The American Civil Liberties Union claims a Louisiana second-grader was disciplined for using the word “gay” when describing his lesbian mom to a classmate and is demanding the boy’s school apologize to him and his mother.
The school district superintendent, however, claims the boy was reprimanded because he caused an “ordinary student disturbance,” not because he used the word “gay.”
The ACLU claims the 7-year-old was scolded and sent to a school behavioral clinic after a friend asked about his parents.
“I was concerned when the assistant principal called and told me my son had said a word so bad that he didn’t want to repeat it over the phone,” Sharon Huff, the boy’s mother, told the website 365Gay.com.
“But that was nothing compared to the shock I felt when my little boy came home and told me that his teacher had told him his family is a dirty word. No child should ever hear that, especially not from a teacher he trusted and respected.”
According to an AP report, Marcus McLaurin was waiting for recess Nov. 11 at Ernest Gallet Elementary School in Lafayette when a classmate asked him about his mother and father, the ACLU said in a complaint.
The boy responded he had two mothers because his mother is “gay.” When the other child asked for an explanation, Marcus told him: “Gay is when a girl likes another girl,” according to the complaint.
While the ACLU claims Marcus’ teacher, Terry L. Bethea, scolded him in front of his classmates, telling him “gay” is a bad word and he should never say it at school, the superintendent of the Lafayette Parish School System, Dr. James Easton, said the boy “was not belittled or embarrassed.”
The civil-liberties group claims the following week the school required Marcus to attend a special behavioral clinic at 6:45 a.m., where he had to repeatedly write: “I will never use the word ‘gay’ in school again.”
Easton strongly denied the boy was made to write the sentence repeatedly, the AP reported. The ACLU, however, stands behind its assertion.
The AP reported Marcus was required to fill out a form, in which he wrote, “I sed bad wurds.” In a space for “What I should have done,” he wrote, “Cep my mouf shut.”
Easton told The Lafayette Advertiser yesterday that Marcus should not be punished for using the term “gay,” but said, “he could be disciplined for describing bedroom antics, something that was personal, that took place at home.”
Said Easton in a statement: ” I have reviewed the documented records on this matter, as well as have met with the school principal and have concluded that the student’s discipline was unrelated to any judgment by school officials regarding sexual orientation or practices, or the student’s discussion of that particular topic. However, I have concluded that the discipline was related to ordinary student disturbances, which were hindering the classroom learning process and which were addressed in an appropriate fashion by the teacher and school administrator.”
The ACLU is demanding the school expunge the boy’s disciplinary records and stop restricting him from talking about his family with other students. The group hinted it may sue if the demands are not met.
“To tell a 7-year-old boy that he can’t talk about his family not only makes that child feel confused and hurt – it violates his constitutional right to free speech and equal treatment,” Ken Choe, a staff attorney from the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, told 365Gay.com.
“At the ACLU, we often deal with schools that mistreat gay children and children who have gay parents, but this is beyond the pale.”
Easton, insisting the school will not apologize to the boy and his mother, defended the discipline.
“Our goal of quality education for all of our students includes instruction in a controlled environment, as well as direction and discipline when appropriate,” he said. “Our handling of this matter was in keeping with those goals.”