Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kinkaid School Recognized Nationally for Intolerance

On one hand, I'm sorry to see my alma mater's dirty laundry being aired in clear view of the nation via mainstream media outlets like the Houston Chronicle, Gawker and Texas Monthly; but on the other hand, I'm hoping this spotlight will prompt the school to make some changes that are long overdue. Since this topic hits so close to home for me, I'll go ahead and go old school by making the personal political in this post. As a Kinkaid School alum who attended from 1991-1998, I'll say that I was not at all surprised to read that a wealthy Kinkaid parent wrote a letter expressing concern that the school was beginning to welcome LGBT teachers and students into the community. Likewise, I wasn't shocked to learn that this parent was powerful enough to draw national attention to this matter.

In 2008 against the advice of many close friends, I attended my 10 year reunion only to experience the same ostracism that characterized the seven academic years I spent at Kinkaid. Although I tried to be social with the crowd of my classmates, only three of them were bold enough to engage in conversation with me and one was the kid-now-man who called me a n*gger in the 7th grade. (Perhaps he felt remorse for his comments as a child and wanted to make amends.) Although the discrimination I felt in this instance was mostly related to my race, I remember experiencing similar acts of discrimination based on my sexual orientation throughout high school. Ten of my friends and I were listed on a "lesbian list" that a bully placed in all of our lockers in order to humiliate us in the 11th grade. Formal dances had an unwritten hetero-only policy and gay slurs were not even viewed as inappropriate.

My experience was back in the 90's, but there have been some efforts made in recent years to make the school's environment more accepting for all people in the Kinkaid community. A diversity initiative and club to fight hate were begun under Principal Mickey Saltman's leadership. And more importantly, gay friendly teachers were permitted to place rainbow stickers outside their classrooms to indicate safe spaces for LGBT students as long as the sponsor's name, "Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network", was removed.

Sadly, it appears that a lot of this progress has been lost as a result of one parent's crusade to stop the school from following a so-called "liberal agenda" that accepts all people. Principal Saltman has been forced out and so have a dozen great faculty and staff who not only excelled in their professions, but who also gave a beacon of hope to severely marginalized students like me.


raskew28 said...

Jimmie, this is a fine follow up to a sad story. As long as people like you are willing to stand up and be heard, injustice cannot continue --- I just tried to write something that would suggest that strong people like you would someday be able to push Kinkaid back on the right path. But as I read your blog and thought about it, I'm not at all sure it was ever the place we thought it was. A lot of bullying went unnoticed by faculty and administration. And while we were able to teach from the liberal perspective before -- and get young people to think, analyze, challenge... That is now forbidden. Teachers may not teach from a specific political perspective. So, I admire your willingness to stand up for what you believe in, and this article has done a fine job of that. I think, however, it will be places other than your alma mater that will benefit from your intelligence, education, and character.

Anonymous said...

It couldn't be more important to continue a dialogue about tolerance, among Kinkaid alumni, aggrieved by our high school experiences or otherwise, as well as in the many distinct forums and communities in which we participate beyond high school and college. So thanks to both of you for sharing your thoughts. I would like to see more open LGBT support and much more positive appreciation and understanding of racial diversity. Please these are musts, of course. Thank you for continuing to raise such important points.

If I may add as well a thought on a part of the comment here-specifically the sentence that reads 'teachers may not teach from a specific political perspective'. As an alumna myself, I must acknowledge I am grateful for this rule. Kinkaid is not the right place for teachers to preach a political party's agenda. Both of today's 2 biggest parties have faults - let's be fair. Kinkaid's duty is a much more challenging one: instilling students with the wisdom and content knowledge (through history, literature, or otherwise) to make evaluations for themselves. 'Teaching politics' is simply a lower objective than teaching 'to think'.

With sympathies for injustices suffered and hope for this dialogue to earn a wiser kind unity for our community, and with hope that we may all support each other in our learning, I send you both my best.

Miss Krys said...

I for one am SAD to see Kinkaid getting criticized on a national level over this. Yes. I get it. However, I think there is a grave difference between welcoming and catering to. I don't think it's kinkaid's job to cater to minorities nor is it kinkaid's job to cater to homosexuals ... Welcome? Yes. Protect from harassment? Yes. Cater to? Nope.

We (collectively) all knew what "values" and "morals" were esteemed at Kinkaid before we filled out that application (and if we didn't our parents did or at least should have). A pep rally where guys dress like Episcopal cheerleaders is not harassment.

I just don't understand this argument that this PRIVATE institution is supposed to reject the ideals that the people (who bankroll probably near 90% of the school's financial portfolio) hold dear.

People get what they pay for; and these parents chose to pay for an education at an institution that they believe has values that align with theirs (regardless of how backwards and ignorant some may believe those values to be) and can provide their children with a super high quality education.

I don't understand this argument anymore than a Christian attending a Catholic school being upset because they are made to go to mass. It's a CATHOLIC school. Well though Kinkaid is not officially religiously affiliated, it does have a religion: conservatism. We ALL know that going in. So I don't understand why people expect any different...

Anonymous said...

Miss Krys,

If money buys hate, take your money somewhere else.