Liberals and conservatives will always fight over abortion laws, a person’s right to die and gay and lesbian rights.
The war in Florida got more ammunition last week when an 18-year-old student and his mother filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County, saying the teen’s Christian school expelled him because he’s gay.
Jeffrey Woodard says three days after he told a teacher, in confidence, about his sexual orientation, the school told his mother to “… get counseling for his ‘problem’ … or he will be expelled.”
Woodard and his mother, Carol Gload, made the right decision by bringing the school’s discrimination to the attention of the courts and other citizens in their county.
Unfortunately, because the school is private and no doubt its bylaws are written in a way that allows administrators to justify almost any disciplinary action, Woodard and his mother will face a tough legal fight. They say all they want is for Jupiter Christian School officials to cite in writing, and in their policies, their reasons for kicking out Woodard. They’ve only received a letter from school president Richard Grimm asking Woodard not to return.
I’m a product of Christian school. I attended during grades one through eight. For most of that time, my mother served as a school board chairwoman. Spanking was used as a form of discipline, and students and parents were required to sign a form agreeing to abide by the school’s rules and adhere to any decisions regarding a student’s status at the school that was made by the board. I don’t doubt Jupiter’s ground rules are outlined much the same way.
As long as Jupiter’s programs do not receive state money, they have the right to allow members of the Klu Klux Klan to march through their courtyard. It’s their prerogative. Neither my child nor my money will go to Jupiter. That may be the only resolution coming from this case — a parent’s right to reject and discredit his or her child’s school environment.
There’s a reason we have separation of church and state laws, public and private institutions and civil and criminal courts. There is necessary division among all. The difference is that when it comes to private sectors and matters not governed by state law, it’s like flipping a coin sometimes to decide who is right. While I disagree strongly with the way Jupiter officials have handled this case, they’ll probably get away with their actions.
Karen Doering, a lesbian rights attorney in Tampa has said the school did nothing illegal. Opposite her opinion, human rights activists say Woodard’s situation isn’t without precedent. His is merely one of the first to be fought in public, and they believe it is a “blatant case of discrimination.”
It is, but how does the state court system fight with the private church? Often we fight battles forgetting about pre-existing laws that allow for such forms of discrimination to occur. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. Doering argues that Florida law doesn’t prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Some public schools throughout the state have anti-gay discrimination laws, but specific statewide laws don’t exist.
If Woodard and his mother intend to fight this battle until the end, honestly believing they’ll get what they want from the school, it might not be worth the time or the money spent on lawyers and court fees. If, however, they are marching forward with this suit to use Jupiter as an example and publicly say to parents of gays that it’s OK to tell Christian schools to take their hypocritical and discriminatory laws and shove it, I say march on. Then, go out and make bumper stickers that say, “Neither my kid nor my money go to Jupiter.”
Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief. firstname.lastname@example.org