Gay poster divides Beaverton, Ore., schools

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 15 2003 1:00 AM ET

The Beaverton, Ore., teachers union and district administrators are divided over a classroom poster advertising a support group for gay teens. The union says the district, which recently ordered an out gay teacher to remove the poster from that teacher's classroom, is inviting harassment of gay students by showing bias against gay educators. District leaders counter that they are trying to closely monitor controversial speech. A new rule, finalized this week, bans classroom displays that do not relate directly to the material taught there. Teachers also are forbidden to display posters that do not relate to school-sponsored clubs.

The gay high school teacher is the adviser for the school-approved Gay-Straight Alliance. Administrators did allow nearly 30 other teachers--most of them heterosexual--in the same school to keep the same poster, said Charlotte Meuwissen, a heterosexual teacher at the school. District administrators have now allowed the gay teacher to put the poster back up.

Trisha Parks, president of the Beaverton Education Association, argues that administrators are harassing gay employees by unevenly enforcing the rule. Union officials asked school board members this week to throw out the regulation, which was written by 15 central administrators.

Tom Greene, the assistant superintendent who originally asked the gay high school teacher to remove the poster, said the rule is not directed at any one group of students or employees but rather is an attempt by district officials to more closely monitor the teaching of "controversial" subject matter.