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Gay students threatened with suspension for holding hands on campus PDF Print E-mail
Written by Elgin Jones   
Monday, 16 May 2011

black_and_white_holding_hands.jpgPOMPANO BEACH – The nation’s sixth largest public school district has cleared a high school principal accused of lecturing and threatening two female students with suspension for holding hands on campus. The students say the principal also “outed” them to their parents.


The South Florida Times is not identifying the students, who are an interracial couple, one a junior, the other a senior. Both have good grades and one is an honor student.


The two were holding hands while walking to class on May 3 at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach. School Principal Karlton Johnson confronted and took them to his office.


“We were walking to class when he rolled up on his golf cart and said, ‘Didn’t I tell you two to stop doing do that?’ and then he took us to his office,” one of the girls told South Florida TImes. “He gave us a speech and then separated us before calling our parents, which was wrong. My mother already knew but my friend’s mom didn’t know she is into girls.”


One of the teens says Johnson had warned them about holding hands on previous occasions but they continued anyway because straight couples were allowed to do so without incident. The students reacted to Johnson’s action by complaining to school officials.


“There has been a situation in my upcoming [sic] school, Blanche Ely High, dealing with discrimination against the gay/lesbian community,” one of the students wrote in an e-mail complaining to school officials. “Our principal here has tried to suspend me and my friend for holding hands. And I would like to know if such actions are necessary for something so fragile.”


Johnson did not respond to a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment.


The complaint was forwarded to North Area Superintendent Sharon Airaghi. On May 13, she sent the student a letter stating Johnson was within his rights and had violated no district policies by his warning to them.


“However, let me take this opportunity to share with you that our District operates under what is termed as ‘site-based/school-based’ management system. This means that the principal, within the guidelines of District’s policies, has jurisdiction to create in-house measures that impact the entire school. These measures fall under the principal’s purview as a site-based manager,” Airaghi wrote.


“It is my understanding that the holding of hands on campus is not an acceptable practice at Blanche Ely High School. This practice is applicable to all students, regardless of age, race, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, religious sects, as indentified in School Board’s Nondiscrimination Policy.”


Johnson is garnering support from an unlikely source: the Rev. Oneal Dozier, senior pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center Church in Pompano Beach. He has been critical of Johnson in the past over a variety of issues but says he stands behind the principal’s action in this situation.


“I am surprised there is not a clear policy that prohibits all kids from hugging, kissing or holding hands,” Dozier said. “He should be commended for trying to make the school a better environment for learning.”


Kris Drumm, director of Youth and Family for Sunshine Social Service Inc., has another view of the issue.


“I think that it’s a homophobic reaction from the principal because clearly they are not suspending boys and girls for holding hands, only gays,” said Drumm, whose organization provides services to the gay community. “We are talking about holding hands here, not kissing or some other activity.”


Drumm says she is particularly concerned that the school district supports “outing” or revealing a student’s sexuality.


“It’s irresponsible because these kids are literally being put in danger,” she said. “I see it all the time. The parents are not prepared to hear this information and the youths end up abused or homeless after being thrown out of the house. This is serious.”


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Comments (13)Add Comment
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written by Tiger4Life, May 18, 2011
Jakin M. - I couldn't agree more!!! Johnson has also threatened boys with suspension if they didn't cut their hair!! Pressure students and faculty to back him???? How about BULLY them! That is a more accurate term!!
written by Tiger4Life, May 18, 2011
SWEET AS PIE, are you serious???? You must not have a child at Blanche Ely High School. If you do, you must not have been on the receiving end of the bullying from this man that calls himself a principal!! Do you KNOW what is going on at Blanche Ely High School with this man?? There are so many parents that are afraid to speak up because of retaliation against their child from this man! Complaint after complaint has been made against this man. Maybe the parents and students need to head downtown with pickets signs to get the School Board to open their eyes and remove this man from BEHS!
Investigate This Guy
written by Jakin M., May 18, 2011
There has been a lot going on at this school, under this principal. He needs to be investigated, once and for all.A hand holding ban is wrong and if a principal would do this, what else has he done? I can imagine that he will concoct some story and pressure students and teachers to back him.
written by Mme. Hardy, May 17, 2011
nowayjose is right. First they hold hands then... why, then, they might smile at each other. Or wave.
written by Edwin J Jaufmann Jr., May 17, 2011
What is wrong with this principal, and why is the school district backing his homophobic behavior? More importantly, where is the ACLU, Equality Florida, the Human Rights Campaign Fund and any other civil rights organization that might come to these girls' aid.

You ladies, I hope you read the supportive comments. They are the ones to which you need to pay attention. We are out here, ready to support you in your living freely without prejudice. We are the majority of people, even if the minority is louder and uglier than the majority. Hang in there. It gets better, a lot better.
Martin Luther King would kick him in his BUTT !
written by Scorpion, May 17, 2011
Where is the outrage from the Black/ Gay community leaders. This is a black Principal who if any should know the struggle for civil liberties and he goes and tramples others!So consoling others when a family member dies is a capitol punishment then according to these standards. he's a moral a-hole looking for points. If any harm came to this girl from his actions mental or physical he should be ashamed.
written by Lindoro Almaviva, May 17, 2011
And this is precisely the reason why the ACLU and HRC and all those legal non for profits exist. If it is true that heterosexual couples in the school are doing the same behavior with no repercissions, then the ACLU needs to step in to stop the self entitlement enviromnment these kids are on
bad call
written by discrimination is stupid, May 17, 2011
I think the principal is out of his mind. There is no need for these girls to be threatened into suspension and there was no need to out them to their parents. he was def. out of line and I think the school board is just as bad for supporting him. There needs to be some serious advocating for these girls. friends can hold hands and i think it shows where his mind is that he would first, automatically assume they are gay. parents hold hands with their kids...does that mean they're sick? the principal needs his priorities and his attitude adjusted.
Imagine if they were skipping also( I don't mean cuttingschool)
written by Scorpion, May 17, 2011
If all they were doing in public was holding hands..omg what dirty little mind does this principal have. I remeber girls always used to hold each others hands and skip as kids. If these girls didn't do anything else in public This pricipal should be outed from his job god dang moral police I hate them and publicly print the principals sexual secrets. Normal people don't say" I want to be a principal when I grow up" lets question everyones motives the same this a-holes mind works!
written by Marco Luxe, May 17, 2011
One of the girls is an honor student. Part of being top administrator is knowing where to expend time and resources to do the most good. How does harassing these girls help the institution? What does it say about the principal's priorities?

To me, it shows very poor judgment clouded by homophobia. Such bigotry is especially prevalent in the evangelical church-going population.
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