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Views & Voices

Student’s story of suspension for speaking against homosexuality may not be true

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last week, a controversy erupted over a student, Dakota Ary, at a Fort Worth High School who claimed that he was punished for merely stating in class that homosexuality is a sin.

Dakota Ary

The student was allegedly suspended for his comments, his family retained the services of the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, and both the student and the Liberty Counsel made the round of right-wing blogs and sites claiming that what happened to him is the end result of “persecution by the gay community.”

And on some pro-gay sites, some folks flocked to the student’s defense, declaring that his First Amendment rights were being violated and that the situation hurts the gay community by demonstrating that we are as “intolerant” as those on the right.

Some of us flocked to the student’s defense even though we had seen this situation play out before — a controversy happens involving someone supposedly oppressed by the gay community, the person in question retains the services of a right-wing group who makes a media blitz, thereby getting publicity for the person.

And when everything is at its peak, the other side of the story comes out. Usually the supposed “victim” of the gay community did not tell the entire story, which when told, makes him or her look less like a victim and more like someone who got what they deserved.

Well you can file this story of the “oppressed student” in that category. According to Marvin Vann, a member of the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S, in an interview with the Dallas Voice, the suspension may have been due to a history of harassment against the teacher who called out Airy for his comment.

This is what Vann said:

Kristopher Franks, a German teacher with a long and distinguished service record at Western Hills High School, is currently being investigated by FWISD administrators, swayed by a right-wing attempt to rouse public opinion against him for having the temerity to write a disciplinary referral against Dakota Ary, a student whom Franks reports publicly harassed him in class on the basis of the student’s perception that Mr. Franks is gay. This is being depicted in numerous news reports as an effort to suppress the student’s First Amendment right to free speech. As Franks and the district cannot speak to media while the incident is being investigated by the district, only the student and his Liberty Institute lawyer’s version of the incident is being reported in the media.

The gist of these reports is that Ary, during a discussion about religion and homosexuality in his first-year German class, expressed the opinion that “I am a Christian, and I believe that homosexuality is wrong,” and was subsequently sent out of class with a disciplinary referral by his teacher, Mr. Franks, and then given a three-day suspension from an assistant principal.

I and other members of LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., a group formed a year ago in response to local and national incidents of school-based, anti-LGBTQ incidents of harassment, became aware of this incident last week, shortly after the first, distorted media reports came out. Concerned that only one side of the incident was being reported, we met Friday night with Mr. Franks. His account contradicts Ary and his lawyer’s version of events, and has been substantiated by several of the other students in class at the time. We found Mr. Franks’ explanation entirely credible.

He reports (and has reported to his school) repeated acts of anti-gay harassment by several students that occurred this and last year, including by a group of four specific boys in this class, of whom Ary is one. Among other incidents, Mr. Franks maintains a “word wall” for his German IV class on which he posts articles and images from several journals, including the German magazine, Stern. One of these articles concerned gay rights in Germany, and included a photo of two men kissing. The group of four boys concerned was sitting near this image immediately before Mr. Franks found it had been ripped from the wall. The student and his lawyer are now asserting that including this photo among the others constituted his teacher’s “imposing acceptance of homosexuality” in his classroom. These students subsequently took every opportunity to denounce homosexuality in class, frequently without context; that is, with the topic having otherwise been broached.

On the particular day in which this incident occurred, Mr. Franks was opening class when the topic of Christianity in Germany was broached by one student, who asked what churches were there, another whether they read the Bible in English, etc. Franks asserts that the topic of homosexuality was not broached in any way, and that Ary‘s assertions to the contrary are entirely false. At this point, Ary declared, with a class audience, “Gays can’t be Christians; homosexuality is wrong,” looking directly at Mr. Franks. Franks says he understands and affirms students’ right to free speech, and that he is perfectly prepared to lead a respectful discussion on topics such as gay rights that allows for the assertion of opinions with which he disagrees. He has led such discussion in the past in his sociology classes. But in this case, hr feels the context makes it clear that this remark was made ad hominem, aimed specifically at him to devalue him and any information he might share on the topic of religion, on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation.

The point is this — when these situations happen, can those of us in the gay community please retain comments until the entire story is heard? We end up hurting ourselves by automatically giving religious right claims credibility, even though these claims have, in the past, shown to be false.

I remember when former Obama appointee Kevin Jennings was falsely accused of pushing a minor into having sex with an adult two years ago.

Some of us wrote his epitaph ourselves. I even had a friend who told me to stop defending Jennings because he was clearly in the wrong.

And what did the truth show? Not only did Jennings not induce the student into having sex with an adult, but the student did not have any type of sexual intercourse, AND the student was of legal age if he had.

It all goes to show that if gay community want others to question the lies of the right, we need to not be so quick to believe them ourselves.

I understand the need for the gay community to demonstrate fairness but if a group of individuals — i.e. the religious right — have lied continuously concerning stories of “gay persecution,” it is not a strike against basic fairness to call their newest claim into suspect.

Huge hat tip to Think Progress on this one.

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15 more reader comments:

  1. Thats not right or fair to him anyone for that matter everyone is entitled to thier opinion or to stand up for what they believ…

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 12:16pm
  2. It isn’t, but nor is it fair to the LGBTQ community or anyone else if someone LIES, or PURPOSELY sets up a situation to defame the LGBTQ community to suit an agenda.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 12:21pm
  3. Bring back the lions. This sounds like an episode of Glee

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 12:28pm
  4. lol ‘merely’ said it was a sin. Interesting. So this person apparently inferred that a group of people were going to a place of suffering and torment without any historical or lingual credance and we’re supposed to mark that as opinion and let it slide. If someone said they believed black people were meant to be slaves we wouldnt be saying ‘oh well its their opinion’, there would be collective horror. This person might as well have pointed a gun at my gay friends, real or not, it should be punished with all the weight of the justice.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 12:34pm
  5. Someone should tell him lying is wrong

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 12:38pm
  6. It’s Texas, though. What does anyone expect?

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 12:49pm
  7. Well I think it should be a sin to be that ugly….ew.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 1:47pm
  8. Okay homosexuality is a sin, but lying isn’t. One thing is for certain ONE is in the so called “Ten Commandments” these Christians always preach about

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 2:05pm
  9. Chiding people for forming an opinion about stories that aren’t reported in their entirety is silly. Reading all the comments on the first story you guys ran about this was actually really nice – seeing that the gay community was able to call a spade a spade, and that all the bigotry we’ve suffered through had taught us fairness instead of making us bitter. It was heartening and made me proud of us. Now that we know the rest of the story i’m sure everyone’s opinions about this kid will change, i know mine sure did, but it really was nice of everyone who took up for him back when it was being reported that his free speech was being infringed upon. It’s becoming a really interesting story, can’t wait to see where it’s going to go next.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 2:37pm
  10. Not necessarily silly, eli. The fact that some of us did form an opinion BEFORE the entire story came out is troubling, especially when one takes into account was that the version which did come out at first came from religious right groups. How is it that we know that these group routinely lie about us but we suddenly take their word for fact?

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 3:15pm
  11. i think we should be wary about the end of this article. it seems to suggest that we should just always assume the other side is lying or making it up. well, believe it or not, sometimes gay people mess up too. its a bit innaccurate to assume otherwise.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 4:26pm
  12. Cheyenne, there is nothing wrong with suspecting the motives of organizations who have histories of creating this phony moral panics.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 5:38pm
  13. homosexuality is a sin? who gives a shit I’m not a fucking christian!

    Posted on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 8:41pm
  14. Regardless of opinions on homosexuality, his freedom of speech has been violated. If the teacher himself feels that the students are looking for opportunities to speak against homosexuality and is offended by those who speak against it, he should stop bringing it up in class unless he is willing to accept that that others will express that they do not feel it is right. I am not going to argue if I believe it is wrong or right and that is not the issue here. The issue is of freedom of speech. If these children are truly attacking a teacher then they should have been suspended for the attacks and not for expression their beliefs (which is different than an opinion by the way). Oh and Christ teaches us to love and hate is not of Christ. Those who hate can call themselves Christians all day long but calling yourself a follower of Christ and actually following Him, are two different things.

    Posted on Friday, September 30, 2011 at 4:32pm
  15. It seems to me that you missed the point, Aimee. The entire point of the article was to inform that the original belief was that he was suspended for expressing his beliefs, when in reality he was suspended for directly (verbally) assaulting his teacher in an attempt to dehumanize him. I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up it was REQUIRED to show respect to your teacher or be thrown out. He blatantly disrespected his teacher and was thrown out as a result.

    Posted on Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 4:01pm