Alex Blaze

David Davis's crusade against the gays

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 29, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Politics
Tags: David Davis, Florida, Heather Gillman, Lary Smoak, Ponce de Leon High School

Richard Smoak, the judge in the case of Heather Gillman (the girl in Florida who wanted to wear pride gear to school, was forbidden by her principal, and then sued and won a case against the school for freedom of speech), has released his ruling, and it's pretty brutal.

In a stinging rebuke, US District Judge Richard Smoak, said in a written ruling that Ponce de Leon High School principal David Davis led a "relentless crusade" against homosexuality at the school.

"Davis embarked on what can only be characterized as a witch hunt," Smoak's ruling said. The ruling also said that Davis led "morality assemblies" that ignored the First Amendment.

Indeed, "witch hunt" is the best term to describe what the principal was engaged in. He interrogated dozens of students about their involvement in the Homosexual Agenda and suspended many others, while hosting mandatory "morality" assemblies.

Highlights from the ruling after the jump.

This case arose from events involving a homosexual student at Ponce de Leon High School on Friday, September 7, 2007. The twelfth-grade student, Jane Doe, reported to a teacher's aide that she had been taunted by a group of approximately five middle school students because of her sexual orientation. The middle school students allegedly told Jane that "dykes," such as herself, were "nasty," "gross," and "sick." The teacher's aide reported the incident to Principal
David Davis.

At the end of the school day on the following Monday, September 10, 2007, Davis called Jane into his office. Davis asked Jane if she had told the teacher's aide that she identified herself as a lesbian. Jane answered, "Yes." Davis then asked, "Are you a lesbian?" Jane again answered, "Yes." Davis counseled Jane that it was not "right" to be homosexual. He then questioned Jane about whether her parents were aware of her sexual orientation. When Jane answered in the negative, Davis asked Jane for her parents' telephone number so that he could call them and inform them of her sexual orientation.1 Davis also instructed Jane to "stay away" from the middle school students or that he would suspend her. Jane left Davis's office in tears.

Davis did call her parents, and her father threatened to kick her out of his house.

After a mandatory "morality assembly," Davis began to seek out just who was gay at the school and who their supporters were:

Following the assembly, Davis began investigating what had come to be known as the "Gay Pride" movement at the school. He interviewed approximately thirty students, interrogated them about their sexual orientations, and questioned them about their involvement in the planned walk-out of the assembly and their activities in relation to the movement. During those meetings, Davis instructed students who were homosexual not to discuss their sexual orientations. He also
prohibited students from wearing rainbow belts or writing "Gay Pride" or "GP" on their arms and notebooks. He required students to wash "GP" or "Gay Pride" from their arms and hands and lifted the shirts of female students to verify that no such writings were present on their bodies.

One of the students that Davis questioned was Gillman's cousin, who identifies as homosexual. Davis questioned Gillman's cousin about her sexual orientation. Davis stated that being gay was against the Bible and that it was not right. He expressed his hope that Gillman's cousin would not "go down the road" of being a homosexual. Davis then instructed her not to discuss her sexual orientation with any students at the school, not to say "Gay Pride" or write it on her
body or school materials, and not to wear her rainbow-colored belt. Davis warned Gillman's cousin that if she violated his instructions, he would suspend her from school.

Several students went ahead and wore Pride Gear anyway, and Davis came down on them with an iron fist:

On Friday, September 21, 2007, and Monday, September 24, 2007, Davis suspended eleven students, including Gillman's cousin, for five school days each as punishment for their involvement in the "Gay Pride" movement. As grounds for the suspensions, Davis explained that the students belonged to a "secret society" or "illegal organization" forbidden by school board policy; had threatened to walk out of an assembly; and had disrupted the school. Davis told the mother of a student whom he had suspended that he could secretly "send her [daughter] off to a private Christian school down in Tallahassee" or to the juvenile detention center and that "if there was a man in your house, your children were in church, you wouldn't be having any of these gay issues."

The judge ruled in favor of the students' right to express themselves. He responded to claims that Pride Gear would distract students:

Indeed, it was Davis who catalyzed the "Gay Pride" movement because of his animosity toward students who were homosexual and his relentless crusade to extinguish the speech supporting them. Students testified that the events of September 2007 resulted not from their desire to cause disruptions at their school, but because they perceived that Davis was anti-gay and had mistreated their homosexual classmates. Indeed, Davis testified that several students told him that their purpose in displaying the proscribed speech was to express their disagreement with his views about homosexuality. (Tr., Doc. 76:198, lines 1-7.)

Despite Davis's awareness of students' perceptions and intent, Davis made no attempt to correct students' misunderstandings about either the rumored suspension of Jane Doe or the content of the morality assembly. And following the incident with Jane Doe and the conclusion of the morality assembly, Davis embarked on what can only be characterized as a "witch hunt" to identify students who were homosexual and their supporters, further adding fuel to the fire. He went so far as to lift the shirts of female students to insure that the letters "GP" or the words "Gay Pride" were not written on their bodies.

Ummmmm.... yes, yes I'm sure that's exactly why he was lifting up the shirts of female students. But, hey, there's nothing wrong with getting a little eye candy in the middle of a crusade to eliminate the hyper-sexual homosexual agenda, can I get an "amen"?

However crazy we think this man is, he was the principal of a high school, a position of immense authority over hundreds of students. He was in a position to push his craziness onto the student body, and while many of them protested his abuses of power, I'm sure that there was an equal or greater number who were either reaffirmed in their homophobia, silenced into going along with the crazy principal's agenda, or given the impression that there in fact is something wrong with homosexuality or gay people.

Why do I have the overwhelming feeling that this is exactly what the Religious Right wants our educational system to act like?

Oh, wait, it'd have to be this:

At trial, Davis testified that homosexuality is a "sin" and an "abomination" that "God will punish." (Tr., Doc. 76:222, lines 19-25; 223, lines 1 & 18-25; 224, lines 1-17.) He considers himself to be an "evangelical spreading the gospel to those who will receive it." (Tr., Doc. 76:223, lines 15-17.) He testified that "What I believe is the Lord is expressing his view, his knowledge of what homosexuality is, that's what I believe, and I teach what the Lord says." (Tr., Doc 76:224, lines 1-3.)

And, all the while, he ignored some pretty egregious sexual harassment claims because they were boys harassing girls.

Good to know that his values were in the right place.

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This principal is disgusting. This case has been dragging on for quite some time and I am glad the judge made the right call.

The harassment many LGBT students face in Florida is too often from the administration and not just other students. Hopefully the tide will begin to turn...

Still and all, I see homophobia as but a symptom of something larger (and when I say 'homophobia', it includes trans, for these folk don't see trans as distinct from but merely homosexuality taken to a deviant extreme.)

In my own twisted way, as I was reading the horrifying lengths he went to persecute orientation-non-conforming, I wondered how he'd fit in at the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints' Yearning For Zion compound in El Dorado, Texas. I also flashed on the book/movie, The Handmaid's Tale, and wondered if this sort of behaviour might have been a 'bacckstory' percursor.

What a bastard. I'm glad the court came down hard.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 29, 2008 9:27 PM

Alex, Thank you for this.

It seems that Florida has it's share of weirdos and more. Does he lose his job for incompetence or does his school board back him? Is his local town council coming down as supportive or condemnatory for this waste of tax dollars to defend a bigot?

I bet Florida law allows the principal to carry a gun as well...

What is the community at large doing to counteract this school and it's legacy? Is there a youth center where these kids can go and definately not be in a threatening situation?

Where are the churches in this? Where are the parents in this? Most districts are hurting badly for money in the wake of the Florida recession. Are the local Democratic pols in this city using this issue and do they want our help?

The really sad part about all of this is that no one has mentioned jail time for Principal Davis. I believe a morality assembly with a certain inmate named Bubba might do him some good and send a message to other Evangelical word spreaders working in public education.Amy