There are a lot of stories out there about how a 14-year-old boy, Dakota Ary, got suspended from Western Hills High School in Fort Worth, Texas because he made a comment in German class that his teacher didn’t like:
“We were talking about religions in Germany. I said, ‘I’m a Christian. I think being a homosexual is wrong,’” he said. “It wasn’t directed to anyone except my friend who was sitting behind me. I guess [the teacher] heard me. He started yelling. He told me he was going to write me an infraction and send me to the office.”
“At first I was in disbelief. My son is on the honor roll with great grades. I don’t have any problems out of him,” Holly Pope said.
After hearing Ary’s explanation of what happened, the assistant principal reduced the original suspension from two days to one. But Pope was not satisfied with that.
“He was stating an opinion. He has a right to do that. They punished him for it,” she said.
Liberty Counsel adds (with absolutely no proof whatsoever):
The discipline referral form says the comment was out of context, even though the lesson for the day was on religious beliefs. The teacher charged Dakota with “possible bullying” and indicated, “It is wrong to make such a statement in public school.” Last week, the teacher displayed a picture of two men kissing on a “World Wall” and told the students that homosexuality is becoming more prevalent in the world and that they should just accept it. Many of the students were offended by the teacher’s actions and his continually bringing up the topic of homosexuality in a German language class.
I’ll say the unpopular thing right up front. There are gay students who get beaten up at the hands of school bullies and who have to deal with actual verbal abuse. What Ary said, if he actually said what’s being reported, doesn’t fall into those categories.
If the teacher went after the student for his comment, then I think he was being unprofessional, overreacted, and gave Ary a punishment he didn’t deserve.
But there’s no recording of the classroom, so the student is recalling his own soundbyte. Isn’t it at least possible that he changed what he said after the fact to make it sound less offensive? Not to mention students are also known to exaggerate what happens in the classroom, especially when they think the teacher is “after them.” Not always, but it happens. I’m not defending either side here, but I’m not convinced we’re hearing the full version of the story. All the stories being written about this are unbelievably one-sided. And as much as we want to hear from the teacher or an administrator, they’ll probably remain silent about the whole thing, choosing to just take care of it internally.
Keep in mind we don’t know what prompted Ary to say what he did or what he meant by it (if it was a threat or an off-hand comment). We don’t know how the class functions, or much about this teacher, or how Ary treats gay students at the school. The fact is that students don’t (and shouldn’t) get punished because they point out their religious beliefs, even if it is bigoted.
While we’re at it, people need to stop complaining that they were discussing something other than German in a German class. You’re allowed to go on tangents in the classroom — within reason. And religion is a common thing to discuss in foreign language classes, since it plays a large role in many cultures. According to the stories we’re hearing, the comment was prompted by a student’s question on what Germans thought about homosexuality with regards to religion.
The Christian Post, differing somewhat from Liberty Counsel’s narrative, explained it this way:
The teacher was reportedly telling students how to say religion and Christianity in German. Ary asked a question about Bibles in different countries and what language they are in…
After Ary commented to his friend about his Christian beliefs, the teacher reportedly began yelling at him and took him to the front office…
Yeah… that’s the whole story… sure…
By the way, if the ACLU got involved, they would be on the side of the student. You can’t punish someone for what they think, no matter how bigoted or homophobic it is. Yeah, this kid has a lot to learn, but this is hardly worthy of a suspension. And I say that as someone very aware of what GLBT students have to struggle with on a regular basis, as a teacher, and someone who wants to see that sort of anti-gay rhetoric disappear entirely.