Community Editorial: An Apology Is Not Enough at Fullerton Union High

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I commend Fullerton Union High School Assistant Principal Joe Abell for apologizing to the student he removed from stage at the Mr. Fullerton competition this week, but sometimes an apology is not enough.

This is one of those times.

How can people call themselves educators when they do not practice tolerance and acceptance? Educators should never allow their own personal biases to override basic free speech rights or affect the way they teach their students.

We need to hold our public servants accountable. Mr. Abell obviously did not have the child’s education in mind when he pulled him off the stage for voicing his opinion. There is also something to be said by the fact this moment will probably stick with this young man for the rest of this life.

The question in this case then becomes, what do you do when a school administrator, in this case Mr. Abell, takes an action that basically gives credence to a potential bully to victimize a student for supporting issues like gay marriage?

What if other students went “off script” to say something like “Obama is a socialist” or “only Christians go to heaven.” Would Mr. Abell have removed them as well?

In the past several months the issue of bullying has come to light. From the Obama administration’s national anti-bullying campaign to the 49 states that have enacted anti-bullying legislation, there has been an increased effort to educate students on how to best recognize and prevent bullying in their schools.

Just today, four former chairs of the Democratic National Committee called on the party to embrace marriage equality in the 2012 Democratic platform.

While these national and state efforts are a step in the right direction, much of the policy that is made on how to deal with these issues are made at the local level.

The Fullerton Union High School District must take positive steps toward educating school administrators and teachers about better interacting with students who are gay, bisexual or transgendered in the wake of this incident.

We need to educate our educators.

I bet that Mr. Abell didn’t know that a Columbia University study of nearly 32,000 high school students in 2011 revealed that suicide attempts by gay teens were more common in politically conservative areas, like Orange County, where many school districts don’t have programs designed to educate the community on gay rights.

The fact that the student body of Fullerton High School is rallying behind the victim to stand up for not just LGBT rights but for free speech and tolerance goes to show that it is often those in the younger generation who demand and create real change in our society. It looks like that might be the case again.

Nick Anas is executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County and is a member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board.

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