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Dear Scared Parents

Dear Scared Parents…We Americans are worried about the bullying of our children.

By Anastasia Hacopian | Originally Published at Medium. Culture Club. | Photographic Credit; From the book King and King by Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland May 22, 2015

Dear scared parents of Mr. Currie’s students, whom he told a gay love story,

We Americans are worried about the bullying of our children. Social media feeds are full of stories of young people who have taken their own lives following on and offline harassment. Even Monica Lewinsky addressed the urgency of this problem in a recent TEDx talk about our American “culture of humiliation…a marketplace where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry.”

King and King by Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland
This week, the world read about a young American boy bullied at your kids’ elementary school in North Carolina. The third-grader was ridiculed by peers as “gay,” “woman,” and “girl” because he looked effeminate. The students’ teacher, Omar Currie, intervened, but the bullying continued. Instead of using punishment to reprimand the bullying kids, Mr. Currie read his class a book.

The book, “King and King,” is a children’s story about a queen who wants her son to get married. In search of the right royal partner, the prince does not fall for a princess, but a prince. As in most fairy tales, the love story in King and King ends well — with a royal wedding. The book has been published in nine languages and is performed on stage for schools in the authors’ native country, the Netherlands.

By reading his students a children’s book with gay characters, Mr. Currie did a quiet, revolutionary thing. He created a safe space for the bullies, the boy, and the class to talk about the bullying. Using a book, he took the focus away from the humiliation while providing a platform for his students to experience empathy.

Parents at Efland-Cheeks Elementary School, you were upset with Mr. Currie’s approach. One grandmother apparently accused the teacher of “infiltrating young minds, indoctrinating children into a gay agenda and actively promoting homosexuality to steer our children in that direction.”

In your anger, you do not appear to be focused on the original problem, namely, the bullying of a little boy. Instead, you are up in arms about a book. In fact, you are so upset about it that you have taken to bullying the teacher.

While the Media Review Committee at Efland-Cheeks Elementary has ultimately decided not to ban the book altogether, as published in an open letter on the school website, you will now be notified of all future books to be read in the classroom. So if you do not like a book on the list, I gather it can still be banned anyway.

I understand your concern. Books are powerful mediums, especially the books teachers read to their students. Children’s books leave a lifelong impact on a young, open, and impressionable mind.

My third grade teacher, Miss Olsen, changed my life when she read me The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. She opened the wardrobe door to another world I still visit now with my own children thirty years later. A few months ago, I found her on Facebook so I could say thank you — for reading our class that book.

So yes, dear grown-ups at Efland-Cheeks Elementary School: you are right to recognize the influence of the book, King and King, which Mr. Currie shared with your children. That reading may change their lives, forever:

It may help your children to someday remember a discussion in third grade when Mr. Currie said, “It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you feel something new, but what is the moral? The moral is to treat people well, no matter who they are.”

It may help your children to be kinder to people who are different from them, or to stand up for those who are feeling marginalized and bullied.

It may help your children to feel safer.

If your daughter or son is gay like the princes in the story, they were gay before Mr. Currie read them the book. When he did that, he opened a door to a world where your children could feel normal, loved, and accepted: his classroom.

Sincerely,

Anastasia Hacopian

another concerned parent

Anastasia Hacopian is an expat in the Netherlands, cosmopolite, columnist and parent http://anastasiahacopian.com/ & in Dutch at http://anastasiainholland.com/ | Follow her at @ahacopian

This piece was reprinted by EmpathyEducates with permission or license. We thank Anastasia Hacopian for her kindness, for a wondrous trip down memory lane, and for inviting a much needed conversation. What is it that we want for our children? Do we want our young to feel normal, loved, and accepted in their classrooms? We also wish to express our appreciation for Medium‘s, Culture Club and Curator, Felicia Megan Gordon.

2016-11-29T17:37:13+00:00

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