Teachers can turn your daughters gay! At least, that’s what a Floridian student’s stepfather claims. Last year, the district for Deerfield Beach High School investigated Juliet Hibbs after allegations were made against her involving a student whose parents were upset about their child’s sexual orientation. The youth’s parents claimed that Hibbs knew their daughter was gay, failed to disclose the information, told their daughter not to return home and most damningly, was responsible for his daughter’s lesbianism.
Normally there’s only one type of newsworthy story when it comes to homosexuality and student-teacher relationships. When these claims arise, they typically involve teachers failing their students, so a few dreaded questions come to mind: Did Hibbs have a relationship with the student? Did Hibbs act inappropriately towards her? Did she misuse her position of authority?
As it turns out, no. Quite the opposite in fact. Yes, the student is gay. Yes, she was Hibbs’ pupil. But no, there were no inappropriate actions between them. In fact, Hibbs looks to be the hero of the story, whereas the accuser, the student’s parent, is the perpetrator.
Hibbs is trying to separate herself from the accusation of misconduct as she files charges against the school district via the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The problem started when a man discovered his stepdaughter was gay via her Twitter feed. Instead of acting like a mature human being, he used Twitter as a platform to harass her. Hibbs saw the tweets’ damaging effects on her student. “As each message came, she got smaller. I watched her get destroyed.” Hibbs reported the stepfather for child abuse and cyberbullying and a counsellor advised the student that she had no legal obligation to return home. Normally that would be the end of a depressing tale, but the story got worse as the stepfather made his claim that Hibbs was the one at fault. After this accusation of misconduct, even though the district’s investigation proved that Hibbs had done no wrong, her name and career had already been tainted.
Strip away the homosexual aspect of this story, and you’re left with an educator protecting the wellbeing of her pupil. She stepped in and made a call when she learned a girl was harassed and bullied by her own parents. If this were any other case, the teacher would be thanked and congratulated for her outstanding behavior.
Instead, Principal Jon Marlow gave credence to the young woman’s tormentors/parents because the word gay came up. If the case had been looked at logically, the stepfather’s words would have held no water. For one thing, Ms. Hibbs is straight. For another, you just can’t cause someone to be gay. Hibbs just happened to standing at the front of the class when yet another person came to terms with their sexuality. The daughter certainly didn’t blame Hibbs.
When religious fanatics and anti-gay groups posit the idea of teachers “indoctrinating students into homosexuality” or “teaching the gay lifestyle,” I’m often left scratching my head. What exactly does it mean? There’s quite a difference between recruiting and teaching acceptance. Letting students know that homosexuals exist doesn’t cause them to become gay any more than teaching them about other societies makes them change their culture. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but if someone’s gay, they’re still going to be gay whether they come out as a teen or as a senior. Knowing that you aren’t alone simply quiets the confusion and legitimizes the feelings. Chances are more students will come out when they’re in high school, but it won’t be due to teachers assigning homosexuality as homework.
This abusive stepfather’s bizarre accusation shows that teachers need the freedom to bring sexuality up in their classrooms. If Hibbs hadn’t offered the student support and gone to bat for her, Deerfield Beach High School might still be in the media, but for very different reasons. If so-called “homosexual indoctrination” means protecting powerless students from the slings and arrows of their unrelenting bullies, then I support it. I just hope that one day there’ll be someone to protect the protectors.
In a Facebook message to Ellen, Hibbs makes her case once more.
Please help me. I am trying to create safer schools. I am the teacher that is in the news and I was accused of “possibly contributing to a students homosexuality”. Because I reported cyber bullying from stepfather to his stepdaughter on twitter about her sexual orientation. I reported properly and I was charged with professional misconduct for reporting the abuse. This was a tactic by my bullying principal. I was outspoken about student safety, rules application equity and issues with administration. I tried to handle this with school board. I was cleared and you can feel free to a copy of the report. Please look at the articles. They are all over the Internet now. I would love help to expose this type of abuse. No one in the school district (Broward schools) seems to care. Ellen…please help!!! All I want is a safe and secure educational environment for the staff and students. I thank you in advance for all of your help!
There need to be more teachers that do right by their students and learn to be proper mentors and role models. I applaud Hibbs for doing her job, thus doing right by her students. She has decided to run for the school board and hopefully can change the discourse so parents, teachers and principals realize what they owe their teens. Until then, I salute you Ms. Hibbs.
When I originally read coverage of the incident at Deerfield Beach High School, I only saw someone being unjustly blamed for a student’s homosexuality and the events that befell that teacher. Given the absurdity of the accusation, I thought it was heartening to realize that teachers were protecting their students when bullies still used the blame tactic, and so that’s what I focused on.
But behind that story was another one; the story of the anonymous kid at the center of all this. I didn’t think there was any way to find them or tell their story, and thus I took the coverage at face value. Since then, I’ve been contacted by the student who is troubled that the story is being brought up again, and their story is important and speaks to the present story as one they wished wouldn’t be brought up again.
This is beyond ridiculous. If she “indoctrinated” her students with anything it was toward compassion and understanding. That was clearly something that neither the father or the principal received during their education.
she’s not even gay? that’s fucking insane. sometimes i feel like it comes with the territory; when parents discover their kid is gay, they look for the nearest adult that isn’t them to “blame.” i’ve been blamed by parents who discovered their kids were gay while they were working for this site. it’s like they’re desperate for a target, because otherwise they have to blame themselves (as ex-gay psychology leads them to) or do the mature intelligent thing and realize that there’s nobody to “blame,” this is just who she is and it’s never gonna change.
I think looking for the cause is a near-universal trend among our parents – as brilliantly addressed in “But I’m a Cheerleader” with Finding the Root! Even my own smart, supportive, open-minded and well-meaning mother’s first reaction was to blame all those lesbians I’d been hanging out with. It’s sad! And can clearly get dangerous. How do you fight this fallacy? Or prepare young proto-gays to encounter it?
You know, if I hadn’t hung out with lesbians, I’d never have known I was one! I would’ve just thought my inability to connect emotionally with men in relationships was normal. I just happened to be raised in a family which, while it isn’t at all closed or fundamentalist or whatever, is overwhelmingly straight.
If you were twisted, confused or clutching at straws, you could well see the chain of “child hangs around with lesbians or is told it’s OK to be gay -> child comes out” as a causative chain. For example, my dad could well think I’m gay because I played rugby. In fact, maybe he does! Never though of that before :O
Kristen, you should go and read Hibbs’ answer to the link to your article I posted on Facebook… :-)
Riese, there seems to be some misunderstanding about what were the parents’ role and reactions in the whole story.
Reading Hibbs’ post, I still can’t pardon the stepfather’s actions. From her response it looks like the principal was the one singling her out, but it wouldn’t have happened if the parents hadn’t made the complaint to begin with. I know she said the family is amazing to her, but that doesn’t negate what they had done. She was right to defend her student either way and no one should have seen the protection as a bad thing. Harassing your child because of their sexuality and blaming the nearest adult is never the solution.
I totally agree with you, Kristen, I just thought it was important you knew what she had to say about it… :-)
May be the teacher made the student realize she was gay and parents are blaming the teacher for that. At least the teacher was a good and strong enough person to confront the situation, instead of playing the game and chickening out and disappearing. :)
My dad still uses the term “recruiting” when we talk about the gay community. *sigh*
I’m like “Dad, if it was actually possible, don’t you think I’d be spending all my time ‘recruiting’ Amanda Bynes?”
I’m a teacher at an independent high school and the administrators are awesome and give us all kinds of freedom with the curriculum. what does this mean? it means that i noticed my english students’ interest in women’s rights and history and i basically turned it into half english lit/half women’s studies. and i’m definitely going to be assigning some oscar wilde and tony kushner and audre lorde as well. i’ve managed to work out some kind of discussion about the gays in all of my classes actually…spanish, social studies, even biology. the good news is that all the kids are so on board with this and don’t have any problem with it. i’m one of two lesbian teachers at the school (i’m not out to my kids because we don’t talk about our personal lives but if they ever found out, they certainly wouldn’t care) and the other teachers don’t even bat an eye.
i guess the point of this little rant is that now i just feel even luckier to work at such an accepting, amazing school, and my heart breaks for those who don’t and try to stand up for what’s right in intolerant places. i wish all teachers felt this safe and empowered to be able to speak truthfully to their students about controversial topics. i hope this woman gets on ellen, that would be amazing! to the future….
The part about “teaching” children to be gay is super making me wanna watch Milk. “How do you teach homosexuality? Is it like French?”
I’d be really interested to see Ms. Hibbs on Ellen’s show because this is outrageous.
Teaching to be gay! Ha! That’s just stupid… Some teachers more than others make you feel gayer when u look at them, but i mean, that’s ok, it’s hormones and it happens to everyone! xD
Now seriously, there should be more Ms. Hibbs in the world… A safer enviroment where u can learn among academic stuffs, how to deal with your sexuality, it’s kind of hard when u’re feeling all these things and you can’t talk to anyone about them! *sigh* Thanks AS & Ms. Hibbs :-)
“All I want is a safe and secure educational environment for the staff and students.” (You may say I’m a dreamer…)
I think Ms Hibbs needs to be applauded. I am a teacher, and am constantly trying to teach the pupils that calling people ‘gay’ or making fun of them is wrong. But kids learn from their parents.
Any teacher worth their salt would do what Ms Hibbs did. I would. Any form of abuse from a parent-figure, or anyone at all, shouldn’t be tolerated.
I AM the teacher in this story! I have never brought this up in anyway before, outside of Broward schools. I have a right to protect myself I have been hunted by this administration for two years. I brought this story up because 11 of us came out publicly in June about Jon Marlow being a bully. I begged the district on many occasions to handle this in house, as I DID NOT want to go public with this. My fears have been justified! The parents are to blame. I should be shot ( according to many posts around the web). I have mostly received support and I have tried to explain again and again that this is about Jon Marlow! This story has NEVER been public before. I have protected many students over my career. After this case…last year I had to report abuse again and went home and cried. What will they do to me now? Nothing happened in that example. But I have always protected students. This is just one example. I have not divulged names of anyone other than administration at Deerfield Beach High School. The only legal action I am taking is against the school district! Do I not have the right to protect myself from a bully? This action was an attempt to take my teaching certificate. This was abuse to me from the administration at Deerfield Beach High School