Several weeks ago, Howell teacher and teachers’ union president Jay McDowell got into a verbal altercation with two of his economics class students. It happened on the nationwide Spirit Day (October 20th), a day in which awareness of anti-gay bullying issues is raised by supporters wearing purple t-shirts. McDowell wore a purple shirt himself.
In the classroom, one of McDowell’s students chose that day to wear a Confederate flag belt buckle. McDowell asked her to remove it. An argument ensued between this student and another, Daniel Glowacki. Glowacki asked why her belt buckle was any different than the purple shirts worn by McDowell and others and, after a heated exchange, McDowell asked the two students to leave his room.
Some of the people involved claim that Glowacki made offensive remarks about gay students during the argument which precipitated his expulsion. Others claim that McDowell simply lost his cool and took it out on the two students.
The conservative Thomas More Law Center has now entered the fray. Working pro bono for the Glowacki family, they appear to be gathering information for an impending lawsuit.
Sixteen-year-old Howell High School junior Daniel Glowacki and his family have obtained the services of the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center in connection with his Oct. 20 disagreement with Howell High School teacher Jay McDowell, which has since become a nationwide controversy.
No lawsuit has been filed, said Daniel Piedra, deputy director of communications and development for the center. The Thomas More Law Center — which bills itself as “Christianity’s answer” to the American Civil Liberties Union — is gathering information.
Thomas More Senior Trial Counsel Robert Muise sent a Michigan Freedom of Information Act request Thursday to Howell Public Schools requesting copies of district policies and other documents related to the Oct. 20 incident.
The center alleges McDowell, president of the Howell Education Association teachers’ union, was “promoting the national homosexual agenda” that day.
On their website, the Law Center describes what happened this way:
The incident occurred on October 20, 2010, the day that Daniel’s economics class teacher, Jay McDowell, wore a purple “Tyler’s Army” t-shirt as part of a national campaign to highlight the alleged “bullying” of homosexuals. McDowell was taking part in a national Anti-Bullying Day promoted by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. To further promote this national pro-homosexual agenda, McDowell was planning to show the class a video concerning such “bullying.”
Note the use of the word “alleged” when describing the bullying experienced by LGBT youth across the country. The Thomas More Law Center can’t even bring themselves to discuss this issue which results in far too many teen suicides and suicide attempts without putting the word “bullying” itself in quotation marks.
But it gets worse:
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of TMLC, commented: “Rather than teach the required economics curriculum which he is paid to do, McDowell used his position of authority to promote his homosexual agenda at taxpayers’ expense. There is no question that he violated Daniel’s constitutional right to freedom of speech. [T]his case…shows the pernicious way in which homosexual activists have turned our public schools into indoctrination centers, and are seeking to eradicate all religious and moral opposition to their agenda.
“It’s time that parents stand up to the slick gimmicks used by homosexual advocacy groups to promote a dangerous and immoral lifestyle to our children under the guise of tolerance. School districts should fire any teacher who uses class time to advance such a deadly lifestyle.”
McDowell’s version of the story is a bit different:
On Oct. 20, McDowell told a student in his classroom to remove a belt buckle with the Confederate Flag, the symbol of the southern confederacy that seceded from the United States over slavery, kicking off the Civil War in the 1860s.
She complied, but it prompted a question from a boy about how the flag differs from the rainbow flag, a symbol of pride for the gay community.
“I explained the difference between the flags, and he said, ‘I don’t accept gays,”’ said McDowell, 42, who was wearing a shirt with an anti-gay bullying message.
McDowell said he told the student he couldn’t say that in class.
“And he said, ‘Why? I don’t accept gays. It’s against my religion.’ I reiterated that it’s not appropriate to say something like that in class,” McDowell said Monday.
McDowell said he sent the boy out of the room for a one-day class suspension. Another boy asked if he also could leave because he also didn’t accept gays.
“The classroom discussion was heading in a direction I didn’t want it to head,” McDowell said.
McDowell soon received a reprimand letter from the district that said his actions violated the students’ free speech rights as well as school policy. It also said he “purposefully initiated a controversial issue” by the wearing the T-shirt featuring the anti-gay bullying message.
“I thought it was a really great, teachable moment,” McDowell said of his decision to remove the student from class.
McDowell may or may not have been in the right when he expelled the two students from his classroom. That’s for others to decide after an investigation. The issue has certainly become a nationwide story with an Ann Arbor student appearing on the Ellen Degeneres Show after a video of his appearance before the Howell School Board went viral:
It’s a conversation that, arguably, needs to be had.
But the involvement of the Thomas More Law Center adds a new twist. With their homophobic rhetoric and history of intentionally inflaming the issues they are involved in, the dialog just took a step backwards. They will now seek to pit those who are trying to find common ground in dealing with anti-gay bullying against homophobic bigots who seek to cast anyone working against the bullying as having at “national homosexual agenda”. It’s an unfortunate turn that will likely only make matters worse.
I’m just sayin’…