For the past six years, every incoming freshman at Logan High School has learned the basics about sexual assault, healthy relationships, and bystander intervention from the Sexual Assault Prevention Program. The format has always been the same. Pre-test, three days of training, post-test. The data has been impressive, showing 20-46% change on questions measuring attitudes and beliefs related to victim blaming and a 20-98% change on questions measuring both attitudes and beliefs as well as the knowledge and skills related to bystander intervention. The students have been engaged and grateful to learn such useful information as well as relieved to be allowed the time and space to talk about these tough topics. The feedback from students and staff has always been positive.
This past May, all that changed. One parent took issue with a part of the lesson and was able to convince the Principal to shut our program out of the school. I’m sure your head is spinning with the many things we could have said that were so offensive, but you will never guess. Let me explain. During the healthy relationships portion of the class, students are asked to brainstorm and give examples of both healthy and unhealthy relationships we see portrayed in movies, television shows, and by celebrities. If the students don’t offer at least one example of a gay or lesbian couple, the SAPP staffer leading the workshop does. It is important that every student is able to see themselves reflected in something that can be considered healthy, and whether the administration would like to believe it or not, there are LGBT students attending Logan High School. On this particular day, I gave the example of Neil Patrick Harris and his partner as a healthy relationship. No one fainted, no one burst into flames, and as far as I could tell at the moment, no one cared.
When I came in for the final day of class, I had a bad feeling. The teacher’s phone was ringing off the hook and when she finally answered it I could hear her whispering and sounding sort of frantic. She hung up and said she had to go speak to the principal. When she came back, she took me out of the classroom and apologetically explained that a parent had called and complained and that from now on I was not to mention the word gay or talk about anything having to do with being gay in the class. The teacher was obviously embarrassed by the whole ordeal but she had to do what she was told by the Principal. I am sensitive and had to excuse myself to go cry in a high school bathroom, something that I haven’t done in a very long time. After I had composed myself, I went back and finished out the day. After that we never heard from Logan High again, despite multiple emails and phone messages left for both the teacher and the Principal.
Let me reiterate that this lesson has been done the same way for the past six years, with two batches of freshman each year, during approximately seven periods a day. That means it has taken place roughly 84 times. One parent complained one time and the whole program was wiped. Why didn’t the principal stand up to this parent, and why won’t he return our calls? Perhaps he has some biases of his own. Perhaps he is afraid.
We are asking for your support to help make positive cultural change in Hocking County that might allow us to regain entry into Logan High School. We hope to resume teaching these life-saving lessons next year, or sooner, in order to help Logan High School fulfill their duties under HB-19, the state mandate that requires that all Health classrooms in the State of Ohio contain curriculum components on the prevention of both bullying and teen dating violence, as well as their duty to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment to for all students. If you have family or friends in Hocking County, especially parents, teachers, or students at Logan High School, please bring up this incident with them or LGBT issues in general. The White House’s January 2014 Report “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” noted that the LGBT community is at greater risk for sexual assault. Current research suggests that due to the heightened homophobia in the United States, LGBT individuals are at a greater risk for sexual assaults by strangers. Perpetrators frequently use sexual assaults against LGBT individuals (and individuals perceived to be LGBT) to punish and humiliate them. This can be seen when an individual believes that they can “change” a woman’s sexual orientation by specifically targeting lesbian and bisexual women for sexual assaults.
Help us get the community talking around these issues. Additionally, Logan High School Principal, Jim Robinson, can be reached at 740.385.2069 ext 1624 from 7:30-2:30 on school days. You can let him know that you want The Sexual Assault Prevention Program back in the high school!
And as always, be an active ally for LGBT issues in our community! Be an active bystander and speak up if you hear someone say something offensive or hurtful. Something as simple as “Hey, that’s not funny” can be very effective. Talk to anyone who will listen. Breaking the silence is the first step to bringing about change.