Texas: Where Any Gay Is Too Gay
Texas school principal shuts down entire cosmetology course to keep a gay man from taking it. Yep, everything is bigger in Texas. Even the bigotry. —-
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In case you live under a rock, or just someplace more enlightened than the backwoods armpit of America I call home, you might not be aware of what I’m going to talk about today. That’s ok, though. I can bring you up to speed. But be aware that, while I’ve written this in my standard irreverent tone, it’s a very serious issue. Please lend your support accordingly.
Basically, it’s like this. The local school district here in Beaumont, TX used to offer a night course in cosmetology at the Taylor Career Center. But this year, a guy that the principal of the campus thought looked a little gay tried to enroll. I’m not sure what looked gay about him, but I’m assuming he had on a unicorn sweater-vest with rainbow earrings and a giant button on his crotch that said, “I LOVE PENIS. ASK ME HOW!”
But anyway, according to the class instructor, the principal immediately told her to not allow the student to take the course, on account of his perceived gayness. To her credit, the instructor refused and the principal was forced to meet with BISD’s legal counsel, during which he learned that he couldn’t discriminate against the student by refusing to allow him to take the class. So instead, he reacted in the most sensible way any reasonable bigot in his situation would: HE SHUT IT DOWN. The entire night course. Gone.
Naturally, this didn’t take long to hit the Internet, where it quickly shot to national attention. Strangely enough, people seem to have a problem with shutting down an entire course just because a gay guy wanted to take it. Especially when it was a course in hair styling. I don’t want to get all stereotypical on you here, but come on. If the principal doesn’t think at least a few gay dudes have slipped under his radar to learn how to cut hair over the years, he’s slower on the uptake than that guy on the Titanic who stayed in bed because he was pretty sure all the water coming into his stateroom was from the toilet he’d backed up after devouring forty tons of shellfish on the rich-bastards-only buffet.
So yeah, the rest of the world got in on the outrage, a Facebook group got started, protests were organized and eventually the wrath of Reddit descended upon the Beaumont Independent School District Of Intolerant Cruelty until they finally relented and decided that it might be a good idea to go ahead and offer the course, after all. Gee, ya think?!
We’re exhausted from beating off reporters all day about this gay thing we’re getting rammed with, but we’ll suck it up. Like professionals.
— BISD Parody (@notBeaumontISD) September 15, 2012
Originally citing “budget restraints” as their reason for shuttering the course, the district has suddenly found a way to keep it open…by funding it in the exact same way it was funded before: through student tuition. Of course, it’s important to note that they chose the term budget restraints rather than the more expected budget constraints. Granted, BISD’s communication department is no stranger to being a stranger to the dictionary, so it’s entirely possible that they just used the wrong word because it sounded close enough and they just didn’t know any better. Then again, budget constraints would imply that a limited availability of funds caused them to shut down the course, which would be odd because they’re always talking about how much money they have. Budget restraints, however, would tend to suggest that, while the money was there, they decided to restrain themselves on how they wanted to spend it. Or, more specifically, how they didn’t want to spend it teaching gay dudes how to make people look FAAABULOUS!
Either way, they’ve decided to go ahead and offer the course. After issuing a statement explaining how the principal has been properly disciplined and will be removed from his position, along with offering a lengthy apology to the LGBT community and the city as a whole, the BISD communication department then slapped me with a trout and told me I’d never amount to anything until I stopped letting Kevin Bacon dance with Jon Lithgow’s daughter…
Later, after I woke up from my nap, I realized I was dreaming. BISD doesn’t apologize, dammit. Apologies and responsible actions are for the weak! Or something.
Anyway, they did release a statement explaining themselves by not explaining anything at all. First, they said there wasn’t enough student interest in the course to continue offering it. Then, they said that there was so much interest, they just had to offer it. And then they said the media lied about everything, presumably because of reasons.
There was a protest at the BISD Administration building today that had a fairly good turn out, and there will be another one at this week’s school board meeting. I doubt anything will come out of it, though. This is the same district that re-hired its electrical contractor after he admitted defrauding the district, despite enormous public outcry to, you know, not keep paying money to a criminal. It’s the same district that purchased countless copies of a horrible book self-published by its own spokesperson to distribute to graduating seniors. It’s the same district that had one of the highest paid superintendents in the nation, with a history of corruption, unaccountability and disdain for the public interest that always seems to skirt its way around ever actually getting in trouble for anything. Of course they’re not going to do anything about this principal’s bigotry, except maybe promote him to the executive cabinet. That’s what they do.
Still, it’s nice to see regular folks taking some sort of political action, even if it’s less David and Goliath and more David and Goliath’s Unholy Bazooka Of Pitiless Smiting. Then again, BISD has pretty much just spat in the face of the Golden Rule Of Our Time, which is simply: Don’t piss off the Internet.
By making the front page of Reddit, BISD might just be forced into action after the angry, unwashed horde of net savvy redditors storm their little castle and start making demands. And I hope that’s what happens. What the principal did is inexcusable – and therefore, no excuses should be made for it. He should be terminated, the district should issue an apology to the community, and the teacher – who was let go, by the way – should be given her job back. With a raise. And the ‘gay’ student should get to take the class for free, after BISD’s new Superintendent buys him the fanciest set of scissors, clippers and combs available to today’s discerning cosmetological professional.
Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?
BISD Program Ended Due To Homophobia
UPDATE #1: As you’ll see in the archive of the live blog below, the BISD school board made it clear that they have no intention of investigating this matter beyond any cursory, done-in-a-few-hours investigation they claim to have already done. They also made it clear that they most likely won’t be releasing any documentation to support their stated reasons for closing down, then re-opening the cosmetology program. It’s just more cover-up and doublespeak for a school district well-versed in the machinations of deceit.
UPDATE #2: The Beaumont Independent School District has begun mailing out their Fall 2012 class list for Adult and Community Education, which is where the administration has decided to “continue” the adult cosmetology program. So, let’s take a gander at a few of the courses they’re offering:
- iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch classes
- Introduction to Computers
Fee: $130.00 (includes text)
- Zumba Fitness
- Power YOGA
- Concealed Handgun License
Fee: Not specified
- Self Awareness Class
So yeah, that’s a nice course listing. There are other courses like beginning piano lessons and grant-writing, but it’s important to know that you can get your Zumba on after some Power YOGA, before you learn how to use your iPhone and become Self-Aware that you’re carrying a Concealed Handgun. And they’re all reasonably priced, too. Good for you, BISD! Way to show the residents of Beaumont that you care.
Except, well…there’s this entry:
- Adult Cosmetology Course
(1500 hours is necessary for certification)
Cost of course: $3,000.00
$100.00 Lab Fee (non-refundable)
$25.00 State Fee
$175.00 Lab Kit
$200.00 Book Fee
Time: Monday – Thursday, 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Yikes! Something strange happened there, but in case you missed it, the cost of this one course (as compared to the others) shot up by just shy of OHMYGODITSFULLOFDOLLARS! Granted, $3,500.00 is still a pretty good deal for an entire course in cosmetology, assuming it’s a full course that will end in certification, like the one Lamar offers for around $6,000.
Oh, and a minimum of ten students must sign up for the course, which is probably what BISD is hoping won’t happen.
Shortly after writing this update, it was brought to my attention that the course used to cost $75 tuition per week, along with $100 non-refundable deposit, a $175 lab kit and $25 registration fee. The current course allows the $3,000 tuition to be paid in bi-weekly installments of $125, which would actually make the course cheaper at $62.50 per week, not counting the extra $200.00 book fee.
So, it turns out that BISD is actually offering a pretty good deal here – one that, apart from the new book fee, is actually cheaper for students than it was previously. You know, when they cancelled it due to “budget restraints”. I guess charging less for something now makes sense after cancelling it for not bringing in enough money then. Or something. This is BISD. Logic need not apply.
It’ll be interesting to see if the documentation ever turns up that supports their stated financial reasons for shuttering the course, considering that the supposed documentation can in no way make any sense at all. Something costs too much? Cancel it! Then bring it back! But this time charge less!
Then again, we’re talking government math here. In that context, their figures actually make a sort of sense. In a weird, totally doesn’t make any sense at all sense, but it’s a still sort of sense, nonetheless. And that’s something. I guess.
If you’d like more information about the Adult Cosmetology Course, contact Ms. Sheryl George at (409)617-5740 ext. 3819. Just make sure you call before 4:00 p.m., because we’re dealing with government hours here. Working until 5:00 is just so private sector.
UPDATE #3: I’ve been told that the tuition for the course has not changed. It always worked out to $3,000, which is what BISD is now charging for the course. The $200 book fee is new, but everything else remains unchanged. Well, everything except for one teensey-weensey detail the district would rather us not talk about…
And that’s the specialty courses. Previously, the Adult Cosmetology Program offered the following specialty courses, which amounted to roughly 50% of student enrollment:
- Manicuring (600 Hours)
- Hair weaving (300 Hours)
- Braiding (2 Weeks)
- Instructor course (250 Hours)
- Refresher course (2 Days/Week)
It seems strange that the district cites “budget restraints” as the original reason for shuttering the course while, at the same time, reinstating the course without these money-making specialty courses that, I’ve been told, accounted for roughly half the student enrollment in the Cosmetology program. If money was the issue, why cut out 50% of your student enrollment along with 50% of the income generated by the program? It’s all beginning to make the sort of sense that doesn’t.
Unless, of course, they’re lying. Unless they want student enrollment to drop below the new 10 student minimum so they can go ahead and shut down the course anyway. Unless everything they’ve said up to this point has been a total fabrication designed to lead to the inescapable result of BISD just doing whatever it wants to whomever it wants, regardless of how anyone feels about it. Especially if they’re gay.
UPDATE #4: I’ve learned that, at the time Thomas Amons shut down the adult Cosmetology program at Taylor Career Center, the course had the new minimum number of ten students either already enrolled and attending, or ready to enroll. So, let’s add all this up. The cost of the program hasn’t changed. The number of students hasn’t changed. The BISD budget hasn’t changed. State cuts that might have affected the budget haven’t changed. In fact, nothing has changed except for a gay guy trying to enroll, and, well…you can take it from there.
Don’t believe me? Didn’t Dr. Chargois talk about how the state cuts in funding might have been to blame for the “budget restraints” the district has cited as the reason the course was cancelled? So I must be making this up, right? I mean, I’m one of those mean-spirited bloggers that’s worse than the media, who “isn’t always your friend,” according to BISD Board President Woodrow Reece.
So yeah, I’ll just let ol’ Woodrow tell it like it is:
“Well, so far, from the last cut, we did not lay anyone off. A lot of the school districts laid folks off. They had to cut here and cut there. We didn’t have to cut here and cut there. We’re fortunate that we’re financially safe. We’ve taken care of business. We’ve done projects, but we still have money for education.”
Granted, he’s talking about the high school program there, but he specifically mentions the night courses, which is when the adult classes were held. So maybe Jessie Haynes was blinded by the golden splendor of her magnificent banana suit during that interview and just doesn’t remember it. I guess, when you really stop to think about it, the whole program could easily have escaped the notice of the BISD administration for years. After all, it’s not like the Beaumont Enterprise ever ran a front-page story about Cequena Clark and the Cosmetology program back on November 15, 2011 or anything.
Wait. You mean they did? Ok, but lots of people don’t read the paper, I guess. Too many words and all that thinkin’ too early in the morning is probably the last thing the royal court of BISD wants to do before stumbling into the office. So I bet they never even saw the story. It’s not like it was posted online or anything, was it?
It was. Well, crap. Let me think for a minute. Hrmmm…well, we did just get a fabulous technology display at the last board meeting, so I guess it’s possible that the presentation was to let the upper echelons of BISD know that the Internet comes on computers now. Or something.
Oh, fine. Have it your way. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re probably right. Of course BISD knew about the program. However you slice it, its existence was more obvious to the BISD administration than a Taco Bell fart in a compact car, and there’s really no way they can continue to claim otherwise. Except that they will.
I’m in the process of getting some documents up for you guys to check out that will shed further light on all this nonsense, but mull this over until then. The fact is, BISD knew about this program, supported it, promoted it and condoned its existence for years. The fact is, there were no financial reasons for closing the adult cosmetology program, as it was self-funded in the exact same way, for the exact same price as it is under their new version of the program.
Of course, now BISD has to pay to get a new license and go through a chain of command to get the program going again after moving it to Adult Education, but I’ll have more on that later. For now, let’s just sit back and enjoy Dr. Chargois talking about how bad GED students smell. Because that’s always fun.
That’s the smell of learning, Tim.
UPDATE #5: I have a couple of quick scans of a document to show you. These are from last year’s Adult Cosmetology program. The first one shows that the program was always self-funded by students, and that the cost of the program has not changed in any significant way under BISD’s new version.
The next scan shows the specialty courses BISD has quietly omitted from the new version of the program. Remember, these specialty courses accounted for roughly half of the students enrolled in the program, and they weren’t exactly cheap. Now, losing these specialty programs and the income they generated might not seem like the smartest idea for a district claiming that “financial restraints” caused them to close the program down in the first place, but it does…if they have no real intention of starting the program back up, anyway.
You see, in order to even offer the course, BISD has to do a few things first. Keep in mind, I’m not exactly a cosmetology licensing expert or anything, but I’ve been contacted by someone a little more well-versed in it than me, and they had a couple of questions. First, they’re not even sure opening a new school operating in the same space would even be legal. When the course was entirely handled by the Taylor Career Center, that didn’t matter. One school, one license. But now that the adult course has been entirely separated from the Career Center (although it will still be taught there, in the same location) and brought under the Adult Education program’s umbrella, BISD probably can’t use Taylor Career Center’s license to teach the adult course. And, even if they did get a new license, it might not even be legal to operate two separate schools with two separate instructors in the same location, with students from one mingling with the other.
Of course, to even get a new license, BISD is going to have to submit a financial plan, write and submit curriculum, then pay a $200 inspection fee and a $500 application fee to the Texas Department Of Licensing And Regulation – and, from what I’ve been told, none of this has been done yet. Which is understandable, I guess. After all, why should the district go through all that effort when it’s already doing its best to make sure that they won’t even have to offer the course, anyway?
So let’s recap. BISD claims it shut down the program to save money. Then, it opens the program back up under a different department, creating a potential licensing conflict with the state in the process, followed by the increased cost of having to get new licensing, inspections, curriculum, etc…
Saving money by spending money? That’s BISD math right there. I wonder if they test for voodoo arithmetic on the STAAR™?
Please check the How You Can Help section below for information regarding who you should contact to lodge complaints. For license-related inquires specifically, check out the contact info for the Texas Workforce Commission and the US Department of Justice.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
The best hope we have of getting some semblance of justice or transparency out of this district is you. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, please share this story with your friends, share the links to the news articles I’ve placed within this post and, most importantly, let the Beaumont Independent School District hear from you. The more their inboxes and voicemails and pony express satchels fill up with the complaints of concerned people from all over the world, the more likely it is that they’ll be forced to take some sort of action to respect the wishes of the people they claim to represent. But we can’t do it without you. We need your help, Internet.
Sign the petition, then email the BISD Administrators and let them know how you feel. Of course, this is easier said than done, since they like to keep their addresses secret and hidden away from public scrutiny. So naturally, this means I have them.
I’ve added links that point directly to the inbox of each relevant administrator below. Because I love you.
Also, be sure to check out the link to the Texas Education Agency to find out how to report this incident higher up the chain of command.
Make a difference.
BISD Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Timothy Chargois (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Special Assistant To The Superintendent
Jessie Haynes (email@example.com)
Taylor Career Center Principal
Thomas Amons (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Adult and Continuing Education Programs Director
Richard Cantu (email@example.com)
Ron Reynolds (firstname.lastname@example.org)
BISD School Board
Texas Education Agency
TEA review process for school discrimination complaints
Texas Workforce Commission
The Texas Education Agency out sources the licensing and regulation of private career schools and colleges to the TWC’s Career Schools and Colleges program
The United States Department of Justice
DOJ Educational Discrimination line
1-877-292-3804 or 1-202-514-4092.