Homosexual Teacher Here Is `Out,' but Scores Stay Closeted Gays, Lesbians Fear for Their Jobs, despite Union Support

By Joan Little and Phyllis Brasch Librach Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 16, 1994 | Go to article overview

Homosexual Teacher Here Is `Out,' but Scores Stay Closeted Gays, Lesbians Fear for Their Jobs, despite Union Support


Joan Little and Phyllis Brasch Librach Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Homosexual teachers in the St. Louis area are disgusted when they hear gay jokes, but they say nothing. They get jittery when spotted marching for gay rights. They avoid questions about their personal life and talk to reporters about homosexuality only with anonymity.

Why? They fear losing their jobs.

Except for Rodney Wilson.

Wilson, a history and social studies teacher at Mehlville High School, told his teen-age students during a class discussion in March on the Holocaust that he was gay. Wilson, 29, told the class he would have died because Nazis killed homosexuals.

After he "came out," administrators sent Wilson a memo saying classroom discussion of "facts and belief of a personal nature" was "inappropriate conduct for a teacher."

Wilson challenged the district. He won support from the gay community, teachers, parents and students and, from behind the scenes, the National Education Association (NEA).

Gay and lesbian teachers find longstanding support from their unions, including the NEA. Since 1973, the NEA has offered free legal counsel to teachers harassed or discriminated against because of sexual orientation.

The NEA continues to support a resolution adopted almost a decade ago that states "all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, should be afforded equal opportunity within the public education system." The union also believes personnel policies and procedures must protect an individual's rights in relation to his or her sexual orientation.

On Thursday, the issue came before the Mehlville School Board after Wilson was featured in a cover story Aug. 3 in the Riverfront Times. About a dozen Mehlville residents on both sides of the issue spoke to the board.

"We have nothing against him being gay," said Debbie Povich, a parent. "We just don't want him to teach it to our kids."

Povich's husband, who spoke to the board, said afterward that he felt homosexuality was "a deviation. It's unnatural."

Another resident, Joan Ward, said homosexuals had shorter lifespans. "The body is not meant to be used in that way," she said.

But a few parents like Anne Kasal spoke in support of Wilson. Kasal said her son, Jason, now 20, is gay and graduated in 1992 from Mehlville High School.

"I really do feel he has the right to say he's gay," Kasal said in reference to Wilson.

Kasal said she knew a number of other gay teachers in Mehlville schools, "and they're wonderful teachers," she said.

Both Mehlville Superintendent Robert Rogers and School Board President Alex Lantos say Wilson, who is nontenured, has a contract to teach in the coming school year at Mehlville High.

The issue of gay teachers had never come up in Mehlville until Wilson brought it up. And the board seems ready to let it drop.

Said Rogers: "We expect Mr. Wilson or any other teacher to teach the appropriate curriculum. I think he needs to follow that guideline, and he'll be fine."

When asked what he thought of gay teachers, Rogers said, "If (Wilson) wants to announce he's gay, that's his business." And if Wilson continues to make that announcement in the classroom?

"That may be a different issue," Rogers said.

Lantos said that regardless of parents' point of view, he appreciates the concern they have for their children. "I think every parent has the right to state their opinion," he said.

Wilson intends to stay out of the closet, although he is vague about whether he will discuss homosexuality in class. Wilson contends he has not violated any policies of the Mehlville School District and adds he intends to follow those policies.

"This is purely a free speech issue and an academic freedom issue," he said. Taking Attendance

Wilson finds little company "coming out." Most gay and lesbian teachers crowd the closet cloaking their sexual orientation.

"It's kind of like the military," said a lesbian teacher at a public high school in St. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Homosexual Teacher Here Is `Out,' but Scores Stay Closeted Gays, Lesbians Fear for Their Jobs, despite Union Support
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.