, sex or a belief system,” district Superintendent Christine Lim, who initiated the policy, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This is about educators making sure our schools are safe for our children, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Amy Furtado, principal of San Leandro High School
Principal Amy Furtado believes every teacher will eventually comply with the order from the district, saying she intends to personally work with those who have thus far refused.
“We work in a public school,” she said. “I have no wish to change anyone’s personal belief, but we want all kids to feel safe. That’s where we have common ground.”
Art teacher Tom Laughlin, a homosexual who supervised the design of the poster said he was surprised by the intolerance for homosexuals when he began teaching at the campus five years ago, even being called a “fag” by one student.
“There was a real need to do this,” he told the Chronicle. “A lot of students didn’t know about gay people in general.”
Computer-science teacher Rick Styner is proudly displaying two of the banners in his class, one by the entryway so it’s the first thing students see upon entering.
“I’m glad that it gets out there instead of being hidden away like a secret,” Styner said of any intolerance of homosexuality. “As teachers, we have to address these things. Students start to feel unsafe in the classroom.”
The five teachers who are refusing to follow the district’s orders have not made any public statement about the matter, but a colleague at the school, business teacher Robert Volpa, says he won’t hang the poster, even though he agrees with its message.
“I think it’s outstanding. Any hate language is not permissible,” he said. But he added, “I have a problem with the district mandating anything that could be political.”