Category Archives: Education

Sodomy

In May 2020, the U.S. Department of Education released its updated campus sexual assault regulations under Title IX. The law prohibits sex discrimination at federally-funded institutions. Schools were given only until August 14, 2020 to adopt compliant policies and procedures while Betsy Devos and the Department of Education (DoE) spent the last three years drawing up these new Title IX regulations. In 2017, the DoE withdrew the Obama Administration’s guidance documents on the subject; a year later, it issued a lengthy notice of proposed rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act. This was the first full rulemaking on a major Title IX issue since 1975, and the only one ever dedicated to sexual harassment. It is not without controversy. What do you expect from a Secretary of Education who is neither an educator nor an education leader? The woman has NO experience in public education, never even attending a public school.

Sexual assault is a serious issue on college campuses, but it was not initially addressed in Title IX; however, the Supreme Court did address sexual assault, but only in discussing whether an institute of higher learning receiving federal dollars could be held responsible. In 2011, the Obama Administration issued a lengthy “dear colleague letter” spelling out the many measures schools must implement to “end any harassment, eliminate a hostile environment if it has been created, and prevent harassment from occurring again.” Still, the Trump Administration withdrew the “dear colleague letter” to reframe Title IX. The 2016 Republican platform devoted an entire section to Title IX charging that the Obama Administration’s “distortion of Title IX to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse contravenes our country’s legal traditions and must be halted.”

So, what are the issues with the new Title IX regulations? The general outline was laid out in the November 2018 proposal. Its central feature was a return to the framework established by the Supreme Court in 1998-99. No longer would schools have broad responsibility “to take effective action to prevent, eliminate, and remedy sexual harassment” by “changing the culture.” Now, the focus was on schools’ responsibility to address cases of serious sexual misconduct. Simultaneously, though, the new rules have gone far beyond the Supreme Court in establishing what constitutes harassment, what schools must do to identify and adjudicate cases of misconduct, and the remedies they must provide to victims of such misconduct. As a result, the new administrative regulations are less radical—and more demanding—than the DoE’s critics often suggest.

What forms of harassment require a response from educational institutions? Under the new guidelines, the following are considered forms of sexual assault: rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object, fondling, incest, and statutory rape. While the Supreme Court held that harassment must be “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” to trigger Title IX, the Obama Administration pushed schools to address harassment before it “becomes severe or pervasive” to prevent the creation of “a hostile environment.” Schools are now to address the incidents, but are not expected to address the culture that causes such incidents. The entire matter is very complicated (if you want to read more, you can read this article from InsideHigherEd.) I was asked instead to read my university’s new policy and comment on it.

I immediately noticed the definitions of sexual assault and its archaic language. It differentiates between rape and sodomy.

Rape is defined as penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without the victim’s consent. Sodomy is defined as oral or anal sexual intercourse with another person forcibly, and/or against that person’s will (non-consensual), or not forcibly or against the person’s will in instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of age or because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity. This is what I don’t understand: Why is the federal government requiring separate definitions of rape and sodomy? Both are defined as forcibly or non-consensually having the victim’s vagina, anus, or mouth penetrated with another person’s body part or sex organ. I don’t see the difference. Why must the two terms be spelled out? In my opinion, the use of the word “sodomy” is intentionally using homophobic language.

Sodomy is a word that has been demonized as a weapon to promote intolerance against gay people which is the main reason for my objection. The word promotes negative stigmatization, prejudice, and discrimination to practices such as anal or oral sex which have been associated mostly with the gay community. The term is sometimes even replaced with “crimes against nature.” Originally, sodomy was derived from church law designed to prevent nonprocreative sexuality anywhere and any sexuality outside of marriage (in some cases, any intercourse not in the missionary position between a man and a woman). Historically, the term has been used as a form of discrimination against gay men.

Though sodomy has been used to refer to a range of homosexual and heterosexual “unnatural acts,” the term “sodomite” usually refers to a homosexual male even though the real meaning is nonprocreative sex. The term is derived from the Biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Christian churches have referred to the crimen sodomitae (crime of the Sodomites) for centuries. The modern association with homosexuality can be found as early as AD 96 in the Jewish historian Josephus’ writings. Sodomy, in historical biblical reference, probably did not even pertain to homosexuality, but the acts of bestiality and female and male castration for sexual slavery. The story of Sodom’s destruction and Abraham’s failed attempt to intercede with God and prevent that destruction appears in Genesis 18–19. The connection between Sodom and homosexuality is derived from the described attempt by a mob of the city’s people to rape Lot’s male guests. Some suggest the sinfulness for which Sodom was destroyed might have consisted mainly in the violation of obligations of hospitality which were essential according to the original writers of the Biblical account.

In essence, the new regulations are forcing educational institutions to use derogatory and homophobic language to differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual sex. The DoE is forcing colleges to violate Title IX, a law passed to protect people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX covers students and employees at these institutions. Therefore, the new policy contradicts the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. 

Aren’t we supposed to be past using derogatory and discriminatory language such as sodomy in our laws? If you include anal and oral sex in the definition of rape, why is it necessary to also include sodomy and give virtually the same definition? Am I the only one who finds the term “sodomy” offensive?


Why Are People So Driven by Hate?

The post title is a rhetorical question, because I don’t have an answer for it, nor do I understand people so filled with hate. In Texas near the border with Mexico, Roma High School has put teacher Taylor Lifka on leave after a Republican politician posted a screenshot of her virtual classroom, including a rainbow and a “Black Lives Matter” sign. The school said Ms. Lifka was put on leave for displaying so-called political and divisive speech in her virtual classroom.

Marian Knowlton, a Republican running for the Texas House in District 3, wrote on Facebook last Friday. ““This is from a public school in one of the counties in House District 31! Our education system has been radicalizing our children for years, and it continues to do so, from elementary through higher education. This is not an isolated occurrence, it is a national pattern. A concerted effort to teach children what to think, not how to think. Leftist indoctrination. Parents, I urge you to take a look at your child’s classroom, virtual or onsite.” Knowlton said that one of the posters has “a photo of radical protesters (one of whom looks like an ANTIFA member).” Knowlton continued, “In addition, this teacher asks which pronoun they prefer!”

In the screenshot she posted, a poster says, “Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting, Welcoming Safe Space for Everyone” in rainbow colors. One sign simply says, “Black Lives Matter,” which Knowlton said is a message supporting a “radical Marxist movement.” Another says in Spanish, “Friend, your struggle is my struggle.”

The screenshot also includes instructions from the teacher telling students to put their names and pronouns in the group chat.

By Tuesday, the district said that the teacher in question was put on leave. “After reviewing the complaints, the District is working closely with the teacher to find a resolution that will ensure all parties involved reach an outcome that best benefits the expectations of our parents and needs of our students,” the statement said. Even though the school forced the teacher to be on leave, the Roma Independent School District claims that “The teacher is not being reprimanded in any way for her work or decisions.”

The South Texas Equality Project (STEP) has started a Change.org petition to get Lifka taken off leave, which currently has 17,500 signatures. “Please sign this petition to let the school district know that inclusivity and acceptance are not taboo ideas that deserve censorship; that high school students can and should be allowed to discuss the realities of the world instead of being sheltered inside a sanitized bubble; and that by reprimanding the teacher for trying to create a safe space for her students, the school is not being neutral, but is actively taking a stance that is antithetical to justice,” the petition says.

“In our current times, we are still in that struggle for that need for equality,” a representative of STEP told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, adding that Lifka did not ask them to create the petition. Knowlton’s Facebook page was made private after this story got media attention.

Lifka was a member of Teach For America’s 2017 corps but is no longer with the organization. On her classroom’s homepage on the Roma High School website, Lifka wrote that she had fallen in love with Roma after her two years teaching there for TFA, prompting her to stay. “The beauty of Roma exists in the vibrant border culture and the tight-knit community that supports and honors one another through both the celebrations and the challenges of life,” she wrote.

Joseph Cloward, a former teacher at the district, said he worked with Lifka for a year and described her as committed and competent. Cloward says news of Lifka being put on paid leave prompted him to send a letter to Roma ISD Monday expressing concern. “I think what I was asking for is for the district to be really, really clear about whether or not it intends to be a safe and inclusive space for all students, particularly for Black students, for female students, for LGBT students,” he said. “I think all that’s come across right now is that teachers that are supportive of those students will be punished if they are outspoken in their support of those students, and I think that’s the wrong message for the district to be sending.” Cloward continued, “I don’t think that the messages in the pictures on social media are ones that have to be explicitly political in a partisan sense, they seem to be pretty typical ways to let students know that they are in a space where they will be welcomed and should feel safe regardless of their race or gender or sexual orientation.”

Knowlton said the content did represent a political position, noting that she had been accused of racism and homophobia for posting the screenshot. “If this is about inclusivity, why don’t we see anything about Judeao-Christian values on it, why don’t we see anything about the Bible on it, why don’t we see the other side?” she said Tuesday. “We only see one point of view on here, and I didn’t mention that at all, but that’s where the thread started to go.” Knowlton said she got the screenshot from a concerned educator and shared it to raise awareness on what’s happening in Texas classrooms. “I think that parents need to know what their children are looking at, what they’re hearing in the classroom,” she said. Knowlton said she didn’t realize what the consequences of her post would be, and it seems that she has no problems with Lifka’s removal.


AN UPDATE: Taylor Lifka has been reinstated to her job. 

statement from the district said Lifka was put on paid administrative leave on Sunday after the district received concerns from community members and parents.

“It is the practice of Roma ISD to diligently review all parent concerns. In this case, the timing in which information was received by the District (over the weekend) made it necessary for the District to place Ms. Lifka on leave until we could fully and responsibly review this matter,” the statement read. “This action was not intended to reflect any form of punishment or admonishment towards Ms. Lifka but was purely driven by a need to review the circumstances and come to a sound resolution for all persons involved. Out of concern for Ms. Lifka, Roma ISD wishes to state again that she has not been reprimanded in any way concerning this matter. The District appreciates the importance of advancing sensitivity regarding equality and inclusivity.”

The statement repeatedly and emphatically pledged Roma ISD’s commitment to anti-discrimination and inclusivity, saying Lifka was taken off leave Tuesday and informed she would be allowed the choice to keep the graphic background for her virtual classroom as proposed so long as it “does not come to overly disrupt or detract from the educational process or the learning environment.”

“Roma ISD regrets that this matter has become a point of controversy. It was never the intention of the District to indicate anything less than full support for the concepts of equality and student safety,” Roma ISD Superintendent Carlos Guzman wrote in the statement. “As educators and community members, Roma ISD has an obligation to carefully listen to parent concerns and respond to them, taking into consideration the rights of employees and students. As a school district, we must create a safe environment for our teachers and students that fosters and respects everyone’s beliefs in a manner that does not discriminate or disrupt the learning environment. I want to affirm that our District is filled with caring and committed educators that give 100 percent of themselves every day to the education and development of our students.”


Marathon Day

Yesterday, I got up at 5:30, and was on the go from that minute on. I had a presentation to work on and a tour to give. Then I had various odds and ends to deal with. It was quite hectic. After I got home, I cooked dinner and then it was back to the office for the last bit of  my museum studies class. I have to write a critique of some presentations and then I’ll have my museum studies certificate.


Still

Monday, I started my last museum studies class. Once this one is finished, I’ll have my certificate in museum studies. This class is a bit unlike the others I have taken. The others were completely asynchronous, while this one has a synchronous portion to it. It’s also mostly discussion boards with a final project at the end. I can’t wait to be finished. I’ll feel more legitimate as a museum professional, though things have been going pretty well with work. I’m getting some major programs attached to the museum. I have basically a full schedule for the next year. There are just a few things to firm up, but things are looking good.


4 Degrees

I can’t believe that it’s just the middle of November and it’s 4 degrees outside. Four degrees, which means the wind chill is even lower. I’d love just to stay in bed today wrapped up under a blanket. However, I’m going to be teaching all morning. I’ll be teaching three classes. They will all be the same class, but I’m looking forward to it. I get to talk about one of the few times Thomas Jefferson was proven wrong. Jefferson was known for believing he was the best and brightest. It is likely he had Asperger’s syndrome, but that’s hard to prove nearly two hundred years after his death. Today will be a busy day all around, because after the classes in the morning, we have one of our public programs. It will be a talk about railroads in Vermont, and I hope it will be interesting. I know it will be interesting to train enthusiasts. After the program, I might be able to take a breath, but I’m sure there will be more to do. All this, and now it will only reach 24 degrees today.


Up Late

I was up late working on my museum studies paper due today. I still have a little bit more to go on it, anyway, sorry, but there is not much to post for today. I hope everyone is having a good week.


Pic of the Day


Chicago

I’m in Chicago for my Museum Studies class. It should be a great class, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s from 9-5 today and tomorrow. There’s a lot to learn and not much time to learn it.

In the meantime, I’m also working on my class that I’m teaching. I thought I’d gotten everything graded, but apparently I didn’t properly engage the students, so I’m having to go back and do that. It’s really maddening.

Also, thanks for all the well wishes with the new job.


Busy, Busy

Last night, I spent the evening doing class work for the online museum studies class that I am taking. There were a lot of readings this week and we didn’t have as much time to work on them because the original links were dead, so we had to wait for the new links to be posted, I spent the night reading about family visits to museums. So anyway, I was up late doing homework last night,


TGIF

It’s been quite a week. I have a new boss. I’ve finally finished my two online classes, at least I hope I’ve finished with them both. The museum studies class was fun and interesting. The adjunct instructor class was a pain in the butt. After all that I have gone through to teach adjunct at this college, I’d better be hired. I’ve done well on all the other assignments, so I hope I did well on the last one. I know I did well in my museums studies class. I have a 100 average in that class. I’ve already signed up for class two in my museum studies class.