The petition started by openly gay 11-year-old Marcel Neergaard, asking StudentsFirst to revoke its “education reformer of the year” award given to anti-LGBT politician, Tennessee state Rep. John Ragan, has achieved its goal; the organization has listened to the young boy’s request and granted his wish.
Ragan’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill was meant to block LGBT or questioning children from talking about their sexuality to teachers in school. In the background to the petition, which gathered 53,000 signatures, Marcel’s parents state that due to the severe bullying he faced, if the bill had passed and Marcel was still enrolled in public school, “we feel certain the consequences would have been deadly.”
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.
The 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.”
As requested, StudentsFirst has rescinded Ragan’s award; in a statement on their website, they announced that “today, we stand with Marcel in support of the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act and will support similar measures in our active states. We encourage legislators across the country to support these measures to protect kids from bullying and discrimination as well.
“Regardless of when Representative Ragan was named a ‘Reformer of the Year’ by our organization, his introduction of ill-conceived and harmful legislation including HB 1332—which would have cultivated a culture of bullying—does not represent the type of leadership we look for in our legislative champions. We have made that clear to Rep. Ragan and rescinded the recognition.”