Bullying by any other name…

. . . would smell as bitter.

Once again we see that when it comes to certain issues, intolerance and close-mindedness are alive and well in certain quarters:

A 15-year-old Wisconsin boy who wrote an op-ed promoting gay adoptions was censored, threatened with suspension and called ignorant by the superintendent of the Waukee School District, according to an attorney representing the child.

Mathew Stevens, the founder of the Lambda Counsel, sent a letter to Superintendent Todd Carlinson demanding an apology for “Its unconstitutional and irrational censorship and humiliation” of Brandon Waggoner.

Waggoner, a student at Waukee High School, was asked to write an op-ed for the school newspaper about whether gays should be allowed to adopt. Waggoner, who is describes himself as a free-thinker, wrote in support of the issue. Another student wrote in opposition to allowing gays to adopt.

Waggoner used recent legal passages to defend his argument, including governmental rulings that decried religious discrimination.

After the op-ed was published, a Christian couple whose child attends the high school, complained.

The school immediately issued an apology – stating Waggoner’s opinion was a “form of bullying and disrespect.”

“Offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Waukee School District,” the statement read. “We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended and are taking steps to prevent items of this nature from happening in the future.”

But Stevens said what the school system did next was absolutely outrageous. He said the 15-year-old was ordered to the superintendent’s office where he was subjected to hours of meetings and was accused of violating the school’s bullying policy.

“When Mr. Waggoner stated that he did not regret writing it, and that he stood behind his beliefs, Superintendent Carlinson told him that he ‘had got to be one of the most ignorant kids to try to argue with him about this topic,’” Stevens said.

At that point, Stevens said the superintendent told the boy that “we have the power to suspend you if we want to.”

The superintendent allegedly told Waggoner that he was personally offended by Waggoner’s column.

“The superintendent wants everyone to reject homosexuality as normative and homosexual adoption as something that should not be standard practice,” Stevens said. “In doing so, he’s belittling the views and the secular views of many people across this country. He is playing a zero-sum game. He’s not interested in dialogue. He wants to cram his view down the throat of everyone else and will not tolerate an opposing viewpoint.”


This has got to be one of the most outrageous examples of abuse of power and wrongful intimidation that I’ve ever seen coming from public schools, those venerable institutions who promote tolerance and correctly promote anti-bullying campaigns. Here we have an egregious example of one of their own walking all over the first amendment rights of a student who when asked to write the “pro” side of a “pro/con” editorial did so and was then persecuted for doing precisely that. I can only imagine the outrage in the media as demonstrations, protests and legislation is prepared calling for the removal of this wrong-headed bully of a public school administration official. Alec Baldwin will be on Saturday Night Live lampooning the superindendent. I hear that already CNN and 60 Minutes have reporters on the ground and are combing through Mr. Carlinson’s affairs for the dirt necessary to have him fired. The public outcry is expected to be enormous, as it should be.

Only it won’t be. Because it didn’t happen this way.

If you clicked on the link I provided in the second sentence you’ll see that what I posted above is the opposite of the events in question. I’ve changed the names of the three individuals involved, as well as the school district and name of the attorney’s legal counsel. Oh…and one more thing. The student did not actually argue for gay adoptions. He was asked to write an opinion piece against them, which he did. And then he was nailed to the cross for doing so.

I did not write this post to argue for or against gay adoptions.

This is a post about bullying, hypocrisy and abuse of power.

This is what the “chilling effect” on free speech looks like.

The original pro/con editorials in the school newspaper are here.


2 thoughts on “Bullying by any other name…

  1. I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts and this one, equally so. It is sad how those in influential positions will cowar when opposition comes knocking at their door. He (the superintendent) should have taken the road less traveled and stood behind the boy who wrote the column.


    • Thanks Ali. I completely agree. On one hand you have kids being hammered with anti-bullying messages constantly with zero tolerance repercussions, while on the other hand these smarter-than-given-credit-for kids see the rampant hypocrisy modeled by a lot of these so-called educators. No wonder they’re confused. The irony I’ve seen through the years is that the educational realm often claims to be the most tolerant (kindergarten through college university campuses) yet themselves most often are quite the opposite.


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