February 1, 2001
OC Activists Say School's Out for Homophobia
Heated discussion turns to spirited dialogue as students join in protesting homophobic book ban at Orangeview Junior High
ANAHEIM - A group of fifty people protested against the homophobic book banning at Orangeview Junior High with Ban the Ban on Thursday, February 1. Protesters included people from organizations such as Liberate Orange County, ACT UP San Francisco, Queer Nation, PFLAG, the Libertarian Party, the OC Youth Drop-In Center, the Loyola Marymount University Gay/Straight Alliance, teachers from several Orange County school districts, and students from several Orange County schools.
As Orangeview students left school, protesters cheerfully greeted them with balloons, fake tattoos, stickers, rainbow-colored pencils that read "Don't Censor Me!," and flyers which explained the book ban at their school on one side, and had a list of about 100 famous lesbians and gay men on the other side. Flyers and pencils were so popular with students that they were all handed out within the first ten minutes, and many students kept asking protesters if they had more. People held signs that read, "Ban Bigotry, Not Biographies," "End Censorship," and "Open Books, Not Closed Minds." What had been planned as a brief 30 minute action turned in to a 1 1/2 hour dialogue and discussion between students and protesters.
Chelsea House, who publishes the series of banned books, donated biographies of Sappho, Marlene Dietrich, and John Maynard Keynes to Ban the Ban to show students, protesters, and the media. They are part of the series "Lives of Notable Gay Men and Lesbians" that was banned from the school library by the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD). The AUHSD claims the books were banned because they were too complex, and because students who check them out might be teased, despite a California law prohibiting the harassment of students on the basis of sexual orientation. Protesters demanded the books be returned to the library, and that the school work to end anti-gay harassment.
Activists were shocked to learn the school administration had announced on the school PA system that students were to immediately go home after school, and that they couldn't talk to protesters or the media, despite the fact that the protest took place after school and off of school property.
"If it's not on school time or property, the school has no right to tell students who they can or can't talk to," said Ann Archer of Liberate Orange County. "I was pleasantly surprised at the response of students who said they wanted the series of books on their library shelves. Many of the students were fully aware that their school is trying to violate their civil rights."
School officials were punishing some students with Saturday School, a four hour Saturday detention, for talking to protesters and the media. Despite the threats, about 150 students joined the protest and made their own signs. One student-made sign read, "Gay is Cool," and another, "What Next, Ban the Bible?" While protesters answered questions from some students, other students spontaneously started their own chants and danced festively. Students chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, censorship has got to go," and "Teach, don't preach."
One student told protesters she was there because her uncle was fired from his job for being gay. Many others expressed similar sentiments. Students lined up to sign a petition for the AUHSD school board demanding they return the banned books to the school library.
"What surprised me was the students' eagerness to know more about what's going on," said Queer Nation's Karl Goldman, who came down from San Francisco to attend the protest. "In fact, some of the most vocal supporters were straight students. They appreciated being listened to rather than being lectured to. Let the students make up their own minds."
Energized activists vowed to remain vocal on the issue until the books are returned to the Orangeview library. In addition, they are donating the biographies from Chelsea House to the Orange County Youth Drop-In Center, where youth will be free to read them without the threat of them being banned.
Digital photos available at www.geocities.com/bantheban
For further information, contact:
Ban the Ban -- email@example.com
ACT UP San Francisco -- www.actupsf.com
Liberate Orange County -- firstname.lastname@example.org