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A tale of two high schools: Sierra and Itawamba

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POSTED March 24, 2010 2:34 a.m.
Manteca has come a long ways from the day when former Councilwoman Denise Giordano reduced a young lady who had just graduated from Manteca High to tears during a special council meeting.

The council minority had called the special meeting to get the council to take a position on Proposition 22. The measure that appeared on the November 2002 ballot simply stated that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

The council majority – individually polled by the Bulletin prior to the meeting – didn’t think the council had any business taking a position on the matter as it didn’t relate to city business. Yet when the time came that they could criticize the move they regarded as posturing for the November elections, they remained quiet just as they did during a stern lecture that Giordano delivered to the young lady. After all, they couldn’t risk antagonizing voters by trying to avoid taking a position. For the record, all five voted for the resolution supporting passage of Proposition 22.

In fairness to Giordano, she was simply stating her views rather forcefully and passionately. And as far as concerns that “family issues” were being used by the minority to target the council majority in the upcoming election it proved true as anti-abortion leaflets were distributed at churches the week before balloting that targeted then council incumbent Dave Macedo as being pro-abortion. A rather curious claim given the fact Macedo was put up for adoption at birth.

Later, after the election, innuendoes that particular candidates for a city commission post may be gay – there was also an openly gay applicant that was a dark horse candidate at best – the council quickly backed a relatively unknown candidate for the post out of fear of being tainted as being supportive of a gay person for a position that had nothing to do with sexual orientation. It should be noted the applicants – save the one – never broached the subject and no one ever confirmed whether they were or not as if that was really a justified concern. So ultimately elected leaders allowed a whispering campaign of innuendo to sink qualified applicants.

In short, it wasn’t exactly one of the finest hours in the annals of Manteca politics.

Several years later teens at Sierra High showed much more class.

An openly gay male student – who also represented Sierra High as a cheerleader – was picked by his classmates to be part of the royal court for the school’s basketball version of homecoming. He was escorted by another male student.

There was no posturing, no grandstanding, and no uproar.

And to make it perfectly clear, the young man in question conducted himself as a gentleman at both the event and as a cheerleader.

Which bring us to the flap over Constance McMillen and Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi  over her desire to attend the senior prom wearing a tux while bringing a same-sex date.

The school board cancelled the prom instead of having to allow same sex couples attend it. School leaders called it “distracting” to the educational process.

Just like the Sierra High student, McMillen was openly gay throughout her time in high school. That isn’t code for “in-your-face” or being so flamboyant that either were a caricature. They simply made no pretense of being romantically interested in the opposite sex.

How then – you might wonder – would someone be disturbed about someone who walks around campus holding hands with the same sex when they don’t blow their top at opposite genders doing the same thing? Signs of affection are clearly a no-no on public school campuses yet no one raises a major stink when it involves opposite genders.

Not wishing to assume the role of a Monday morning quarterback, but it seems judging from the reaction of the school board to the prom date and tux there was no problem with how McMillen conducted herself on campus through four years of high school.

And no matter where your views fall on the issue of gay rights – or more precisely parity for those who are gay – as long as everyone conforms to the rules of decorum, the law, and the parameters of a civilized society why make it an issue?

Elevate it into an “in-your-face” response like they did at Itawamba Agricultural High and the eyes of the entire country are upon you or simply do what Sierra High did and things go seamlessly with no grandstanding, and no uproar. Simply accepting someone not as much as for who they are but how they conduct  themselves is the cornerstone of civilized – and hopefully - religious behavior.
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