'The Last Acceptable Prejudice': Student Harassment of Gay Public School Teachers
Matthew D. Bernstein
University of New Mexico - School of Law
June 14, 2013
Tennessee Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice, Forthcoming
UNM School of Law Research Paper No. 2014-02
In the United States, where the “marketplace of ideas” is a key social philosophy, few Americans receive the benefits of attending public schools with “out” gay and lesbian teachers. Even in an era where civil rights for homosexual public employees are increasing, more than one quarter of adults in the United States continue to believe that school boards should be permitted to fire teachers known to be homosexual. Amidst a permissive legal climate that too easily puts aside the rights of teachers in a myopic focus on students, incidents where students harass teachers based on the teachers’ sexual orientation go virtually unpunished. These cases are seldom litigated, but because they promote a closeted culture of silence in a profession that employs more than one million Americans, they represent a significant fissure in the civil rights landscape. The anti-gay movement, drawing on a long legacy of discrimination, perversely employs notions of morality and role modeling to enforce a culture of heteronormativity and bigotry. Without adequate gay and lesbian role models, students cannot be active participants in the multiple social locations and spheres that form the lived experience of citizenship. While states are increasingly protecting homosexual public employees through non-discrimination statutes, only federal guidance in the form of Title VII protection or a national non-discrimination statute are sufficient to properly shield teachers and institute a truly democratic classroom.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 54
Keywords: education, teacher, homosexual, gay, discriminationAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: June 16, 2013 ; Last revised: April 4, 2014
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