Nationwide, this story from South Carolina didn’t get much attention, buried as it was in the political news of the day. Yet the story hit home with me, who has five grandchildren, two of whom are 10 years old as was the girl in this story. I know how wise young children can be.
The fourth-grader in this story was asked, along with her class, to write an essay “to society.” Well, there’s a broad topic if there ever was one. But it resonated with a 10-year old girl in this class who decided to write something about LGBTQ rights. It was a topic she knew something about, having a grandfather who is a gay man active in the LGBTQ community.
Following are some of the words which this 10-year-old wrote, elementary school mistakes included: “I don’t know if you know this but peoples view on Tran’s genders is an issue. People think that men should not dress like a women, and (they) say mean things. They think that they are choosing the wrong thing in life. In the world people can choose who they want.” Awkward elementary school grammar and all, the essay was a kind of a summary of the Bill of Rights in fourth-grade language.
Still, the principal begged to differ. He required the little girl to write an alternative essay about bullying, telling the girl’s mother that the LGBTQ topic “would create an undesirable situation at the school.” He further stated that it is “not age-appropriate to discuss transgenders, lesbians and drag queens outside of the home.” He also stated that the essay was “disagreeable.” When will they ever learn?, as the haunting words ask.
Of course, there is a lawsuit now, stating that the right of the child to free speech was violated. The spokesperson for the school district stated the following, “We are serious about treating every child with kindness, respect, and without discrimination.” And what about those children who sense that they may be gay? Did they receive a measure of respect and kindness in this situation?
Reading this news story made me think of so many things. It reminded me of the pressures that compel some leaders, like this principal, to make the wrong decision.
It reminded me of how “disagreeable” it was when our forefathers threw tea into the Boston Harbor. When Lincoln put forth an Emancipation Proclamation. When the suffragists brought their protests to the White House lawn. When gay people rioted for their rights at Stonewall. And how “disagreeable” it is when people the world over fight for the rights of humankind.
And it reminded me of how sensitive young people are to the wrongs of the world around them, and how much their vision leads them to speak out against inhumanity.
As those age-old words proclaim, “Out of the mouths of babes…”
Linda Flashinski is a retired educator whose column, “In What Light There Is,” appears periodically in the Family & Life section of the Journal Times. The phrase is from a poem by the late John Ciardi who wrote, “And still, I look at this world as worlds will be seen, in what light there is.” You may reach Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright, Linda Flashinski, 2019.