In the May 15th Raleigh News and Observer, front page, was a story (link) about third grade teacher, Mr. Omar Currie, who got into hot water for reading the book “King and King” by Dutch authors Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland to his third grade class in rural Efland, North Carolina. Mr. Currie read this delightful book to his class after a boy was being bullied in his classroom and the word “gay” was used in a negative sense. (NOTE: follow up newspaper article on the subsequent public hearing.)
This book is a classic fairy tale about Prince Bertie, who is single despite his mother’s wish that he find a princess to marry. After the queen issues an invitation to the world’s princesses to come meet her eligible bachelor prince son and Bertie meets a very diverse set of princesses from all corners of the globe, he finally (and bravely) declares to his mother, “I’ve never cared much for princesses.” Luckily, Prince Bertie meets Price Lee, and they fall in love and get married.
Now a local resident who does not even have a child enrolled in the school with a few other local parents are raising a fuss about the “inappropriateness” of the book. So I ask, what is so inappropriate about reading one single children’s book that features a same-gender couple? Here are 3 important short points:
1. Same gender (or gay) marriage is now a reality in 21st century USA and in many countries around the world including Europe and Latin America. A majority of US states now have same-gender marriage and more than likely it will be a nationwide reality after the US Supreme Court issues a final ruling on this matter in late June. And even Mr. Currie states that several students in his school have two moms or two dads. Shouldn’t those families be included in stories as well as all others?
2. Schools must address bullying and foster diversity. When a girl is bullied for being a “tomboy”, or a boy is bullied for being a little feminine, or a child is bullied for being multi-racial, or has a disability, or two mommies or two daddies, the school must address it. Children need to be taught early and often that bullying is always wrong and that all people should be respected and valued.
3. Teaching about different ways of life does not diminish or detract from anyone! Mr. Currie estimates he reads 500 books in a typical school year to his class. So one book out of 500 features a same-gender couple. That in no way takes away from opposite gender couples or single parents families that may be portrayed in the other 499 books! People need to get over feeling threatened by people who are not exactly like them.
In closing, I would like to salute the enlightened teacher Mr. Omar Currie for doing the right thing in his class. Let’s all emulate Mr. Currie and support diversity of all kinds of families in our schools, business settings, churches and communities!
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Additional blogs and resources:
Blog about LGBT bullying and hate speech.
Blog about a leading anti-bullying non-profit, the Tyler Clementi Foundation.
Connection to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), resources for promoting equality and protection of all LGBT students in schools at all grade levels.
Blog with two scenarios of schoolyard bullying eventually impacting workplace harassment.
Website with resources on hate crimes.
Blog with link to an organization about being an ally to the LGBT community.