Hawthorn Middle School’s Disservice to Parents
Hawthorn Middle School’s Disservice to Parents
Written By Laurie Higgins   |   06.21.11

Reading Time: 6 minutes

On Friday, May 27, Hawthorn Middle School North in Vernon Hills organized an in-school field trip titled “CHOICES” (Create Hopeful Opportunities in Children’s Everyday Situations) that included six speakers, two of whom told middle school students that they were homosexual.

Prior to the event, parents were sent a brief parental notification letter/permission slip that purportedly identified the topics and speakers. Oddly, parents were not told that any speaker would share with students any information about his homosexuality.

Neither the school employees who organized the event nor any school administrator thought that parents deserved to know that the presentations might include information on the single most divisive topic in America, and one which involves voluntary sexual behavior that many parents believe is profoundly immoral.

At the end of the day, students were invited to write an optional thank-you note to one of the speakers. One seventh-grade student wrote a brief note to the self-identified homosexual former drug user, thanking him for his openness and suggesting that if he and his boyfriend were ever to consider using drugs again, they should ask themselves WWJD (What would Jesus do).

Seventh-grade science teacher, Ms. Tommie Arens, criticized the note’s reference to possible future drug use, so the student decided not to complete it and tossed it in the trash. Arens retrieved it from the trash and informed several other teachers who later called the student into a meeting to question him about his motives for writing.

In addition to being bothered by the student’s note, one of the teachers believed the student had used an inappropriate tone of voice when during the Q & A, he asked the homosexual former drug user whether he had ever asked himself “What would Jesus do?” Some later conversations revealed that a teacher believed that inappropriate snickering took place during the presentation. It’s quite likely that at some point during a day of presentations, some middle school boys snickered about something, but just what is anyone’s guess.

While pondering the issue of middle school snickering, I wondered if the indignant teachers ever considered the impact and wisdom of having speakers announce their sexual proclivities to a middle school audience — proclivities that many consider deviant. When the two speakers announced that they were homosexual, they brought the image of two men having sex to the churning minds of a roomful of adolescents. Middle school students are completely justified in finding the idea of two men engaging in anal or oral sex repugnant, and sometimes children and adults laugh about ideas that make them uncomfortable and which they find offensive. Government employees have no right to expect or implicitly suggest that children not find the idea of two men having sex repugnant. Deviant sexual acts should not be respected, and school employees have no right to imply that they should be.

What is most troubling about this entire debacle is not the disputed actions of a middle school boy but rather the indisputably inappropriate actions of the teachers.

During the meeting with the student and multiple teachers, another 7th grade science teacher, Mrs. Erin Brickman, became frustrated that the student did not acquiesce to her interpretation of events, told the student to “Cut the crap. I’m not going to take any more of this crap,” and marched out of the room. Such behavior on the part of a teacher is inappropriate and unprofessional.

Even more problematic, however, are two of the questions Mrs. Brickman asked the student. She asked him how he felt about homosexuality and what his church teaches about homosexuality. Later the same day, she asked the student’s mother those same questions. Those questions, which are inarguably none of Brickman’s business, reveal two deeply problematic phenomena in public education. First, many teachers have become intrusive and presumptuous. And second, liberal teachers believe their ontological and moral views about homosexuality are objective facts and, therefore, they have the right to promulgate them within the public school context.

In a subsequent meeting with Principal Tom Springborn, which I also attended, the mother of the student asked why the parental notification letter did not mention homosexuality. Springborn said that because the topics that the two homosexual speakers were there to discuss were bullying and drug use, and because the speakers just mentioned but did not discuss at length their homosexuality, parents did not need to be notified ahead of time.

I asked him if a speaker were in a romantic, sexual relationship with his sister and just announced it to seventh-graders but did not elaborate on it, would that be okay. He said, “Yes.” Taken aback, I asked him to confirm his answer. I asked, “Just to be clear, are you saying that it would be okay for a speaker to share with students that he was in a sexual relationship with his sister as long as he didn’t talk further about it.” Principal Springborn again said, “Yes.” He added that he would want to know about such a statement ahead of time.

Now, I can just hear liberals caterwauling about my comparison of homosexuality to adult consensual incest. They will argue that adult consensual incest is immoral but homosexuality is not. But, that’s the disputed issue. Despite what liberals believe on this issue, their moral beliefs are not facts.

Homosexuality is more akin to adult consensual incest than it is to race or skin color. Even the far left organization SIECUS defines “sexual orientation” as “attractions, fantasies, and sexual behavior.” How can a condition defined as such ever be compared to skin color? Those who continually compare homosexuality to race must be compelled to provide evidence for their idiotic analogy.

Furthermore, Mr. Springborn is not exactly correct. The two homosexual speakers did not merely announce that they were homosexual — which I would argue is no small thing in and of itself. They also said that they have always known that they’re homosexual.

Embedded in this incident are several problematic issues.

First, despite Mr. Springborn’s open-mindedness about incestuous speakers, most school administrators would not permit a speaker to announce their amorous relationships with siblings. Nor would any middle school permit polyamorists to mention their sexual proclivities. And why not? The reason such announcements would be prohibited is that school administrators and teachers believe that adult consensual incest and polyamory are immoral. Therefore, allowing homosexuals to announce their predilections points to the reality that administrators have concluded that homosexuality is moral.

Second, both homosexual speakers told the students that they always knew they were homosexual. Such a statement implies biological determinism. Were the Hawthorne students also told there is no scientific evidence proving that homosexuality is biologically determined? Were students told that many immoral impulses emerge at the earliest ages? Were they told that childhood molestation could cause, in the words of a therapist who appeared on Oprah, “sexual orientation confusion”? Were students told that early molestation might result in “sexual orientation” confusion at such a young age that someone may not recall a time when they didn’t feel attracted to their same sex?

I told Mr. Springborn that it appears that one or more of the teachers involved have strong feelings and beliefs about homosexuality that differ from the student’s. He acknowledged that that was, indeed, the case, and he also said the teachers should not bring those feelings and beliefs to school contexts.

He also acknowledged that questioning the student about his feelings about homosexuals or his church’s teaching about homosexuality was inappropriate.

There were yet more troubling issues. In another email to Principal Springborn, one of the teachers admitted that another student was called in to a meeting because a teacher had seen him stare at another student in a “bullying fashion.” So now, staring has become bullying? How is staring in a bullying fashion differentiated from staring in a non-bullying fashion? Is it the starer’s motives, beliefs, or feelings that determine whether an incident of staring constitutes bullying?

Moreover, does every unpleasant student action constitute bullying?

How minimally unpleasant does a student action have to be and how draconian will the school anti-bullying measures have to become before parents say no more? Every civilized adult opposes bullying, but not every unpleasant student action constitutes bullying. Once teachers start inquiring about students’ feelings or religious beliefs, they have gone too far.

The final insult to parental rights and real education occurred after the speakers had concluded their presentations. Students were shown a promotional video about Challenge Day, about which I’ve written two articles (to read about Challenge Day, click here and here).

Following the video, students were given a “reflection” assignment that left some students in tears, a common occurrence among students who participate in Challenge Day. Many teachers view tearful revelations about deeply personal issues as appropriate educational activities.

The mother of the ill-treated student has asked that a notice be sent home informing parents that two of the in-school field trip speakers spoke about their homosexuality and that the video Challenge Day was shown. She has also asked that this notice include an apology from the administration for their failure to provide this information in the parental notification letter and permission slip. Parents deserved that information in order to make an informed decision beforehand, and they deserve it now so that they can have follow-up discussions with their children if they so desire.

The mother is still awaiting a response from the administration.

Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins was the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Affairs Writer in the fall of 2008 through early 2023. Prior to working for the IFI, Laurie worked full-time for eight years...
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