Proms Get Better: LGBT Teens Recognized as Kings and Queens

Christian and Caleb, prom king and queen (screen shot, WNTW)

This year’s prom season has seen a huge uptick in positive proms for LGBT teens. Blacksburg, Virginia openly gay senior Jake Boyer was crowned prom queen. Boyer–senior class secretary, a choir member, and editor of his school’s literary magazine who came out last year and dressed as Lady GaGa for his big night–was encouraged by his prom reign:

More than anything, this experience just gave me hope for the future. Like, oh my gosh, this little town in the middle of Virginia is able to be this open

At McFatter Tech High School in Davies, Florida, Andii Viveros was elected prom queen. Andii submitted an essay to the school board on the difficulties of life as a transgender teen, and while she experienced a backlash from some students, she was crowned May 27. Her prom king was Juan Macias, an openly gay male student.

And in Sanford Maine–Maine is one of two New England states to deny marriage equality–openly gay 17 year-old Christian Nelsen was crowned Sanford High School’s Prom Queen and his equally out boyfriend Caleb Jett was elected prom king with the help of friends using write-in votes. Both wore tuxedos with their crowns and shared the King and Queen Dance. Talk About Equality reported:

This interview from WNTW News 8 mentions that while some were very happy for the results of the election, others were very unhappy. News 8 tried to interview dozens of people and those who were against it declined to comment on camera – one even said he was afraid of offending someone. How wonderful is it when those who are on the wrong side of history and humanity can acknowledge their ignorance and bigotry through their silence.

Yes, Constance, it does get better.

Now That’s Just UnAmerican! High School Internet Filter Messes with Religion, Baseball

This caught my eye:

The Gainesville (Georgia) School Board has promised it would look into why two Chinese oriented meditation websites come up as ‘occult’ and are blocked by the Gainesville High School Internet filter…Expressing her concern at Monday’s board meeting held in the high school cafeteria, Mary Silver, who supports Clear Wisdom and Falun Dafa, told board members the sites do not encourage involvement in the occult. Far from it, she said.

Falun Dafa is also known as Falun Gong, a form of exercise and meditation banned by the Chinese government in 1999. Practitioners have been jailed, sent to work camps and tortured. And if you believe some websites, killed and their organs sold for transplants. Occult means “secret” or “hidden.” At time the word is equated with “esoteric,” and has by used by some to describe practices like meditation, yoga, astrology, witchcraft as well as various mono- and polytheistic faiths which may practice these exercises and arts. Lumped into “occult” by pop culture are werewolves, vampires, zombies and anything else scary.  Eye roll.

A quick search for “Falun Dafa” and “occult” gets you to discussion forums like Vampire.nu and Occultforum.org, as well as one site that claims Falun Dafa practitioners

collect energy for [their] own benefit, but a portion is re-directed (by occult processes) to the Falun Gong cause in China.

So basically, Falun Dafa practitioners believe they are using some not readily known method to help gain freedom to practice their religion and to draw attention to human rights abuses. Kinda like prayer circles where the faithful pray to make money or to get rid of demons in their neighborhood.

But wait a minute.  Why is the term “occult” blocked by the high school’s internet filter? What other words are blocked? And why? Is “atheist” blocked? “Evolution”?   Are certain religions? Philosophies? And how would parents feel if terms like “resurrection” or “son of God” were blocked?

In April Prince William School District in Virginia received a letter from the ACLU pointing out that the school district’s internet ban on the term LGBT was unconstitutional. TDB reported:

According to the ACLU, barred websites under the system’s “LGBT” filter include those for educational organization The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, school diversity campaign the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, anti-bullying initiative Day of Silence, and anti-suicide initiative the It Gets Better Project.

Meanwhile, because Prince William County Public Schools does not elect to bar “political/activist groups,” “health,” or “reference,” it currently allows students to access anti-LGBT websites like People Can Change, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, and Exodus International.

At they time they sent out the letter, the ACLU issued the following statement:

The ACLU also sent similar letters to schools in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas as part of the organization’s “Don’t Filter Me” initiative, which seeks to combat illegal censorship of LGBT information on public school computer systems by enlisting students to check their school’s web browsers and report what they find.

Under the First Amendment right to free speech and the Equal Access Act, gay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups should have access to national organizational websites that help them to function, just as other groups, such as Key Clubs and the chess clubs, are able to access their national websites.

Ken Blackstone, a spokesman for the Prince William school system said that:

the school system is required by federal law to use Internet filtering software to keep students and staffers from looking at inappropriate content at school. He said the division’s Blue Coat filtering software blocks out 32 specific categories, including, for instance, sites containing pornography or promoting violence or drugs.

Butt the process is automated and sometimes the software doesn’t correctly differentiate between, for example, gay support groups and gay pornography.

In order to correct that problem, Blackstone said the school division has a process by which students or staff can request to have a site unblocked. He said that to the best of his knowledge, no one made such a request in this case.

So, if websites about certain  “occult” faiths, philosophies and belief systems are not allowed into the school, and other religions and philosophies are allowed to pass through the Internet filter, why? Who sets up these filters? Are they set by prevailing community standards, the Federal government, or by the school itself using certain guidelines and their own interpretations?

Seems though that blocking equal access to all religions is a blow against freedom of religion, one of the very cornerstones of our nation and one of the reasons we even have Founding Fathers.

And side note: banning the word “occult” prevents seekers from finding information about colon cancer, arthritis and even baseball!


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