Friday, January 22, 2010

No place for "No Place for Hate" campaign in Wheatland

Everything was going along swimmingly in Wheatland. Both West Elementary and Wheatland H.S. had signed up for the "No Place for Hate" campaign, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. Posters like the one above were hung on the chimneys with care. Jews and Gentiles were engaging in peaceful coexistence. Lions were lying down with lambs, and dogs and cats were living together. Even the off-white citizens were getting along with the egg-shell white and slightly freckled denizens of Wheaterville.

Then something terrible happened. A concerned citizen noticed that one of the program's sponsors is (close your eyes) The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado.

Uh oh. The program's goal "to organize schools to work together and develop projects that enhance the appreciation of diversity and foster harmony amongst diverse groups" was in jeopardy. The campaign also proposes "to empower schools to promote respect for individual and group differences while challenging prejudice and bigotry."

Here's what happened next, according to an AP article in the Billings Gazette:

Platte County School District 1 trustees voted 4-3 this week to reject a request to keep the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” banners at Wheatland High and West Elementary. District administrators removed the signs after parents and school board members raised concern because the banners list the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado as a sponsor. Some students requested that the banners be replaced, but the board refused.

Wheatland, a southeast Wyoming town of about 3,300 residents, is "an ultraconservative community,” said school board member Lee Dunham.

“If this is the way one chooses, then they can lead this particular lifestyle, but I don’t believe it needs to be publicly displayed in a school,” Dunham said.

School board member Joe Fabian said he believes the Anti-Defamation League is pushing an “agenda that is pro-gay marriage” and that the community of Wheatland is not supportive of that.

“They wouldn’t want the organization, the Anti-Defamation League, dictating to their children that an alternate lifestyle is a normal lifestyle,” he said.

First of all, good job to the students who requested that the banners stay on the walls. They actually read the banners and absorbed the message. The school board gets an F for tolerance and diversity, but receives an "I" for irony.

Now for the rest of the story:

The district intended to allow the anti-discrimination campaign to continue, Superintendent Stuart Nelson said. But the Anti-Defamation League won’t allow the Wheatland schools to participate without the presence of the banners, said Bruce DeBoskey, mountain states regional director for the group.

The Anti-Defamation League “will no longer allow the program if it’s not being honored and used in its fullest intent,” he said.

DeBoskey said there are many Wheatland residents who support the anti-discrimination campaign, and he urged them to speak up.

“The (league) is extremely concerned that this whole program — which is designed to teach young people to respect the differences among us — has been derailed by people who appear to have biases,” he said.

Linda Burt of the Wyoming chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also criticized the board’s decision, saying it’s “extraordinarily unfortunate and extraordinarily shortsighted.”

“Does that mean this is a place for hate?” she asked. “Does that mean this is a place for discrimination?”

Good questions, Linda.

West Elementary and Wheatland H.S. were two of the 25 schools participating in the 2009-2010 "No Place for Hate" campaign. The only other participating Wyoming school is Whiting H.S. in Laramie. No word yet whether the posters are still up over there.


William said...

"No word on weather the posters are still up over there." FYI I very seriously doubt they would remove a sign like that in Laramie. --Will, Laramie, WY

Zoey Quinn said...

We just put up an online petition, looking for 10K signatures. Yes, that's the entire population of Platte County, WY but we're hoping to get input and support from all over. This isn't just a Wheatland issue, but it'd be nice for Wheatland to be known as No Place for Hate...and Wyoming too!

You can get to the petition off of or the link is:

Please pass it on! 10K is a lot :)

Michael Shay said...

Will, you're probably correct about the Laramie posters. Just wanted to make a point that there was at least one Wyoming school still participating in the ADL-sponsored program.

Melody Brooks said...

Bill, thanks for a great post...the first paragraph had me laughing out loud.

Melody Brooks said...

Ooops, my apologies, Michael. Thank you for the well-written post.