Thursday, October 20th was Spirit Day, when millions of Americans wore purple and spoke out against bullying of LGBT youth.
Yet, John Huppenthal, the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Arizona, must not have gotten the memo, because he took to a public panel on Spirit Day to bully LGBT people.
(Huppenthal is already under scrutiny by many organizations for alarming comments in which he compared a Tucson school’s Mexican-American Studies program to the Hitler Nazi Jugend.)
Superintendent Huppenthal, in defending his Nazi comparisons, made reference to “known homosexuals” who he then refers to as those who “have been engaged in past inappropriate behavior.”
It would be inappropriate for the head of any school system to categorize people – including the students he has a responsibility to keep safe in school – as “known homosexuals.” The phrase “known homosexuals” suggests that being gay is somehow shameful or inherently secretive.
Then to indiscriminately suggest that all gay people – simply for being who they are – are people who “have been engaged in past inappropriate behavior” is alienating and ostracizing for a huge segment of the student population Superintendent Huppenthal is charged with educating.
Verbally harassing the LGBT students of Arizona schools while acting in his official capacity as Superintendent is vile behavior and requires an immediate and sincere apology. Whatever Superintendent Huppenthal’s personal beliefs, he has an important charge to educate and create a safe environment for all Arizona students. Instead, he chose to use incendiary and offensive language to describe some of the school system’s most vulnerable. He is setting an awful example, the type that leads to increased bullying in our nation’s schools.