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other SPRING 2009 articles


  Spring 2009

Youth & Gay news

High School Student Sues for State Stimulus Funds

High school senior Casey Edwards is asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to determine who controls $700 million in state stimulus funds—Gov. Mark Sanford or the Legislature.

Gov. Sanford, Republican, has gained national attention for his anti-stimulus position. He said he would refuse the funds unless he can use half to plug holes in the state budget. But federal law requires $560 million to be spent on K12 through college education.

Sanford must apply for the money before it can be sent to South Carolina.

            The Supreme Court ordered the Attorney General to respond to the lawsuit within a week. The court could settle the issue within 30 days.

            Casey said her school, Chapin High, and others in S.C. desperately need funds. She decided to file the lawsuit after seeing a documentary. It exposed the poor conditions at schools along Interstate 95. Before that she sold Chick-Fil-A sandwiches to raise money for a Dillon County school.

            The lawsuit is the first effort to force a resolution to the stimulus impasse. However, lawmakers may include the money in the state budget. Or they could pass a bill ordering Sanford to accept it.

          Edwards said about the controversy,  "It's a little intimidating. But I feel it's a very important issue." Her school district is laying off teachers--including one who tutored Edwards after school to improve her math scores.

            Edwards said she talked about the lawsuit with her family. They supported her decision.


17 year Olds Win Access to EC

17-year-olds can now get the 'morning-after' birth control pill without a doctor's prescription.  The FDA made this ruling in April . Before that only adults could get this Emergency Contraceptive.


Smart Girls at the Party 

Comedian Amy Poehler hosts the new digital TV series, Smart Girls at the Party. She interviews girls “who are changing the world by being themselves.” Girls ages 8 to 14 share their creative passions, from writing to yoga to gardening to feminism. For example, nine-year-old Anna is a yogini, inventor and humanitarian. She describes which yoga poses help her when she feels troubled.


Kids Preserve Ancient Language 

There are only 35 fluent speakers of the Menomonee language. Most are elderly. So the Menomonee nation has trained 10 instructors. They are teaching students from college level down to day care. Kids in day care through middle school learn Menomonee in their daily curriculum at tribal schools.

       Three-quarters of Menomonee high school students take Menomonee as an elective. 12 to 15 adults show up weekly at the tribe’s recreation center for re-learning the language.

       At age two children learn to speak Menomonee and English at the same time. The teacher uses flashcards. At home they ask their families for snacks using the Menomonee words instead of English.

       There were once 400 to 600 Native American languages. 175 are left. Only about 20 are still spoken by all ages of tribe members. In the 19th century the US government forced First Nation kids into boarding schools. The schools punished them for speaking their native languages.

       The loss of a language is the loss of a nation’s culture.


Youth STAND UP! SPEAK OUT! for a Green Detroit photo 

Detroit is one of the top 10 worst polluted cities in the US. It is home to the country’s largest trash-burning incinerators. As a result asthma hospitalization rates are three times the national average in Detroit.

       Kids from schools downwind of the incinerator recently took action. They attended the East Michigan Environmental Action Council’s (EMEAC) forum called STAND UP! SPEAK OUT! They spent two hours identifying and analyzing issues. They also brought up the issue of recycling. (Unlike most major cities, Detroit lacks a recycling program.)

       The youth decided to address elected officials and legislators through direct action. One exercise involved developing an “elevator speech.” The kids took turns role-playing one-minute messages. They planned to use them if they found themselves standing next to a politician.

       The students also wrote short letters to Mayor Ken Cockrel:  “It’s time to protect children’s health and take Detroit another step toward Green. End incineration of Detroit garbage by July 1, 2009.”

       They staged a peaceful demonstration near the Spirit of Detroit statue. They invited supporters and the media. Then they dropped off their letters at the Mayor’s office.

       The event attracted former fire chief Paul Nettles. He said, “It all starts with the kids. They’ve got the energy and great ideas to make change. I’m glad the young people are learning how to talk to legislators and organize. Any worthwhile initiative needs people to not only join a movement, but take action.”


Young Speakers Change the World  

We Are What We Do is a community action movement in England. It spreads the word that small actions and lots of people make big changes. Its Young Speakers project brought together 200 young people last summer to change the world. They learned how to develop facts, stats and world-changing delivery. They were trained to successfully captivate and inspire an audience.

       Since last fall, the Young Speakers have reached thousands in their own colleges, primary schools and community groups. They remind relatives and friends of the power of their small, everyday actions.

       Twenty-five Young Speakers created an interactive play. It is touring London. After the performance, the actors hold a workshop with their audience. They get the kids to think about what actions they want to start taking. Then they ask the kids to do role play around those choices.

       To find out more go to: wearewhatwedo.org/youngspeakers.


Troubled Jewish Girls Go to Israel for Help 

Rabbi Raviv Shaked and his wife, Bassy are running a girls High School in Israel. But Tzofiah High School doesn’t serve Israeli girls. Students are Orthodox Jewish girls from any English-speaking countries.

       Tzofiah students struggle with depression, school failure, learning disorders, or drug/ alcohol/ sex problems. Orthodox families are often more likely than others to seek help for their teen girls. Everyone knows your business in these small strict communities. So community members often stigmatize the girls and their families.

       Faculty at Tzofiah encourage students to choose their own lives. They provide therapy, regular and vocational ed, and classes in writing and the arts. Further support comes from community members who open their homes to the girls.

       Many students at Tzofiah come from homes with child abuse or male violence. Abuse is often more severe in rigid religious communities. Tzofiah affirms positive Jewish ethics. But the staff doesn’t impose strict and unrealistic guidelines that turn kids off.

       Some girls say they outwardly reject the religious world of their families. But inwardly they long for aspects of their faith-based communities. Tzofiah tries to bridge the gap between their desire to be closer to home, yet live free.


Youthful Toublemakers Face Elders at Ojibwe School 

The Elder Circle at the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Ojibwe School is in its third year. It has helped raise attendance rates and lower bullying.

       The school needed to improve behavior and meet federal attendance rates. So they tried the traditional Anishinaabe way: Elders guide the young down “the good path.” Six elders went through training on restorative justice and elder circles.

       Students in grades seven through twelve are brought to the circle for fights, truancy, alcohol / drug violations and gang activity. Parents are encouraged to join the circle.

       The circle starts with smudging. (Each person waves burning sage round themselves for purification.) This calms angry students. The students pass an eagle feather with a beaded handle to the one who wants to speak.

       The Elders Circle reduces students’ judgment by creating a panel of school administrators. It focuses on how to correct an area where a student lacks balance. If students have problems getting to school, the circle gives them alarm clocks and calendars. Discipline involves doing things that help the community or those they hurt. Students write apology letters and research papers, do community service and sign contracts.

       Discipline depends on which Anishinaabe core values have been compromised. Core values include honoring the creator, elders, plants, animals and women--and showing kindness courage and moderation in thought, word and deeds.

       The kids respect and understand the circle. There is an awareness and changes. Kids are being more respectful, trying to live the right way.

       Circle member MaryAnn Blacketter said, “If we don’t teach them our values to follow the right path, they’ll go the wrong way. All kids want to know where the edge is. They want to know we’re here so they don’t go over the edge. But they’re going to push us as far as they can go.”

Sources: 2009 truthout ~ bitch ~ The Michigan Citizen ~ Ms. ~ News From Indian Country ~ Freedom Socialist Bulletin

Lesbian Grandma Becomes First Gay Head of State 

On Feb. 1 Johanna Sigurdardottir became the Prime Minister of Iceland. She is the first openly gay head of government in the world. Sigurdardottir is a mother and grandmother. In 2002 she married her partner, Jonina Leosdottir in a civil service. Iceland legalized gay marriage in 1996.


Gays Wins Battles against Discrimination and for Separation of Church and State 

“Christians” who discriminate against gays are losing legal battles. Most losses are taking place in communities that have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

       • The New Mexico Civil Rights Commission forced a Christian photographer to pay $6,637 in attorney’s costs. She had refused to photograph a gay couple’s commitment ceremony.

       • Christian fertility doctors in California refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient. The state Supreme Court barred them from invoking their religious beliefs.

       • The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in New Jersey lost a property tax exemption. It refused to allow its beachside pavilion to be used for a same-sex union ceremony.

       • A university of California law school refused to recognize a Christian student group. It denies membership to anyone practicing sex outside of traditional marriage.

       • The online dating site eHarmony agreed to provide gay and lesbian matchmaking services. They made this decision to settle a complaint by a gay New Jersey man accusing it of discrimination. Their new site is CompatiblePartners.net.

       • A psychologist in Georgia was fired when she declined, for religious reasons, to counsel a lesbian about her relationship.

       • In 2000 the Boy Scouts of America won a lawsuit to refuse membership to gay Scouts or leaders. Since then, some private charities have refused to support the Scouts. Some local governments have yanked free use of facilities and other benefits. Philadelphia is demanding that the Scouts pay $200,000 in annual rent for a building they had been using rent-free.

       Twenty states and over 180 cities and counties ban discrimination against gays. Twelve states now offer same-sex marriage or same-sex partner recognition.


Vermont Legalizes Gay Marriage 

On April 7, Vermont’s legislature made gay marriage legal, overriding the governor’s veto. Vermont was the first state to create civil unions for Gay and Lesbian couples. The New Hampshire House passed a bill legalizing gay marriage in March. The Senate has not yet passed it.

       Gay & Lesbian Advocates Defenders (GLAD) have successfully organized in all six New England states. Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island all have domestic-partner protections. GLAD believes the six states will have legalized gay marriage by 2012.

       On March 3, GLAD filed suit in Massachusetts federal district court. They challenged a portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act denying federal recognition to same-sex couples. The plaintiffs are eight gay couples and three widowers from Massachusetts. They were all denied federal benefits. GLAD  argues that these denials violate federal law.


Lesbian Teens Win Some, Lose Some 

A 17-year-old Indiana lesbian was told she would have to wear a formal dress to her prom. She sued the school district with the help of the ACLU. Two days later, the district reversed its policy. She wore a tuxedo to the prom.

       ACLU has a guide for LGBT teens called “Know Your Rights,” at www.aclu.org.

       A California appeals court ruled that a Lutheran school in San Francisco can legally discriminate. It expelled two 16-year-old girls. The school claimed they had “a bond of intimacy characteristic of a lesbian relationship.”

       The court held that a private religious school could violate state laws prohibiting discrimination. The lawyer for the students said he would appeal. The girls have neither admitted or denied being lesbians.


Kids in Lesbian Families are Well-Adjusted 

A study followed 70 lesbian families since 1986. It compared the psychological adjustment of ten-year-old children of lesbian parents with their peers in heterosexual families.

       The study, called The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family (NLLF), found no significant difference in the psychological well-being of the two groups. It found that parents’ sexual orientation doesn’t negatively affect children. But discrimination and homophobia do. However harm from this bias was greatly reduced by protective factors. These included diversity education and a strong sense of community.

       A similar study using NLLF data was done in Holland. Dutch children of lesbian moms showed higher overall psychological-adjustment scores than their American peers. Researchers attribute this to two differences: 1) Dutch children encounter less homophobia than Americans and 2) They have higher rates of disclosure about their parents’ sexual orientation.


Gay Activists Testify Against Anti-Gay Law in Nigeria

In March several gay activists testified at the National Assembly public hearings in Nigeria against a proposed law. The law would make it a criminal offense to attend a gay event or wedding anywhere in the world.

       Homosexuality in Nigeria is already punishable by a prison term of up to 14 years hard labor. Under the proposed law, anyone married to a same-sex partner who travels to Nigeria, even on business, could be jailed for up to three years.


Gay Youth Organize in Australia 

Whatever is a youth diversity group in Victoria, Australia. It’s name expresses its purpose: young people should be whoever and whatever they are and feel safe and comfortable.

       Siann Fox, a 17-year-old queer rights activist said, “In rural Victoria, safety and acceptance are issues for young queers. People try to hide that they’re queer. They fear the violence—being called horrible names or getting bashed. There are so many queer youth out there. But there aren’t many networks. So they don’t know where to go.”

       Whatever outreaches as far as it can. They want to ensure young queers that they can use it for support and to connect with others. “We go where young people are, like schools and festivals/  We put up posters, distribute pamphlets, and set up stalls.. We also do talks at high schools.”

       Whatever has an anti-discrimination case in the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. Whatever and Way Out, another young queer group, booked the facilities of the Exclusive Brethren for a weekend awareness camp. The Brethren are a rightwing religious sect. When they found out about the organizations, they cancelled the booking. The case will be heard in early 2009.

Sources: Washington Post ~ Ms. ~ Women’s News ~ Rain and Thunder ~ News & Letters ~ Lesbian Connection ~ mothering ~


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