Gaffaney: OC Dept of Education Should Model Its Own Kindness Initiative

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I applaud Dr. Frank Navarro’s recent initiative in Orange County: “1 Billion Acts of Kindness,” described on the OCDE website as “an effort to promote civility, character and positive school climates in Orange County — and hopefully beyond.”

More kindness is needed.

This year, I have heard of incidents in Orange County elementary schools that have shocked the conscience: boys’ holding down a gender-nonconforming 8-year-old in the bathroom to try to take off his pants to see if he still has a penis; a girl telling another girl she could not wear “boys’” soccer cleats; a gender-nonconforming girl being forced to do the girl part in a school performance after she had told the teacher she wanted to do the “boy” part; boys’ telling a girl she could not be soccer goalie/president/an astronaut because she was a girl; and so on.

Acts based on rigid gender norms continue to harm all sorts of children.

California schools and non-profits use a California Healthy Kids Survey to ask kids about everything from having a drink of beer to being bullied in order to better meet their needs. The survey is voluntary, and done with parent permission, so it only captures a segment of the population, but it is much needed information for organizations that meet kids’ needs. In light of this, I cannot understand why anyone would want to cancel the Healthy Kids Survey.

Orange County Board of Education Member Robert Hammond reportedly recently called for a repeal of the California Healthy Kids Survey on the basis that a question asks seventh- and ninth-graders for their sexual orientation.

Again, the Survey asks middle-school-aged children about varied aspects of health in their lives.

Responding to bullying requires knowing the basis for the bullying: is it because of gender, race, sexual orientation, or other reason?

The Healthy Kids Survey—including the objected-to questions—is necessary in order to gather a piece of the information needed to guarantee kids a safe place to learn.

Hiding information does not protect kids; teaching kids how to be themselves and to celebrate each other’s differences does. This is a key component in teaching and modeling kindness.

According to an article that ran in the Times, Hammond also allegedly refers to people who identify as gay as “Sodomites,” and his recent flyer alleges that Harvey Milk – a well respected public official, who was the first openly gay man to hold elected office – had illegal sex with young boys, as Hammond quotes from a site called “sexual-predator-honored-with-u-s-postage-stamp.”

Hammond also included the words “someone who practices anal intercourse, especially with a boy” on the same flyer in a purported attempt to disrespect and discredit Harvey Milk’s accomplishments, as if a leader’s sexual intimacy is ever relevant when teaching about that person in schools.

Should we stop teaching kids about the presidents who allegedly had extra-marital affairs, including the author of the Declaration of Independence?

Should we omit John F. Kennedy from history classes because of his intimate affairs?

Obviously, to insult and call someone a sinner and criminal who is widely respected in the LGBT community is going to be met with anger and hurt. It would also imply that any gay or lesbian person who identifies that way, and/or who is emotionally intimate, does not deserve respect for their accomplishments by virtue of who they are and/or who they love.

This type of behavior will not encourage “civility and character.”

This was not kind.

The Orange County Department of Education is supposed to enforce California safe schools laws.

The OCDE is charged with promoting student success and wellbeing in Orange County.

How can we teach our kids “kindness” when the OCDE meetings are filled with vitriol?

How do we explain to them that—even though our elected school board officials may be attacking marginalized LGBT folks—you, children, should “be kind” and stick up for those who are bullied?

As a parent of a 4th and 2nd grader, I hope the #kindness1billion campaign will laud acts of kindness toward all children.

I hope children learn that it is okay to speak truth to power; that it is in fact kind to speak up for members of marginalized groups who, I would imagine, become emotionally exhausted from speaking up for themselves again and again and again.

Gialisa Gaffaney is a freelance writer and editor living in Corona del Mar, CA. She is member of the OC Equality Coalition’s School Compliance Task Force, helping schools comply with California law. She can be reached at msgaffaney@yahoo.com

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

  • Ono

    It is common knowledge that Harvey Milk was a pederast. Do your research.