An openly gay 11-year-old, Marcel Neergaard, of Tennessee has started a petition on MoveOn.org, together with his parents, to revoke the ‘education reformer of the year’ award given to an anti-gay figure.
Leader of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, John Ragan, a Tennessee Republican state representative, was honored as reformer of the year by the educational organization StudentsFirst.
Ragan’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill was meant to block LGBT or questioning children from talking about their sexuality to teachers in school.
As indicated by a press release shared with 429Magazine, the bill would have prohibited teachers from discussing LGBT related topics with their students, essentially pretending the LGBT community did not exist.
Additionally, under the terms of the second version of the bill, if passed, would have required that if a child sought out guidance on their sexuality and spoke with a counselor, the advisor would be required to out the student to their parents.
Marcel proposed that, rather than honor Ragan with this educational reform accolade, efforts would be better spent finding ways to end bullying and protect kids like him.
Marcel’s petition states, “We want StudentsFirst to withdraw their award to John Ragan as educational ‘Reformer of the Year.’ Instead, they should work to protect all bullied students, including LGBTQ, by supporting Tennessee’s Dignity for All Students Act, as well as the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.”
Marcel faced so much bullying at his public school that he “contemplated taking his own life,” according to the MoveOn.org petition. Because of the severity of harassment that he faced, his parents Mike and Misty took their son out of school; he is now being home-schooled.
In the background to the petition, Mike and Misty state, “the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ was introduced in the Tennessee state legislature to prevent teachers from talking with kids like Marcel about being gay. If Marcel had returned to public school under those circumstances, we feel certain the consequences would have been deadly.”
Marcel’s parents assisted him in creating a video for the MoveOn.org petition as well as helping him in writing an article for the Huffington Post.
The former chancellor of DC Public Schools, Michelle Rhee, who is politically known to be against teachers’ unions, is also the founder of StudentsFirst. The organization has come out with a statement indicating that although they do not agree with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, they refuse to rescind Representative Ragan’s award.
“Additionally, they did not specify if they would support John Ragan and his efforts in the future. They also gave no indication that they were sorry for donating to and fundraising for the bill’s sponsor. There was no mention that they hoped to help repair the damage their advocacy inflicted on bullied students in Tennessee,” Marcel’s petition states.