Joe Bright, a gay Augustana College student who graduated from Erie High School in 2009, talked in an email Thursday about his experience in the district and his thoughts on the school board's decision to ban an anti-bullying book because of gay content.|
Entering his senior year at Augustana, Mr. Bright is majoring political science and international business. He's interning at Project Vote Smart in Philipsburg, Mont., for the summer.
In his email, Mr. Bright wrote:
"I'm deeply disappointed by the board's decision, however, I must admit that I am not surprised at all by it. ... from my memory, anti-bullying education was certainly never a strong part of the curriculum. Even then, the anti-bullying education we received was never tied to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) awareness.
"This decision will only make the environment in Erie more unfavorable for the development of tolerant viewpoints and is cutting the students there off from the reality of our country's increasingly diverse society.
"While growing up in Erie, I certainly could not find any kind of support groups, in or out of school, that would be willing to help students with the issue of sexuality. This is, in large part, why I didn't come out until I started my first year of college at Augustana.
"Living in fear of your classmates, school administrators, and churches is no way to grow up. The banning of this book only increases that fear. The fear that no one cares or, even worse, that you as a person are not welcome in that particular community.
"Two more points: From what I gather, the teachers in the school district largely support this book. Perhaps the church groups should have held a prayer vigil for all the students who have committed suicide as a result of bullying. Not in the hope that a book that teaches tolerance will be banned."