Dec 15, 2010

‘Diversity Teach-In’ to support embattled teacher set for next month

A pair of Genoa Township brothers is organizing a free “Diversity Teach-In” next month in support of persecuted Howell High School teacher Jay McDowell that is open to the public.

Brothers Phil and Matt Letten are organizing the event for McDowell, who was suspended for one day without pay because he sent two students to the office for disrupting his class with anti-gay rhetoric. The incident occurred Oct. 20; the day people all over the country wore purple to support the end of anti-gay bullying that led to a rash of suicides by gay teens. Apparently, McDowell asked a student wearing a belt buckle sporting the Confederate flag to remove the symbol of racism, slavery, white supremacy and treason.

McDowell has fought the suspension and the attack against him, and the fight has gained support of people all across the country. Howell Public Schools Superintendent Ron Wilson has pulled out all the stops in attacking McDowell, who also happens to be the president of the Howell teacher’s union.

The purpose of the teach-in is to address the issues of bullying and homophobia, and it is set for 7-8:30 p.m. Jan. 6 at the Howell Opera House in downtown Howell, 123 W. Grand River.

Radio station WHMI is reporting that in addition to McDowell speaking, other speakers at event include a Flint Biology teacher who also serves as a union president; along with a recently retired school psychologist from the Lake Orion district. Also speaking will be Yvonne Schumacher-Strejcek of the Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton – which has a history of tolerance, acceptance and community service in the county - and Rev. Dick Preston, who does campus ministry in East Lansing and hospital ministry in Lansing.

The Letten brothers also told WHMI that they also hope to have one or two individuals from the Howell school district speak at the event.

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