Published September 22, 2011
An honors student in Fort Worth, Texas, was sent to the principal’s office and punished for telling a classmate that he believes homosexuality is wrong.
Holly Pope said she was “absolutely stunned” when she received a telephone call from an assistant principal at Western Hills High School informing her that her son, Dakota Ary, had been sent to in-school suspension.
“Dakota is a very well-grounded 14-year-old,” she told Fox News Radio noting that her son is an honors student, plays on the football team and is active in his church youth group. “He’s been in church his whole life and he’s been taught to stand up for what he believes.”
And that’s what got him in trouble.
Dakota was in a German class at the high school when the conversation shifted to religion and homosexuality in Germany. At some point during the conversation, he turned to a friend and said that he was a Christian and “being a homosexual is wrong.”
“It wasn’t directed to anyone except my friend who was sitting behind me,” Dakota told Fox. “I guess [the teacher] heard me. He started yelling. He told me he was going to write me an infraction and send me to the office.”
Dakota was sentenced to one day in-school suspension – and two days of full suspension. His mother was flabbergasted, noting that her son had a spotless record, was an honor student, volunteered at his church and played on the school football team.
Officials at the high school did not return calls for comment. However, the Fort Worth Independent School District issued a statement that read:
“As a matter of course, Fort Worth ISD does not comment on specific employee or student-related issues. Suffice it to say that we are following district policy in our review of the circumstances and any resolution will likewise be in accordance with district policy.”
After a meeting with Pope and her attorney, the school rescinded the two-day suspension so Dakota would be allowed to play in an upcoming football game.
“They’ve righted all the wrongs,” said Matt Krause, an attorney with the Liberty Counsel. “This should have no lasting effect on his academic or personal record going forward.”
Pope contacted the Liberty Counsel immediately after her son was punished.
“I told the school that he should never have been suspended for exercising his Constitutional rights,” Krause told Fox News Radio. “The principal is sincere in trying to do the right thing and hopefully they will tell the teacher, ‘Do not do that anymore.’ He won’t be pushing his agenda.”
Krause called the incident “mind blowing” and said the teacher had frequently brought homosexuality into ninth grade classroom discussions.
“There has been a history with this teacher in the class regarding homosexual topics,” Krause said. “The teacher had posted a picture of two men kissing on a wall that offended some of the students.”
Krause said the picture was posted on the teacher’s “world wall.”
“He told the students this is happening all over the world and you need to accept the fact that homosexuality is just part of our culture now,” Krause said.
The school district would not comment on why a teacher was discussing homosexuality in a ninth grade German class.
“In German class there should be no talk of being pro-Gay or homosexual topics,” Krause said.
Dakota’s mother said she believes the teacher should apologize.
“He should never have been punished,” Pope said. “He didn’t disrupt the class. He wasn’t threatening. He wasn’t hostile. He made a comment to his friend and the teacher overheard it.”
“My son knows people that are homosexual,” she said. “He’s not saying, ‘I don’t like you.’ He’s saying, ‘I’m a Christian and I believe that being that way is wrong.’”
Krause said school leaders told Dakota that in the future he should be careful when and where he talks about his opposition to homosexuality – suggesting that he talk about such matters in the hallway instead of the classroom.
He said Liberty Counsel will monitor the situation to make sure there is no future retaliation. Meantime, Pope said her son will return to the teacher’s classroom.
“I’ve told him to treat this teacher with respect,” she said. “He is your elder. He is your teacher. What his beliefs are or what they are not – outside the school is none of our business.”