Uproar as Maryland Pre-teen Expresses Gay Pride at School

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Oct 1, 2008

A seventh-grade student at a Maryland school has tested the waters at the school by wearing T-shirts bearing a gay equality message.

According to a Web site of Maryland newspapers, Kaz Felix-Hawver,a student at Eastern Middle School, has on several occasions worn T-shirts emblazoned with home-made messages of support for the GLBT community.

Felix-Hawver, a resident of Kensington who says he is bisexual, also has a pink button-down shirt with the words "Homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, gays, transgenders: All are cool with me," on the back.

The article quoted Felix-Hawver as saying, "I have a lot of friends with gay mothers or fathers and I'm sort of the expressive one."

Added the seventh-grader, "This is the new way to express things."

The student's first foray into the arena of free speech at school through T-shirts was on Sept. 15, the article said, when he revealed his first shirt at lunch time.

Some students responded negatively, said Felix-Hawver, and told him, "God didn't create Adam and Adam," or said that he was going to be condemned to hell.

At that first occasion, a security guard escorted the student to the office of a guidance counselor. The principal was not at the school that day, the article said; Felix-Hawver was provided with a sweater, which he wore over the T-shirt for the remainder of the day.

Said the school's principal, Charlotte Boucher, "I don't have any objection to positive statements referring to civil liberties being worn in school."

Added Boucher, "Our concern is the academic day not be disturbed."

The initial lunchtime reaction of students did constitute a disturbance, but when Felix-Hawaver, with the support of several other students who also wore positively-themed T-shirts, showed up the very next day with a "Gay Pride" shirt, the school's officials took no action.

The students did endure teasing that came from other students, the article said.

Later in Sept., Felix-Hawver wore his shirts with their home-made messages of tolerance and acceptance twice in one week; he was asked to wear clothing over his T-shirt, but refused to comply, the article said. He also refused to meet with the principal.

However, no disciplinary actions followed. The article cited the principal as saying that no disturbances to the academic day resulted, and quoted Felix-Hawver as saying, "I don't think they have accepted it; I think they are grudgingly ignoring it."

The school's administrators handled the situation by meeting with students and reviewing policies, the article said. Boucher said that the staff had followed policy.

Said David Hawver, the father of Kaz Felix-Hawver, "I'm really glad the administration changed their minds about the acceptability of it."

Felix-Hawvers mother, Deb Felix, sent a letter to the school's principal to suggest that school staff be given sensitivity training, the article said.

Felix said that the school had responded "moderately well."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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