Saturday, October 09, 2010

North Dallas High School principal blocks transgender student's bid for homecoming queen

Andy Moreno says she wants to be homecoming queen, not king, at North Dallas High School. "It's something I started thinking about last year, and my friends have encouraged me," she said after school Thursday. One problem: The school's principal doesn't want a male identifying as a female reigning as queen of the homecoming court.

"The principal said, 'You are a male and males can run for king, not queen,' " said Jon Dahlander, a school district spokesman.

Dinnah Escanilla, the school's first-year principal, was unavailable for comment. Sandra Guerrero, a DISD spokeswoman, said the district has no policy on gender requirements for homecoming royalty but supports the principal. "Every principal has the discretion to make that decision, and it is a campus-based issue," she said.

Moreno, an 18-year-old senior, could still be nominated for homecoming king, Dahlander said. But the student said she doesn't want that title. "I just want a fair chance and to let the students decide, not the principal," she said during a walk near campus. "The students treat me like any other girl. Why can't the administration? "This is discrimination against my gender and sexuality," she said.

Her mother, Maria Moreno, doesn't speak English. But when asked about the situation earlier Thursday, she told an interpreter that she backs her daughter. "She said whatever she's up for, she supports," said Daisy Moreno, the student's older sister.

Andy Moreno said the homecoming bid isn't a joke and her gender identity is simply a fact of her existence. "I have felt like this my whole life," she said. "I started taking little steps when I entered high school and came out in full last year."

She said she plans to attend cosmetology school and in time have sex-change surgery. But she said, "What's between my legs doesn't define who I am."

Moreno – her lips a light pink, her hair pulled back in a ponytail – said she has sometimes worn dresses to class and never had a problem with school officials until now.

"She's new and I guess she's just trying to be strict," she said of the principal. "This isn't being strict. It's closed-minded and homophobic."

Unconventional expressions of gender on school campuses have become more common, accepted and controversial in recent years.

In September 2009, a freshman girl in Tucson who identifies herself as male was a nominee for homecoming prince. Earlier last year, a gay male student was crowned prom queen at a Los Angeles high school. School officials in Mona Shores, Mich., decided earlier this year that a female student who identifies as a male was not qualified to be homecoming king.

Last year, a biologically male student who identifies with neither the male nor female gender was crowned homecoming queen at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. A gay male student was last year's homecoming queen at George Mason University in Virginia.

And University of North Texas students rejected in 2009, in online balloting, a proposal to allow same-sex couples to run for the school's homecoming court this year.


The Leftist head-teacher who sent home the teacher who spoke out at British Conservative conference

Attacks on free speech are routine for Leftists

The head who sent home a teacher for speaking about school failures at the Tory conference was an ardent Blair supporter, it is said.

Katharine Birbalsingh had electrified the conference with a searing account of Britain’s ‘broken’ state schools. But her performance horrified the headmistress at her South London school, who is reported to have described Tony Blair as ‘the most wonderful prime minister in the world’.

And last night, in a highly unusual intervention which reflected the tensions within the educational establishment, the school issued a statement criticising Miss Birbalsingh for misrepresenting her school, insulting teachers and exploiting pupils.

Miss Birbalsingh, 37, joined St Michael and All Angels Church of England Academy only last month as deputy head. But when she returned from the Tory conference in Birmingham, she was told by the school’s executive head, Dr Irene Bishop, that she should work from home ‘while her position was reviewed’.

However, yesterday, as parents rallied round the French teacher, insisting that staff should be free to speak their minds, the school said she could return to work on Monday.

Miss Birbalsingh, who was educated at state schools before going to Oxford University, had been the surprise star of the Tory conference, earning a standing ovation. She condemned a ‘culture of excuses’ and attacked a system that is ‘broken’ because it ‘keeps poor children poor’.

The former Marxist told of her ‘devastation’ at being kept out of the classroom while she waited to hear if she had been formally suspended or sacked by Dr Bishop, who also runs St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School, in South London, which was used to launch Labour’s 2001 election campaign.

Dr Bishop reportedly described Tony Blair as ‘the most wonderful Prime Minister in the world’ after joining him on stage as he announced his bid for re-election, although she later denied having said that and admitted she feared the school had been ‘used by Labour’.


Australia: National history course 'cobbled together'

HISTORY teachers warned yesterday that the national curriculum was being "cobbled together" through a flawed process of "ad hoc" decisions.

The History Teachers Association of Australia has joined the chorus of concerns raised in recent weeks by professional and academic geographers, scientists, visual artists and principals that the rush to finish the curriculum by the end of the year is compromising the quality of courses.

HTAA president Paul Kiem told The Weekend Australian yesterday the process developed by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority was "deeply flawed" and inspired no confidence that quality courses would be produced.

"We want a course that has a pedigree and has been through a gestation period rather than something that has been cobbled together at the last moment to meet a political deadline," he said. "We want to see it got right, not just got out. We want students to emerge with a coherent view of Australian history."

The national curriculum was originally intended to provide a broad framework, setting a common core of essential knowledge for each subject that all students should learn, no matter where they attend school.

But in the process of consultation and writing, ACARA has struggled to determine the core knowledge and expanded the breadth of topics covered, prompting one insider to describe the curriculum this week as a "camel" - a horse designed by committee.

The HTAA wrote to School Education Minister Peter Garrett on September 14, asking for the deadline to be eased to allow a more considered evaluation and review of the course. A letter written in May to then education minister Julia Gillard went unanswered.

While Mr Garrett is yet to respond, he was reported last week as saying the curriculum writers might have to work later and harder to finish the courses by December, when the nation's education ministers are due to consider their approval of the first four subjects of English, maths, science and history.

The ministers were originally expected to evaluate the first four subjects next week but the deadline was extended at the request of ACARA after concerns were raised by some states.

Mr Kiem described Mr Garrett's comments as "ridiculously out of touch" and suggested he was receiving poor advice. "The process has been deeply flawed and it does nothing to inspire confidence when state governments leave it to the last moment to intervene or when the federal minister makes ill-informed comments in the media," he said.

The latest letter from the history teachers follows letters to Mr Garrett and the state and territory education ministers from the Australian Council of the Deans of Science, the Institute of Australian Geographers and geography teacher associations concerned by the direction of the national curriculum, and the speed at which it is required to be finished.

Principals in Victoria and the NSW Board of Studies were also reported last week as holding serious concerns while the Visual Arts Consortium of academics, teachers and artists described the proposed shape of the arts curriculum, which does not include the teaching of skills such as drawing, as "tokenistic participation with no education attached".

The HTAA letter to Mr Garrett says the development of the national curriculum is "operating under considerable duress" imposed by the inadequate timeline set by the federal government.

It says the association finds it difficult to endorse the curriculum when issues about implementation and teacher training remain to be addressed, while the writing of the curriculum for years 11 and 12 lacked an overall rationale and involved "a degree of ad hoc decision-making". Similar criticisms about the process were made in May by the lead writer on the history curriculum, eminent historian Stuart Macintyre.

The HTAA also warned it was being overloaded with content by lobby groups ensuring their pet topics were included.

A spokesman for Mr Garrett said the quality of the curriculum was paramount and ACARA was being given the time to do the work and get it right.

A spokesman for ACARA said it took seriously its mandate to consult widely and the HTAA had been involved extensively in this process. "This is why we are taking a few extra weeks as it finalises the first phase of the curriculum to make sure we present a document that all education authorities can endorse," he said.

Mr Kiem said yesterday the fundamental problem was that ACARA had not developed clear guidelines and criteria and the course rationale from the start, so now there was no coherent version of what the history curriculum should look like. He said it contained more content than could be taught in the time allocated to history, and, without clear guidelines about what should be removed, it was becoming more prescriptive.


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