Letters to the Editors 25.4

Illustration:© 2011 Jen Sorensen| www.slowpokecomics.com

Anti-Teacher Climate Intensifies Bullying

Waiting in my car to pick up my sons from middle school, I turn off the windshield wipers, lower the windows, and silence the engine. As students spill out noisily from the building, teachers emerge to mitigate madness and direct traffic. Yet adolescent screams of “you faggot” and “f-ing gaywood” are seemingly unheard, and obscene gesturing behind a young woman goes unnoticed. Staff in this much pink-slipped district are undervalued and demoralized. With more and more days cut from the school year, I know these educators have been forced to compromise good curricular decisions, so why am I shocked by their indifference toward homophobia and sexual harassment? Of course, I have discussions with my boys about these issues at home, but I am increasingly alarmed by what I see and hear on school grounds. I believe the bullying of teachers has led to an intensification and acceptance of bullying among students.

Amidst the palpable dysphoria and apathy in our education system, how refreshing I found Jody Sokolower’s article, “My Teacher Is a Lesbian: Coming Out at School” (Winter 2010). Students, especially adolescents wrestling with issues of identity, need teachers who show they care and who have the fortitude to lead courageous conversations. I admire the way Ms. Sokolower upheld honesty and trust, and “came out” straightforwardly and responsibly in both middle and high school settings. She encouraged students to explore their own identities and social issues relevant to their lives. She quietly cultivated empathy and expanded understandings of the sexuality and gender continuums. In taking a stand against homophobia, she protected the rights of all students to a fair and harassment-free learning environment. In my opinion, educators like Ms. Sokolower are the unsung heroes in the teaching profession. As a straight mother, I hope my sons have the good fortune to have a teacher like her.

—Chloë Hughes
Parent and Associate Professor,
College of Education,Western Oregon University,
Monmouth, Ore.

Teachers Coming Out Still a Major Issue

I was so pleased to read an article about being a gay teacher and the decisions around coming out to students. Believe it or not, it is still a huge issue even here in liberal Portland. I personally contemplated the pros and cons of coming out to my students every year when I was in the classroom.;But I never summoned up the courage, fearing rejection from those I worked so hard to build relationships with—the students. Although I have always been out to my colleagues, being that open with students was difficult for me.

I practically cried when I saw the title of the article on the cover and wanted to let you know that this was bold, progressive, and extremely helpful. Although as president of the Portland Association of Teachers I know my rights and feel protected, no one can protect me from the rejection or ridicule I fear from kids I care so deeply about. We need more stories like Sokolower’s “My Teacher Is a Lesbian,” so we can draw courage and inspiration from one another.

—Rebecca Levison
President, Portland Association
of Teachers, Portland, Ore.