St. George’s alumna creates fund for survivors sexually assaulted at school

Faulkner Fox, who graduated from St. George’s in 1981 and was a prefect at the school, has set up the SGS Alumni Therapy Fund to help survivors who were sexually assaulted at St. George’s and in need of therapy.

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When I asked her why she wanted to create the fund, she told me:

I was so concerned when I heard that alumni were in distress, some suicidal, after reading THE BOSTON GLOBE article. Not everyone has a therapist or a strong support network of friends and family.  It is unconscionable that St. George’s School has not set up immediate counseling and referral services.  I wanted to help support the vital 24/7 therapy service put in place by Anne Scott’s lawyers.

Here’s the text from SGS Alumni Therapy Fund page on generosity.com.

Dozens of alumni from St. George’s School were sexually abused while they were students at the school.  More victims have been coming forward since the BOSTON GLOBE ran a front page story, “A Prep School’s Dark Legacy,” on 12/15/15.  Some are very distressed, even suicidal, and they need to speak to a therapist immediately.  St. George’s School has not yet made such a service available.  We, concerned St. George’s alumni and supporters, are raising money to pay for psychologist, Dr. Paul Zeizel, a well-known clinician and trauma expert who treated many of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, to counsel St. George’s alumni who are in crisis.

 

Dr. Zeizel is available seven days a week to provide crisis assistance and local referrals to  people who were sexually assaulted at St. George’s.  Consultations are free to alumni and completely confidential.  Dr. Zeizel’s phone number is:  857 472 2704.  His email is paulzeizel@comcast.net.

 

If we raise enough money, Dr. Zeizel will also process requests for reimbursement for therapy that relates to past sexual abuse at St. George’s School.  He will maintain absolute confidentiality, yet his clients will be free to speak to anyone they choose about their abuse and who is paying for their therapy.

You can make credit card donation on the fund’s page.

If you want to make a donation by check, you can go to any Wells Fargo branch and ask to make a donation to the “SGS Alumni Therapy Fund.”

If you want to mail a check for Faulkner to deposit or if you have any questions about the fund, you can contact her at dfofaulkner@gmail.com

If you don’t know anything about the sexual assaults at St. George’s or want to learn more, you can look at previous blogs below.

Thank you for your support.

Comments on petition asking St. George’s for fair investigation into assaults make me cry

St. George’s School continues to flub investigation into sexual assaults

Lawyer investigating St. George’s sexual assaults is partner of school’s legal counsel

Prep school alumni respond to St. Paul’s rape trial verdict

Comments on petition asking St. George’s for fair investigation into assaults make me cry

I’m so grateful for the bravery I see while reading through the comment section of the petition created by alumni of St George’s asking for a fair investigation into the sexual assaults at the school.

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I’m reposting some comments here:

I’ve seen first hand efforts by the current SGS administration to silence, intimidate, threaten lawsuits and even arrest of those who’ve reported abuse or stand up for victims. Dara Brewster Little Compton, RI

I witnessed this and did nothing Max Cottrell, Fairfield, CT

In support of friends who have bravely struggled for a long, long time  Willard Sistare Simsbury, CT

St. George’s School continues to flub investigation into sexual assaults

Last Monday, the Boston Globe published a front page article about sexual abuse and cover ups at St. George’s School, an elite private school that I attended.

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When Anne Scott initially brought a suit against the school about her molestation by athletic trainer, Al Gibbs, lawyers representing St.George’s claimed she “has a tendency to lie.” They also said that if the 15 year old had sex with the 67 year old, it was consensual. Let me remind you, lawyers representing a school seemed to have no concept of statutory rape. St. George’s also sought to change the case from a “Jane Doe” to use Scott’s real name. Intimidated, Scott dropped her case. Years later, still suffering from the abuse at St. George’s, Scott demanded the school contact alumni about abuse that may have happened. Scott was certain there were other victims. She wanted the school to be accountable and to reach out to others who may  need help. St. George’s started an investigation and sent out letters. According to the school, “tens of women” have responded that they are survivors of abuse. But one of the problems with the investigation is that more victims have said they are not comfortable talking about their experiences to Will Hannum, the lead investigator hired by St. George’s. Hannum is not only a lawyer but a partner of the counsel for St. George’s, not the ideal person to speak with about these experiences. I have been contacted by women who feel this way.

In August, after news about the St. Paul’s rape, another boarding school, the night of “senior salute” I blogged about “Casino Night” a sexist “tradition” when I went to St. George’s. On “Casino Night” all the new girls were supposed to dress up as playboy-like bunnies and sell candy to the older boys who gambled. After that blog (which I learned roughly coincided with St. George’s letter about its investigation) I was contacted by a former student from St. George’s who was sexually assaulted at the school around that time. She was scared to talk to Hannum because she was concerned his goal might be to gather information to protect the school from a lawsuit. Since my blogs, I’ve been contacted by others, first and second hand, about sexual assaults at the school who didn’t know where to turn. Apparently, I’m not the only one who has been approached.

Here are more facts since the Globe article came out about how St. George’s continues to fail it’s alumni from the counsel for Anne Scott (’80), Joan (Bege) Reynolds (’79) and Katie Wales (’80): Eric MacLeish (SGS ’70)

 

  • Since the December 15, 2015 article in the Boston Globe we have received reports from eleven additional alumnae who were sexually molested and assaulted by former SGS athletic trainer Al Gibbs. We also have other calls to return so that figure will rise tomorrow
  • Virtually all of the alumnae are or have suffered psychological injury as a result of their abuse by Gibbs and some are currently in states of crisis. Two have reported suicidal ideation. We are referring alumnae to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (which has agreed to handle calls from outside Massachusetts). We are searching immediately for a clinician to provide crisis services for these individuals and to make referrals. We have asked SGS to retain such a clinician but SGS has not responded
  • Based on Mr. Zane’s notes of four Gibbs victims in the Scott case and the three clients who we represent, the number of Gibbs alumnae victims that we are aware of currently total eighteen
  • SGS has still refused to disclose the number of victims who have come forward to the School alleging sexual assault by Gibbs. This number is likely much higher than the eighteen alumnae victims that we are aware of
  • Headmaster Peterson stated in his letter of November 2, 2015 to alumni that the “majority” of the abuse reports center around three individuals and that most of the reports fall in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We have received reports of abuse from alumni over the past four days, including reports from two former Trustees, regarding five SGS former employees; one report was as recent as 2004
  • SGS has shown a pattern of conduct since 1979 of coercing alumnae who were abused by Gibbs into silence. A student who alleged she was abused in 1979 was told that she was mentally ill and was required to see the School’s consulting psychologist. More recent tactics under current school leadership include requiring a victim seeking mental health care because of Gibbs’ abuse to sign an agreement prohibiting the victim from speaking of about the abuse publicly and, further, that she not “disparage” the School
  • SGS employees violated the Rhode Island Mandatory Abuse reporting law on Gibbs sexual molestation thereby subjecting other children to risks of abuse as Gibbs was alive for fifteen years after he left SGS. We have also received credible reports that SGS violated the same law in 1988, at which time the alleged perpetrator left SGS and went on to teach at another prep school for 11 years
  • Many alumni who came forward to report abuse to the “independent” investigator which Headmaster Peterson referred to in his April 7th letter to alumni were not told by the investigator that he was a partner in a law firm that was actually representing SGS
  • The School’s victim assistance package continues to contain a confidentiality clause which prevents alumni from disclosing that SGS is paying for assistance. At the same time, the agreement contains no provision that requires SGS to keep a victim’s name and assistance package confidential

 

  • SGS alumni have started an online public petition requesting that the School take immediate measures to conduct an independent investigation and provide for an alumni mental health assistance program that is consistent with what other independent school programs have done in similar situations. The petition can be found here

Over the past four days, we have received reports that Headmaster Peterson has been aware of Gibbs’ abuse of SGS students for many years; it was only after he was approached by Anne Scott in February of 2015 that the School sent out its first alumni letter. Mr. MacLeish contacted Mr. Peterson urging him to send out an alumni letter on Gibbs in 2012

From Counsel for Anne Scott (’80), Joan (Bege) Reynolds (’79) and Katie Wales (’80): Eric MacLeish (SGS ’70) and Carmen Durso.

Contact information:  

Anne Scott 443-282-4487, annewmscott@gmail.com;

Eric MacLeish, 617-494-1920, rmacleish@chelaw.com;

Carmen Durso, 617-728-9123, carmen@dursolaw.com

If you care about helping survivors of sexual assault and protecting all kids from having this happen to them, please sign this petition 

 UPDATE: Eric MacLeish contacted me with this info: we retained a clinician, Dr. Paul Zeizel, who is available 7 days a week for SGS victims. He can provide crisis counseling for SGS alums that is confidential. His mobile phone is 857 472 2704. His email is paulzeizel@comcast.net

 

Lawyer investigating St. George’s sexual assaults is partner of school’s legal counsel

Today, the Boston Globe reports on sexual assault at St.George’s school in the 70s and 80s and subsequent cover ups.

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Anne Scott was molested by the school’s athletic trainer, Al Gibbs.There were 4 other girls who told school authorities they were also molested by Gibbs. Apparently, Gibbs was known not only for molesting the girls but for taking pictures them when they were naked or in their underwear and showing those photos to male students at the school.

When Scott filed suit against St. George’s, the school’s lawyers told the court that she was either lying or that the 15 year old having consensual sex with 67 year old, apparently oblivious to statutory rape laws. The Globe reports:

School attorneys also sought to change it from a “Jane Doe” case and reveal Scott’s real name. “Maybe people will come forward and say the plaintiff is a, with all due respect to those in the court, has a tendency to lie, and that would be relevant, also,” said defense attorney William P. Robinson III of the Providence firm Edwards & Angell. (In 2004, Robinson was appointed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Robinson did not return calls from the Globe.)

But Judge Jacob Hagopian of the US District Court in Rhode Island denied the school’s motion to dismiss and admonished its attorneys that the teenager could not consent to such “detestable” acts. “It violates the criminal laws of the United States,” he said.

In the end, it was Scott who dropped the case. School attorneys had investigated and deposed her parents and were preparing to depose neighbors. “I was 27 years old, I had struggled, and then they came down on my family like a ton of bricks,” she said. “I just wanted it all to go away.”

St. George’s would not agree to the dismissal unless Scott signed a gag order that prohibited her from speaking about the case. MacLeish advised against it.

“The school did everything they could to intimidate Anne,” said MacLeish, of the Cambridge law firm of Clark, Hunt, Ahern & Embry. “It worked.”

While St. George’s is currently running an investigation into the abuse, the Boston Globe reports that the  lead investigator, Will Hannum is a law partner of the legal counsel for the school. Furthermore, comments reported by the Globe from Tony Zane, the head of school at the time, seem to indicate he could’ve worked much harder to prevent Gibbs from finding more victims. Katie Wales, another survivor of Gibb’s abuse tells the Globe:

She said she went to see Zane in 1979 about Gibbs. “He told me I was crazy, making it up to get attention, and that I had to see the school shrink,” Wales said.

Zane claims a different but shockingly apathetic response:

Zane says today that he believed Wales at the time, but thought that she came to him in confidence and “didn’t authorize me to go to Al Gibbs.” He added: “Gibbs declared his innocence until the end, so I was operating on hearsay.”

Though Zane eventually fired Gibbs, he didn’t report the assaults as required by law. When asked by the Globe about his lack of action, Zane replies: “Was that true in Rhode Island in 1980?”

Here’s another Zane quote to the Globe reporter, explaining the school’s aggressive response to Scott’s legal action. “Don’t blame us for trying to defend ourselves against a $10 million lawsuit.”

Wow. Does this guy care at all about the implications of his failure to protect students? Unless I’m missing something, he seems to feel no guilt or remorse about his mistakes, to even realize that the school’s lawyers calling Scott a liar and claiming she may have had consensual sex with a 67 year old were, in fact, mistakes.

A girls dorm at the school is named for Zane’s The Globe reports that the students who brought the suit want the name of the dorm changed and Zane’s portrait taken down from the dining hall.

I went to St. George’s as a freshman in 1983, the last year Zane was at the school. After reading about the St. Paul’s rape the night of ‘senior salute,‘ I blogged about traditions of sexism and female disempowerment at St. George’s. For us, there was Casino Night. All the female “newbies,” mostly freshman and sophomores dressed as bunnies, complete with ears and tails. Here are pictures from my 1984 yearbook:

 

This is how the boys dressed and acted for the same occasion.

 

 

They gambled, we sold them candy. Entitlement, anyone?

One thing I find particularly disturbing about Gibbs’s photos is that he showed them to the male students, all those kids knew this was going on and no one stopped it. The Globe reports:

But one firsthand report came from Katie Wales, class of 1980, who went to see Gibbs after a horseback riding injury. He began to molest her and took photos of her naked in the school’s whirlpool, she says, which he then circulated among the boys at school.

“The taunting by the boys was horrible”

 

When I went to the school, the typical make up of the student government was one female to four males. Here’s a yearbook pic of the prefects.

 

Here’s my best friend and me, captioned “Todd’s toys,” he was a senior prefect.

 

His bequeath in the yearbook? A twenty year sentence. That’s a rape joke.

 

In my last blog about all this, I wrote I remember that prefect as being  a pretty nice guy. I was never raped or sexually assaulted by him or anyone at the school. I was lucky. The school culture under Zane was mostly sexist and not empowering for girls in any way that I can recall. Recently, when telling someone about Casino Night, she asked me if I could have chosen not to wear the bunny suit. I never considered not saying yes.

Here’s my advice to St. George’s:

Take down the portrait of Zane. His apathy was criminal and today, his quotes in the Globe show he hasn’t learned much after all these years. Change the name of the dorm, consider naming it after a woman, maybe Miss Minton? She taught me how to write a killer 5 paragraph essay. Hire a new investigator, one without a conflict of interest, because it seems like you’re only interested in protecting yourself financially. Most importantly, do everything you can to prevent sexual assault and rape from happening again. Commit to ensuring gender equality at the school, meaning: include girls in student government and all positions of leadership and power at the school; make sure women authors and scientists and engineers, philosophers and historians etc are included in the curriculum, appoint women to positions of power and leadership in the faculty as heads of department; hang portraits of female leaders throughout the school; abolish sexist traditions; create a climate where if sexual assault ever occurs, students will feel confident they will be listened to. Educate students about gender equality. Be a leader in this area, stop dragging your feet.

One final thing– when you hire a new investigator, have him contact the expelled kids. I was kicked out in 1985 (for smoking a cigarette in the dorm freshman year and drinking sophomore year.) I never heard got the letter you sent to the alumni about these assaults. While I was lucky, my peers may not have been.

 

 

Mills College renowned Book Art program on chopping block, alumni outraged

On 10.20.15, students and alumni of the Mills College Book Art program got word that within 30 days the program might be completely cut. The program has existed for over 35 years, benefiting hundreds of students in the fields of book arts, bookbinding, and printmaking, and letterpress. My mother, Jill Tarlau, is a bookbinder and a graduate of the Book Art program at Mills. She wrote the blog below in response to the threat to end the program. Known for her work with needlepoint, the photos are of books she’s bound. At the end of the post, there’s a link to a petition to save the program. As of this posting, over 2,500 have signed. Please consider adding your name.

In 1983 my teenager daughters advised me to get a life.

It was the first year of the Book Art Masters program at Mills College, where I had been as an undergraduate from 1961-1965. As an English major I had been, of course, into books.

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At that time my focus was on content, but I already cared about design, preferring to read Moby Dick in an attractive, hard cover edition for a little more money rather than struggle through yellow paper, gray type, and a spine that disassembled after the first 100 pages. Almost twenty years later, it was time to discover what contributed to book design.

Mills had unique advantages, already gifted the Florence Walter bindery, already famous examples of beautiful books in the Bender room, already its own type fonts and press. Also the Bay Area had for decades been a center for some of the greatest American fine presses, (The Allen, Tuscany Alley and Arion) several still functioning. Commercial publishers such as North Point employed experts willing to discuss with our class cover design, layout. What a lucky spot for me.

My degree took three years to complete. That final printing project is a story written my youngest daughter, illustrated by my oldest, with notes on the author set in type letter by letter on the back cover by my middle child.

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Out of the many disciplines learned, I chose to pursue bookbinding, moving to Paris to concentrate on my career. I am proud to say that my embroidered bindings are in the collections of many French libraries, including the Bibliotheque Nationale, libraries of several other countries, Morocco, Luxembourg, Belgium, universities in the United States, Princeton, Harvard, and private collections.

The seriousness of the Book Art program at Mills, and the difficulties I had in fulfilling its requirements, got me to take my own possibilities more seriously. All I wanted was to be the best.

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Mills College can’t afford a medical school, or a law school. It can and does have the very best book arts program in the country. Don’t give up that honor!

My fiftieth reunion was in September. I was so proud of my college, but today, with this devastating news, I am so ashamed.

Please sign the petition to save the Mills College Book Art program.

Prep school alumni respond to St. Paul’s rape trial verdict

Today 19 yr old Owen Labrie was found not guilty of raping a 15 year old girl. At the trial, she spent more time on the stand than he did, said he bit her, scraped the inside of her vagina, and that she said no to him several times. The New York Times reports:

“Crying on the stand here, she described the sex acts she said he performed, saying he spit on her, and called her a tease. ‘At one point, I was in so much pain that I jerked backwards.’

Labrie said they never had sex. The jury of 9 men and 3 women convicted him for a lesser charge of aggravated sexual assault.

Labrie and his accuser both went to boarding school at St. Paul’s in Concord, N.H. where he was a soccer captain and straight A student. The night in question was part of “senior salute,” a school tradition “when older students ask younger ones to join them for a walk, a kiss, or more.” Labrie had ” a special key that prosecutors have said had been used and passed around by older boys seeking privacy.” The New York Times reports:

Still, she said she worried about making a bad impression. She was younger. He was older and popular. The senior salute was a St. Paul’s tradition.

“I didn’t want to come off as an inexperienced little girl,” she said. “I didn’t want him to laugh at me. I didn’t want to offend him.”

Afterward, she said, she felt physical pain and utter confusion, and blamed herself for the events; it took several days for her to tell anyone, in full, what happened.

“I feel like I had objected as much as I felt I could at the time. And other than that I felt so powerless,” she said, adding, “I was telling myself, ‘O.K., that was the right thing to do, you were being respectful.’

Though I blog about rape fairly often on Reel Girl, much more often then I’d like, I’ve been following the St. Paul’s story in particular. I also went to prep school at St George’s in Newport, Rhode Island from 1983 – 1985. One of the first big occasions I remember as a freshman was a tradition called Casino Night where all the new girls dressed up as bunnies. We pretended to sell candy and cigarettes. Here’s a picture of a classmate from my 1984 yearbook.

 

Here’s how the senior boys dressed for the same night. Notice anything different about their outfits or poses?

 

The boy on the left was also the senior prefect which is prep school speak for school president. I don’t think there had ever been a female student in this role when I went to the school. When I arrived there, there were 5 senior prefects: 4 males to 1 female, a typical ratio (and another example of the Smurfette Principle or Minority Feisty.)

 

The guy on the upper left is the one referred to in this picture below of my best friend and me captioned “Todd’s toys.”

 

His bequeath in the yearbook is “a 20 year sentence” because that’s what you get for rape.

I wasn’t raped at St. George’s. The bequeath is just a joke, a rape joke. The prefects pictured I remember as being mostly nice guys operating within a sexist culture that glorified treating girls like conquests. I’m posting these pictures, captions, jokes, and quotes from my yearbook to show the school’s systemic sexism in 1983. Most importantly, I don’t recall the rampant gender inequality on campus ever addressed by any teacher, parent, adviser, therapist, or any adult. Being a “bad girl,” I was expelled in 1985 (for drinking and smoking.) I hoped things had gotten better since my time, but the St. Paul’s story convinces me that rape culture remains alive and well at America’s prep schools.

A St. George’s classmate, Clymer Bardsley had a similar experience of total lack of guidance or help from any adults around gender roles and expectations. Today, also enraged after reading the news story, Clymer wrote this email to Michael Hirschfeld, the rector of St Paul’s:

I went to St. George’s School in the 80s and am a heterosexual, success-oriented, competitive guy. I remember being self-conscious about my not getting any action while some of my male friends got tons. I felt less-than, like a loser when it came to girls and sex. That feeling went with me to Middlebury College and remained into adulthood.

Nowhere in my development in the competitive worlds of New York, Newport, or Middlebury did any adult ever reinforce in me that it is alright to go at your own pace, that sex isn’t competition. The cultural norm was that sex was another place to be competitive, where you could be classified as a winner or a loser.

As rector of a now humiliated prep school, I hope you will make it your top priority to make sure that all of your kids and their families know that competition belongs on a playing field and perhaps in the classroom but nowhere near sex and relationships.

It appalls me every time I see a picture of that boy. I think, “How dare he!” And I don’t even know if he did anything wrong. What I do know is that the culture he went to school in enabled him to get into a very dicey place…

Your’s is a tough job and I don’t envy you. Protect our kids, though, the predators and their prey. They need those of us in charge to provide safety for them.

Here’s hoping you have a successful 2015-16 year!

Sincerely,
Clymer

I hope more students and alumni speak out, that these elite schools with access to so much money and power take major steps to radically change their courses, becoming the leaders they should be in stopping sexism, sexual assault, and rape on campus.

‘Inside Out’ and the brilliance of our emotions

Proceed immediately to the theater and go see “Inside Out” even if you have no children. Pixar’s latest may be my favorite animated movie EVER. Powerful female protagonist CHECK. Complex female characters in supporting roles CHECK meaning “Inside Out” does NOT feature Minority Feisty!!!! Spectacular animation and compelling story telling CHECK and CHECK.

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I am not alone in loving “Inside Out.” I don’t think I’ve read a negative review. My daughters and I had fascinating conversations after the movie: My six year old said she was Joy and my eight year old picked Disgust to describe herself. They talked about which emotions their friends are and different members of their family. But then they also had a talk about how they are– and all people are– all of the emotions. Other emotions personified in the movie are Sadness, Anger, and Fear. My kids talked about what emotions they didn’t see in the story– Embarrassment and Meditation which I interpreted as Serenity or Calm. We talked about which emotions branch off of others, and that all emotions need to be valued and felt which happens to be the point of the movie. That conversation began in the  backseat of the car going home and is still going on today.

Riley, the star and the setting for the movie (most of it takes place in her head) is an 11 year ice hockey star from Minnesota who moves to San Francisco. I appreciated the depiction of the city, where I happen to live, as foggy-gloomy and infested with broccoli covered pizza. While I have grown to love my home, I understood Riley’s experience of it as gray and depressing. I totally had those moments as a kid and still do. Riley longs for seasons that included snow. Depicting Riley as an ice hockey fan not only highlighted her aggression, joy, and skill but cleverly showed how alienated she feels in California. There is another (another!) cool female character in the movie, Riley’s BFF from home.

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The two emotions with the biggest parts in the film– Joy and Sadness– are also female. Disgust is female too. Riley’s mom is also an ice hockey fan and player, though they do make the move for the busy dad’s job.

Amy Poehler who plays Joy said she was proud to be in this movie and that it makes the world a better place. I agree.

Reel Girl rates “Inside Out” ***HHH***

Tucker Carlson, Jerry Garcia, and me

After I was on Fox News Saturday morning to discuss Amazon dropping its girl/ boy filters for toys and games many of you asked me about Tucker Carlson’s intro of me as his high school classmate. (I can’t figure out how to embed the video here, so if you’re more tech saavy than me, please post the link.)

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Yes, it’s true! Tucker and I went the same boarding school, though I was expelled sophomore year. Tucker, on the other hand, went on to marry the headmaster’s daughter in the school chapel.

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Here’s a blurry pic from the 80’s at a Grateful Dead show. I’m in the front and Tucker is to the left wearing glasses. Jerry Garcia, young, skinny, and two dimensional, is a cardboard cut out.

I don’t know if Tucker was better behaved than me at St. George’s –I was suspended for smoking a cigarette in the dorm and then kicked out the following year for drinking alcohol— or if he, like a lot of boarding school kids who made it to graduation, was just more skilled at appearing to following all those rules (including, for boys, wearing a tie daily.)

If you watch the  Fox video, you can see I vehemently disagree with Tucker on Amazon’s decision– and most issues along with probably all of the other hosts on Fox News. Still, at least the network had me on to speak. I got a national platform to address about an issue I care about which is more than CNN or MSNBC has offered me recently.

I’ll leave one with one more nugget of prep school trivia. Julie Bowen, then known as Julie Luetkemeyer, the actress from “Modern Family” (and from kidworld “Planes: Fire and Rescue”) was in our class as well. As brilliant and beautiful then as now, she was probably the smartest kid in our class.

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Finally, I didn’t get a chance to mention it in the 3.5 minutes I was on TV, but Amazon didn’t fully drop its filters. Read the details in my update on sexism at Amazon here.

 

 

 

Catholic school parent protests new teachers’ handbook calling masturbation “gravely evil”

This is a guest post from a concerned parent in the Bay Area in response to a chilling policy from the Archbishop of San Francisco.  I appreciate the words written below because they show how torn, conflicted, and frightened people can be about speaking out and making change in a church they love and grew up in. (I chose this picture because at least the guy likes pink.)
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I am writing this statement anonymously.  I am a parent at a Catholic school in San Francisco.  I must remain anonymous so that I do not affect my child adversely for expressing views contrary to those of the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone.

The Archbishop released a new policy statement which will be inserted into the teachers handbooks in the four high schools the Archdiocese controls. He asserts that to affirm or believe in masturbation, artificial insemination, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage and abortion is “gravely evil.”  Not only does he judge these as “gravely evil,” he is forbidding teachers in these four highschools from asserting contrary views and/or participating in communication or activities or organizations that express contrary views. He states that violation of this policy will be determined on a case by case basis.  For example, you can attend a same sex wedding ceremony, but you cannot be on the Board of Planned Parenthood. In other words, whatever action the Archbishop happens to decide does not meet his “standards” gives him the power to terminate the teacher. His policy is chilling of speech, capricious, threatening and wrong.

I attended Catholic grammar school and high school, and University of San Francisco Law School, a Catholic Jesuit University.  I am so grateful for the incredible education I received at these Catholic institutions.  I experienced thought provoking discussions and analysis in high school religion and English classes.  I was taught to think for myself.  Both students and teachers represented and argued for a myriad of viewpoints and ideas.  I was challenged on Sundays, not just to sit through mass with an empty stomach — as we had to fast before Communion in the old days– but to listen to the stories of kindness and love almost beyond human capacity.  The Father who gives a huge celebration for the prodigal son.  The good son who works hard for many years while his brother squanders his money and drinks and plays.  It was the jealous brother, not the frivolous one, who was chastised in the story.  So we are challenged to give love, kindness and forgiveness even when an unfairness gives advantage to another who wants redemption. These kind of stories, of radical forgiveness, acceptance and love, I hold in my heart as the ideals I strive for — to welcome my reckless brother, to celebrate and love my irresponsible child on his/her return to my home, to be the better person.

I feel challenged to embrace this Archbishop even though his careless and callous unkindness espouses universal control over classrooms, teachers and thereby students.  He threatens teachers with dismissal if they dissent from his view of sexual morality and his description of all matter of practices of sexuality as “gravely evil”.  This harsh and narrow-minded judge who maintains unfettered control of the Archdiocese that includes San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, even he who is doing such harsh and harmful work, I must find a way to show love and kindness toward him.  I must try to find compassion.  This is the kind of challenge posed to me as a Catholic, to love someone who is threatening me and those I love and care for, my child, my child’s teachers, his school and the church itself.  I am struggling with this.  That is what Catholicism challenges me to do — to love all, no matter what they do, no matter who they are, prisoner, prostitute, bishop, teacher, homeless, myself, my children, my enemy, each and everyone.  Love and kindness is our code as Catholics.

 

I am struggling with holding love and compassion for this Archbishop.  I find his imposition of his views on sexual morality on the teachers of the Archdiocese unkind, unloving, chilling of speech and intellectual discourse and development.  Putting these particular ideas and the threat of termination of teachers who offer contrary views or publicly support entities that embody contrary views, is threatening to the teachers livelihood, their personhood, their ability to speak and to teach well.  The Archbishop’s representative was on Forum this morning, a nationally broadcast radio program out of San Francisco.  He indicated over and over that the teachers are to hold the Archbishop’s sexual morality belief, allow kids to say what they want, and to persuade the kids, bring them back to the Archbishop’s position.  I am Catholic and this is NOT what I want.  I do not want my kids to be persuaded/indoctrinated in these views.  I do not want anyone to persuade them of their views. I want my kids to develop their own views and to become their own person in the context of a Catholic community that promotes love, kindness, tolerance, compassion.  I want to trust that these tools are enough to guide my child into adulthood and into becoming a good person, maybe even a good Catholic person.  I do not want them to learn to control, dominate, judge, restrain others.

 

Any expression, sexual or otherwise, when done to excess or to hurt yourself or another person is wrong.  Unkindness is wrong.  Hate is wrong.  Violence is wrong.  Hurting another intentionally or with callous disregard is wrong.  There are plenty of things that are wrong.  There are very few acts or people who are “gravely evil”.  And many evil acts are perpetrated by people who appear evil, but in fact are simply gravely ill and need our love, compassion and kindness.  War is wrong.  Killing is wrong.  Terrorizing others is wrong.  Abuse is wrong.  This policy is terrorizing teachers, staff and thereby potentially terrorizing students, parents, others who, for example, use assistance from doctors to get pregnant, or who live in a homosexual relationship, or God forbid, disagree with the Archbishop’s view of sexual morality.

 

Recently, I wrote a letter to the Vatican representative in Washington DC to ask for help to return civility, love and kindness to our Archdiocese.  I hope that Archbishop Vigano will pass along our concerns to Pope Francis who represents fully the Catholic ideals of love and kindness I learned, experienced and strive to embody in my own life.

 

An anonymous, terrified, saddened parent of a student in a Catholic high school.

 

The following is the letter I wrote to Archbishop Vigano, the Vatican’s representative in Washington D.C.:

 

 

Your Excellency Vigano,

 

With all due respect, I submit a letter I received from my son’s high school.  It is a very nice letter and includes all the wonderful and amazing principles supported by Pope Francis — love, inclusion, respect, et cetera.  I am so grateful for the kindness of the staff at (my child’s school).

 

I am concerned about the letter from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone that is on (the Archdiocese of San Francisco) website, and is linked in the body of this letter.  The letter threatens to chill dialogue in school and beyond, and threatens the secure employment of teachers and staff.  The tone is very upsetting to me as a person and a lifelong Catholic. Further, the text of the policy was not included with the letter, making the insinuations in the letter that much more frightening and unnerving.  The words in the policy were reported in the newspaper, and were also extremely upsetting.

 

The action taken with publishing this letter and the policy statement does not reflect the love and kindness that Pope Francis has so consistently shown through his words and actions.  Please help to restore to our Archdiocese, the love, kindness, respect and all the virtues that Pope Francis has so eloquently demonstrated in his work as the head of our church.

 

Thank you and God bless you.

 

 

 

Scholastic video features Taylor Swift on reading, writing, and feminism

My kids and I just watched a very cool 30 minute Scholastic video where Taylor Swift talks with students about reading, writing, and feminism. We found the video because my 11 year old entered an essay contest where she wrote one page about the meaning of Swift’s “Shake it Off” which to her (and probably most people) is a song about how to overcome bullying.

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A die hard Swift fan, here’s my daughter holding her finally finished (almost finished?) essay and her beloved guitar. I am very psyched Taylor inspired her to think about her experiences with bullying and to write about her feelings.

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Obsessed with Taylor since 2012 (and always told she looks like her) here she is dressed as her idol on Halloween that year.

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I was so happy she picked Taylor instead of a sparkly poofy princess, or witch or vampire with a costume that looks just like a princess. (Her younger sister in the background is Batgirl. Unfortunately, she has since realized Batgirl hardly exists in the world and has now lost interest in that character. Sad!)

I can’t believe we hadn’t seen this Scholastic/ Swift video! It’s so good. You must watch it with your kids. Swift is sitting around with a bunch of students and more students are Skyped in. What I loved is that first and foremost, Swift defines herself as a writer. I really appreciated my kids hearing Taylor say this because they think of her as a pop star. Taylor says that she would never want to get on stage and just sing someone else’s songs. She recommends journaling. After introducing the kids, Taylor opens the video with this statement:

I’m really excited to talk to you about reading and writing because I wouldn’t be a songwriter if it wasn’t for books that I loved as a kid and I think that when you can escape into a book it trains your imagination to think big and to think that more can exist than what you see. I think that’s been the basis of why I wanted to write songs and why writing became my career.

What’s the first question, from a 11 year old boy?

I saw that you liked the Emma Watson video about feminism, and I wanted to know what female characters influenced you in literature?

Can you see why love this video? Watch it now with you kids and find out what Taylor says! Here’s the link.

Previous Reel Girl blogs on Taylor Swift:

Taylor Swift spoofs psycho ex-girlfriend trope in ‘Blank Space’ video

Mini Taylor Swift gets her hands on ‘1989’ as it hits stores

If Taylor Swift is boy-crazy, is Dylan’s ‘Idiot Wind’ confessional?

I admit it, I loveTaylor Swift’s ‘Red’

Taylor Swift sings her way from victim to hero, triumphs at Grammys

More on Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift