In 2010, high school teacher Johnson McDowell wore a purple shirt to school in solidarity with bullied LGBT youth, and screened a video about someone that had committed suicide after being bullied for his sexual orientation. At the end of the video, his student, Daniel Glawacki, stated that he could not accept gay people because of his religion. He also questioned McDowell for presenting his personal views via his clothing, because earlier in class McDowell had asked a student to remove a belt with the Confederate flag on it. Glawacki and one other student were then dismissed from class for stating that they would not accept homosexuality.
Then Glawicki took his case to court, claiming that he was wrongly dismissed.
Although most of McDowell’s students supported his decision, he was reprimanded by the school. This week, Detroit federal Judge Patrick Duggan ruled in favor of Glawacki and his right to free speech. Judge Duggan’s rationale is that Glawacki’s dismissal was based solely on his Glawacki’s anti-gay personal beliefs. As punishment, McDowell was ordered to pay $1 in restitution.
Yes, it is within Glawacki’s constitutional rights to disagree with his teacher and to state his own viewpoints. But when it comes to issues of identity within a classroom setting, such things tend to be a bit more complicated. It sounds as though McDowell was trying to make a very clear statement that he was open and accepting of LGBT students––that bigoted opinions that make others feel bad about themselves based on their sexual orientation will not be tolerated in his classroom. It is very possible that Glawacki was being disrespectful to his teacher’s intention, or that he was being insensitive regarding the topic of bullying and suicide by LGBT teens. And in my view, both of these reasons are grounds for dismissal from class.
What do you think about the decision? Let us know in the comments.
[Image of a gavel via Shutterstock]