Annette Gross

The 'You Have a Purpose' Project

Filed By Annette Gross | February 17, 2013 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: anti-gay bullying, Diana Medley, gay kids, Indiana, Marie Siroky, PFLAG, Sullivan, You Have a Purpose Project

Once again, Indiana is embroiled in a situation that leaves our LGBT kids wondering if they really matter.

Last month, LGBT students at Sullivan High School in Sullivan, IN, a small town near the Illinois border, asked the school administration if they could attend the prom. The school had no problem - sure, the kids could attend. That was great! However, this is when things went downhill in Sullivan.

Some teachers, parents and students decided that they did not want the gay and lesbian students to attend the prom. So they received permission to hold a meeting at a local church. They decided that they would hold a "traditional" prom. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, it seems the media was at that meeting and one you-have-a-purpose.jpgSullivan citizen decided to exercise her free speech rights.

Ms. Diana Medley is a Special Ed teacher in North Central Jr./Sr. High School. At this meeting, she made some statements about LGBT kids, one of them that the LGBT community doesn't have a purpose in life.

Well, that set off a firestorm! A Facebook page and a petition were started to get Ms. Medley fired. People got confused and thought Ms. Medley worked at the high school. The secretary at the church where the meeting was held received pornographic e-mails. Threatening letters have been sent to Sullivan High School.

In response to all of this, Northeast School Corporation, where Ms. Medley works, issued a statement. "I would like to clearly state that the Northeast School Corporation has never denied any student the right to attend prom or any other Northeast School Corporation-sponsored event due to their race, gender, or sexual orientation," the statement reads in part. "The Northeast School Corporation employee that was interviewed was exercising her First Amendment rights. The views expressed are not the views of the Northeast School Corporation and/or the Board of Education."

This statement set off another outcry by some who felt that the school administration should have either fired Ms. Medley or at the very least discipline her. Many weighed in, each with a different opinion or idea.

Now, on one hand, the fact that so many people are angry about Ms. Medley's words is, to my mind, a good thing. These are people who felt that LGBT kids were being discriminated against unfairly. But instead of focusing on the kids, they focused more on what should be done to Ms. Medley.

As the Indiana State Coordinator of PFLAG, I wasn't sure how to respond. When the story first broke, I sent Ms. Medley an e-mail, explaining to her how hurtful her words were to me and my family. I offered to meet with her and have a dialogue. She did not respond. I also drafted letters to Mr. Springer, the principal of Sullivan High School, and Dr. Baker, the superintendent of Northeast School Corporation, offering PFLAG's help in educating each of their staffs on LGBT issues.

I was asked if I was planning on attending the school board meeting in Sullivan County this week. I was also asked if I was going to make some sort of statement. I really was not interested in pushing for Ms. Medley to get fired, or anything like that. As a PFLAG parent, I felt that we needed to focus on the kids. They are the ones who suffer when they repeatedly hear that they have no purpose, that they don't matter.

Those of us in LGBT and allied groups in and around Indianapolis discussed how best to approach this issue. Rev. Marie Siroky UCC came up with a perfect solution. Thus the "You Have a Purpose Project" was born.

The groups involved are ICON (Interfaith Coalition on Non-Discrimination), FairTalk, Indiana Equality Action, and Indiana PFLAG. We began by creating a Facebook page called the "You Have a Purpose Project." Then Marie and I each made a video which were downloaded to the page. We then invited our friends and family to Like the page and create their own videos.

The focus of the "You Have a Purpose Project" is to let LGBT kids know that they do have a purpose and that we care. I doubt Ms. Medley is aware of the damage that constant discrimination does to LGBT kids. She doesn't know that they have a high rate of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide because of the way they are treated. We want to reach out to these kids and let them know that they have value.

So please go to our page and Like it. Watch the videos that are posted and consider making one yourself. Let's show our LGBT kids that they matter and that they do have a purpose!

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