News writing sample - Milton Times
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - News writing sample - Milton Times
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Gay and Lesbian Sensitivity in Schools Questioned
The Milton Times
Sept. 27, 2007
A string of harassment culminating in an assault of a 9-year-old Tucker student who has a lesbian
mother is leading to questions about school department diversity policy.
According to Virginia Gaffey, her daughter was repeatedly harassed at school last year when her
third grade classmates learned about her mother’s sexual orientation. Six children surrounded the
girl Sept. 10 at recess and assaulted her, Gaffey says. A seventh intervened during the melee and
allowed the victim to escape. The daughter’s injuries were not serious.
Gaffey is not satisfied with the school department’s response to the incident.
“They’re not taking my family seriously,” she says. “It’s a hate crime.”
Gaffey says the offending students should have been suspended and instead had one week of
recess taken away for punishment. Superintendent Dr. Magdalene Giffune said elementary students
do not receive suspensions.
Gaffey further contends that a guidance counselor told her daughter she needs to be careful about
who she shares her mother’s identity with.
“The lesson I got from the guidance counselor is that she isn’t normal and she should hide it,” says
Gaffey. “They would never tell anyone not to say their mother was African-American. She was
vocalizing discrimination as far as I’m concerned.”
Through tears, Gaffey describes the pain she feels for her child. An assignment from this year asked
students to write why they are special. Her daughter wrote, “I remember when kids would pick on me
and they still do and I stick up for myself.”
“Some groups stay away from her like she has the flu,” says Gaffey. “Others are attacking her.
They’re too little to get it that it’s nothing … my kid’s not getting beat up because of what she did. It’s
because of who I am.”
Gaffey says she brought in a watermelon to class last year. When the children learned whose it was,
they told each other not to eat it because it has “cooties.”
“[Children] are capable of some very hateful things and you deal with them appropriately,” says
Giffune. “I think the case was handled appropriately.”
Giffune says she is not able to discuss details of Gaffey’s situation, alleged incidents or specific
After the assault, the school adopted a safety plan for Gaffey’s daughter that included one day with a
substitute teacher as a bodyguard. The girl continued to feel unsafe and the school department
allowed her to transfer to Glover.
Gaffey says administrators told her it is a conservative town and you have to worry about “stepping
on toes” regarding gay and lesbian issues.
“Thank God Martin Luther Kind didn’t feel that way,” she says.
“It’s a completely overlooked demographic,” says Elizabeth Castellana, Boston chapter director of
Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAG). “These kids are coming in droves and
schools need to wake up and realize they are woefully underprepared.”
Castellana said this “Gay-by Boom” generation is hard to classify because the identity of parents
does not automatically transfer to children like race.
“I think in schools that take the initiative to do sensitivity training, this absolutely needs to be
addressed,” she says. “To tell a child they need to hide their identity and keep their mouth shut is like
Appropriate gay and lesbian issues are covered in diversity training for children and staff and there is
no need to change the curriculum, according to Giffune.
“We have a lot of gay couples that have children in the elementary schools,” she says. “We’ve never
had anybody allege any kind of misbehavior toward their kids because of their parents.”
However, Gaffey says the training does not address gay and lesbian issues specifically enough.
“It’s very tunnel-visioned diversity,” she says. “Their diversity is a round hole and I’m a square peg.”
Gaffey says when many adults think about gays and lesbians they think about sex and, as a result,
are uncomfortable teaching children about the issues. But sex does not have to be part of the
discussion, Gaffey says. The focus should be on diversity of families and learning it is normal if
“Johnny has two moms or two dads.”
“Massachusetts is allowing gays and lesbians to get married. Why aren’t schools addressing it? …
This is something they are afraid to touch on and by being afraid, our children are being victimized.”
While passing out flyers about her daughter’s plight on the sidewalk at Tucker’s open house last
week, Gaffey says someone called the police on her.
“I’m not pursuing an agenda,” says Gaffey. “I just need her not to get beat up.”