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Thread: Collateral damage: A young casualty of Prop 8

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    Default Collateral damage: A young casualty of Prop 8

    The Mommy Files : Collateral damage: A young casualty of Prop 8


    Robin McGehee was a dedicated parent at St. Helen's Catholic School in Fresno, Calif. Even before the Mississippi transplant enrolled her son, Sebastian, in the pre-K program last year, she volunteered at the school because it was right in her neighborhood. She helped St. Helen's secure their first email address and Web site and worked with students on public speaking since she teaches communications at the local College of the Sequoias.
    Sebastian McGehee-Adams.

    When McGehee enrolled her son, she, of course, became even more dedicated and generous. She helped with lunch duty, in the classroom, at holiday-themed parties. For the school's annual dinner-auction fund-raiser, she purchased two tables ($250 each) for her guests and bought several items at the live and silent auctions. And she helped Sebastian win first place in the walk-a-thon. He raised $1,100, while the second-place student brought in $400.
    "She was a highly involved parent who not only donated her own time, but money as well," says Tiffany Rodriguez, whose four children attended school with Sebastian.
    When the president of the school's Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO), Letty Baldwin, decided to return to work and give up her post, she asked McGehee to become the new president. The principal, Dr. Toni Amodio, phoned McGehee and encouraged her to accept--and McGehee did in May 2008.
    But McGehee didn't last in the position long because on November 7 the school requested that McGehee resign.
    Sebastian with his family, from left to right, AJ, Kathy, Sebastian, Robin, Jackson, and Aaron.

    Why?
    McGehee was involved in the "No on Proposition 8" campaign. Yes, McGehee is an LGBT parent. Soon after the California Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal, on June 17, 2008, she married her longtime partner Kathy Adams. Together, they have two children 5-year-old Sebastian and 2-year-old Jackson. Also, two fathers, William "Aj" Kruth and Aaron Olson, are a part of the family.
    McGehee is the Central Valley program coordinator for the Gay-Straight Alliance Network and she attended many "No on Proposition 8" rallies in Fresno. She was interviewed on television a few times, and she invited the Rev. Geoffrey Farrow to speak at an anti-Proposition 8 rally before the November 4 election. Farrow was relieved of his duties at a northeast Fresno Parish after he told worshippers that he opposed Proposition 8.
    Was the school aware of McGehee's sexuality before her public involvement with the Prop 8 campaign?
    Sebastian on his first day of kindergarten.

    Yes, McGehee says before she and Adams even decided to enroll Sebastian at St. Helen's they arranged a sit-down meeting with Amodio.
    "We were very upfront and never hid the fact that we were a two-dad, two-mom family," McGehee says. "We explained that we're a nontraditional family and we wanted to make sure the school was comfortable with that and that they would support us being involved with the school."
    McGehee was open about her sexuality at school but she never advertised it. She wasn't wearing "No on Prop 8" buttons around school. Even before the election, she was active in the Fresno Gay-Straight Alliance Network and no one at the school ever objected.
    The school told McGehee that they wanted her to resign because she spoke at a candlelight vigil (video of event below) for the "No on Prop 8" efforts that had been defeated. Father Salvador Gonzalez, Jr., told her that because of her visibility at the vigil, which was seen in direct opposition to the Catholic church's position on Prop 8, she was being forced to resign. McGehee was not allowed to attend the PTO meeting planned for the following night and the school decided to close the meeting to all parents, allowing no questions about what was happening or why. Only three representatives of the PTO were present and they were only told that McGehee was no longer president and that they would be holding nominations and elections for PTO positions. PTO vice president Tiffany Rodriguez was one of those in attendance, and she stepped down from her post because the school asked McGehee to resign.

    "I was shocked," says McGehee, who is a person of faith and is a member of a Methodist church in Fresno. "Our family absolutely loved the school and our son was happy there. St. Helen's is a phenomenal school and we really liked the fact that the school calls itself 'The School of Love,' and all along it had seemed like a loving, caring, accepting place."
    McGehee says that the principal asked her to keep Sebastian at the school but she and Kathy decided to pull him out. "I could not be the type of parent to drop my kid off and not be involved with his school and I could not believe that the school would be satisfied with that type of parenting," McGehee says.
    Many parents at St. Helen's disagree with how the school and diocese handled the situation.
    "Robin is a peacemaker and she would never want conflict to fall upon the school," says Rodriguez. "If the parish priest had spoken with her and provided a rational/logical argument, maybe the two could've come to some alternative agreement."
    "This situation reflects poorly on our school and the families who attend," says Felicia Camarillo whose son was in Sebastian's class. "I realize that there are families there who feel differently but I think it could have been handled better if only someone had tried to talk to Robin about whatever concerns they had."
    Principal Amodio declined to comment for the article and directed calls to Deacon Jesse Avila, a spokesperson for the Fresno diocese. When asked if the situation could have been handled better, Avila responded "I don't want to answer that because I think it involves a level of second guessing and that's not fair to any of the parties involved."
    But Avila did say, "All Catholic schools have policies and all parents are shown rules and regulations that parents are expected to abide by. Robin probably received a handbook from the school that outlined the church's beliefs. And when she signed a contract to enroll her son in the school she would have agreed to not do anything to impede the teachings of the Catholic church."
    Kathy Adams and Jackson.

    McGehee says that she and Adams scrutinized the school's policies before sending their son there. "I read very carefully every piece of information and contract that came from the school and we also operated openly as gay parents even before enrolling Sebastian," McGehee says. "Our son would have never been enrolled there had we been informed anything differently than their handbook states: the school serves to 'be a witness to the love of Christ for all. The mission of St. Helen's School is to provide a teaching and learning environment in which the dignity of all is respected.' The school would not be able to find one document that we signed that clearly stated that we were not accepted or allowed to be involved as parents."
    Many parents at St. Helen's are dismayed by the departure of Sebastian and his family.
    "I have 4 kids ages 14, 13, 10, and 8 and, yes, they will miss Sebastian at school," Rodriguez says. "He has such a big personality and could interact with all of my kids. In fact, not a day goes by at school in which Sebastian is not the topic of discussion among the children...or so I hear from my kids. Any time a child has to change schools midyear, there will be turmoil."
    "I will definitely miss Robin's positive attitude and enthusiasm," Camarillo says. "I believe our school could have benefited from the passion and dedication she has shown in standing up for what she believes is fair. And I know my son will miss Sebastian at school. He told me about the day Sebastian left and said he almost cried. I heard from a few other parents who said their children either cried or seemed really sad about Sebastian leaving. I think Sebastian is too young to truly understand but someday he will be proud of his mom."
    So McGehee and her wife are on the hunt for a new school for Sebastian, not an easy task midyear. She says it has been really hard on Sebastian, who loved his school, his friends, his teachers. "One day he said to me, 'I don't care if you're president Mommy,' I just want to be back at school," McGehee says. "I accepted the role as president for him and to help his school. The question that haunts me now is, had I not accepted this position would I have been left alone? Either way, he's the human casualty in all of this."

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    Elite Member L1049's Avatar
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    The kid looks like the kid that played 'Dennis the Menace.'

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    He is adorable and what has happened here is very,very wrong. This flies in the face of Christianity and make a mockery of the Lord's words.
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    Gold Member emkat's Avatar
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    They named their daughter Jackson?

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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    I feel for the little boy. He has to leave a place he obviously enjoyed and go into the unknown. He didn't do anything, but stands to suffer horribly.

    As for the school, they are more tolerant than some I am familiar with. The mother's attendance of a Methodist church would have been enough to disqualify her child from attending some Catholic schools.

    "All Catholic schools have policies and all parents are shown rules and regulations that parents are expected to abide by. Robin probably received a handbook from the school that outlined the church's beliefs. And when she signed a contract to enroll her son in the school she would have agreed to not do anything to impede the teachings of the Catholic church."
    Who didn't know this? While I applaud his mother for living openly, she can't be surprised by what happened.



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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    *does away with the catholic church*

    There we go. My word, how much nicer the world seems!
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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    The Catholics, and other religions, could say the world would be better without homosexuals. Either way, the statement is offensive. Eradication based on disagreement? Holocaust anyone?

    If Catholics are so bad, why would a gay woman put her son in a Catholic school. That is completely moronic on her part.



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    Elite Member Shinola's Avatar
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    Oh, Catholicism is probably best described as a mixed bag.

    There can be no doubt that the Catholic Church has been an agent of oppression time and time again. My Protestant ancestors were driven out of their native land by the Catholic Church. Yet I went to a Catholic school for several years, and it was a wonderful institution. But several of the men of the cloth who worked on that campus were clearly closeted gays, and one of them was widely rumored to be hitting on some of the male students, one of whom was someone I knew and who complained about it but whose complaint went nowhere. If these men were happy with their lives, so be it. They were doing good work. But I hate to think that someone has to go into the closet. And how can the Church be anti-gay when it has so many gays among its top adherents?

    I don't imagine Grimm is trying to say that all Catholics should be eradicated. He says the Church--meaning the central edict-delivering, anti-woman, anti-gay Vatican powerhouse.

    As I've told my husband, whose family are traditionally Catholic, I will never, never, never convert to Catholicism, because of the Pope. I would never accept Papal authority. And since DH is very familiar with some of the Church's devastating political effects, such as on women in third-world countries--and sees firsthand that many of his family members must ignore the Church's requirements in order to lead decent lives--he does understand what I am getting at.

    As for the school and the kid and his family, yes, it sucks. In my experience, many Catholic schools downplay their "Catholicness" in order to attract students. Obviously this school wasn't going to advertise itself as a non-inclusive place. It looks like the family honestly tried to anticipate problems. Perhaps they were somewhat naive, but the article doesn't say that they never expected any problems. Rather, it looks like as a nontraditional family they did expect to encounter difficulties with being accepted. If I were in their shoes I personally wouldn't choose to send my child to a Catholic school, thinking of the policies of intolerance that might overlay the school, however hospitable it might seem. But that's just me, and if this seemed like the best school for their child, I guess I can understand why they would select it. Schools are supposed to be about the kids, after all.

    It is awful that this kid has been ripped from a secure environment. Normally, when a parent has a disagreement with a school's administration but the kid is doing well, it is best for the parent to keep the child there. But how could the family keep him enrolled in this case? I can't imagine, and I have no doubt that the people responsible for penalizing the boy's mom knew she would no longer feel comfortable keeping him in the school but didn't give enough of a shit about the boy's well-being to find a different way of handling things.
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    No dear. I did away with the institution.

    Also, since gays don't generally help spread institutionalized bigotry, hatred, and haven't tortured anybody or burnt them at the stake (unless it was an S&M) party, I'm pretty sure we're safe from anybody pointing a finger at us as saying "but they do it too!"
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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    First, I am not a fan of the Catholic church. I am not going to give specific reasons, but I noticed as a young teen the church was hypocritical, duplicitous, and completely untrustworthy in the upper tiers of the hierarchy.

    The Catholic Church's oppressive history is well-known. As much as I despise that entity's transgressions, none of those have anything to do with this.

    McGehee can't complain about what happened. If she was naive, or ignorant, enough to believe she would not be removed from her position after actively speaking out against the beliefs of the religion her son's school is affiliated with, the situation is her fault and hers alone. While parents, students, and faculty overlooked her support of Proposition 8, common sense should have kicked in and told her the powers that be definitely would not ignore her actions and would remove her, which they did.

    The schools will be "tolerant" in some areas and cases strictly for the higher revenue potential. That doesn't mean the church will hesitate to push someone out as soon as an opportunity presents itself, as they did here, if that person lives a "sinful lifestyle".

    I refused to go to a parochial school strictly because of the church's oppressive, and archaic, beliefs. Many of my peers refused to attend those schools as well. As parents now, we would never subject our children to what we consider brainwashing and being frightened into compliance.



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    Elite Member Shinola's Avatar
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    ^^ I agree with some of what you say, Revelling. But it looks like lots of parents at the school are unhappy with what happened to this family, and it doesn't really seem like the woman herself is complaining all that much.

    Mainly, I think this story is just sad.

    At least some Catholic schools today are not oppressive environments. The one I went to was really cool--the students were treated with great respect (more than I have been accorded in any other school environment in my life) and were not expected to be Catholic or become Catholic. And no one ever signed anything saying that we were expected to adhere to the teachings and tenets of Catholicism. I would love for my child to go to a school like that one.
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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    ^^You are lucky to have found that type of school. None, public or parochial, in this area have ever been that way. Then again, I realized a long time ago this area of the country is probably beyond redemption.

    When the parochial offer was made, the schools available here made it clear I would have to become a practicing Catholic and go through all the lame rituals. Considering some of my beliefs and practices were not welcome, I walked away.

    Now, in addition to Catholic schools, there are some seriously ultra-right wing fundie schools in the area. Those are truly frightening.

    The situation is sad. This woman should have known not to form any connection with the Catholic Church. She isn't the only one who will have the scar between the shoulder blades.



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    Elite Member Shinola's Avatar
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    Ugh, Revelling. That sounds awful.

    I found a lot of interesting comments on this issue here, on the SF Gate site this story originally came from:

    The Mommy Files : Collateral damage: Young casualty of Prop 8

    The one that shed the most light for me, in terms of why the parents chose this school was this one:

    I will try answer why someone who is a gay parent would send their child to a catholic church. I grew up in Fresno. In fact my family has lived there for five generations. As far as I know there are only two choices as to where to send your child to school. The public school system or one of the many private catholic or christian schools. I do not know of any private schools that are not associated with a religion. Furthermore where St. Helen's is located the public school system is more than horrible. So before you start casting stones at a parent who is trying to do their best for their child please consider the whole situation.
    I looked up elementary private schools in Fresno and it appears that this is true. Nearly all the private schools look to be tied to some kind of religion.
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    Elite Member RevellingInSane's Avatar
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    Shinola, excellent link and thanks for sharing it.

    I understand her frustration in trying to find an adequate school for her child. If there are any which are non-denominational, she should seek those. There is probably a better chance those schools will allow her and her child the full access and inclusion.



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    Quote Originally Posted by RevellingInSane View Post
    I feel for the little boy. He has to leave a place he obviously enjoyed and go into the unknown. He didn't do anything, but stands to suffer horribly.

    As for the school, they are more tolerant than some I am familiar with. The mother's attendance of a Methodist church would have been enough to disqualify her child from attending some Catholic schools.



    Who didn't know this? While I applaud his mother for living openly, she can't be surprised by what happened.

    I never understand why people go into a Catholic School and think they can do things like this. Its all well and good but they weren't against her being part of the PTA even though she was openly gay and in this relationship. That to me is a huge concession on the part of the school. Seems to me she pushed it too far by being too open. Additionally she's posting her child's picture everywhere going public with this so I do have to wonder why if her child's best interests are at heart?

    But in the end they look like a gorgeous family and I hope they reconsider being part of a relgion that treats people this way. She's the victim now, but even when she was being treated nicely the church was hurting others. So its a little hypocritical of her to only have something to say about that when it personally affects her and to then try to rope it into the cause.

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