A homosexual student who was expelled last month from Trinity Christian Academy High School in Dallas, Texas, is now facing additional problems at home and says he may be kicked out of his house by his parents due to the media fallout from the incident.
“My parents couldn’t believe it,” James Barnett, 18, recalled in a phone interview Monday.
In an email he added, “My parents have worked with me on Keeping My-Boi.com open [James’s gay support website], but my Mom doesn’t like the fact that I’m gay and doesn’t approve of it.”
James has also had his hopes to attend college significantly crushed when his parents told him they were withholding financial assistance for him to attend college because of his sexual orientation unless he stayed in Dallas and went to the University of Texas, presumably so they could keep tabs on him.
But James wishes to attend an out-of-state school like Purdue University, in Indiana, where he has already been accepted, or the University of Washington, where he recently also applied.
The latest fight with James’s parents occurred when James shared with them that he had been contacted by “Good Morning America” twice in the last week to appear on the TV show. James has recently contacted ABC to discuss his interest in appearing on the show to share his recent ordeal.
“They don’t want the press involved,” in his life, James explains of his parents, “and think it’s in my worst interest.”
James says he fortunately has enough part-time business income from his web hosting service that he will be able to afford basic apartment living expenses if his parents kick him out.
PointBlanc operates a number of web services, including the one that fueled controversy for James at his Christian school, My-Boi.com. My-Boi is a site for glbt youth to communicate especially if they live in a conservative environment or attend a conservative school.
The rest of James’s time he is continuing to devote to finishing his senior year at a public high school in Texas, to where he recently transferred. “Public school is just as nice,” he added. “The teachers pay just as much attention to you.”
But graduating high school will be the least of his worries this year as James’s Mom and Dad reportedly both threatened to kick him out if he chooses to appear on ABC.
It wouldn’t be the first recent media publicity for James, who says, “There’s literally thousands of cases where this happens to other kids, but there hasn’t been much publicity for them. Being on Good Morning America might change people’s views.”
A “Good Morning America” appearance, however, may be the last straw in the eyes of James’s parents.
Barnett’s story first appeared on an internet blog called NotGeniuses.com, written by Ryan Davis, where it was reprinted on the popular site Daily Kos and archived at Buzzflash.com.
Since then, Barnett’s story has been covered on the Dallas Morning News and in gay and lesbian publications. James’s story was reportedly also discussed on conservative talk radio, defended by the Human Rights Council (HRC) on the Bill O’Reilly Show, and attacked by the right wing nuts at FreeRepublic.com.
None of this would have happened, says James, if Trinity Christian Academy (TCA) hadn’t violated his privacy rights by “out-ing” him to his parents.
As reported by Ryan Davis, TCA called James’s parents in to the principal’s office on the day he was “expelled” to discuss his sexual orientation with them, completely without his consent.
“That’s been a question for a lot of people,” James says. “Because I’m 18 and an adult and should have the right to privacy.”
His parents were not aware of his sexual orientation, he says, prior to his being out-ed by his school. “My website, My-Boi.com, was hosted out of my house for six months and my parents never even saw it.”
James says he realized he was attracted to other males when he was in the 8th grade, and continued to grapple with his identity until coming out in the 11th grade to a few close friends and TCA administrators who were all supportive.
Still, the question arises whether privacy regulations for students carry in private school settings. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) initially took an interest in his case but reportedly won’t touch it because TCA is a private organization.
Additionally, it’s more than a legal issue here; it’s an issue about how a school has negatively impacted the life and family of a bright, generous student with so much potential.
James was technically withdrawn from TCA by his father in a compromise worked out with administrators to make sure it didn’t say “expulsion” on his academic record. But it was expulsion in every sense of the word, says James.
The chain of events that led to the expulsion is a troubling tale of secret maneuvering by administrators, who James specifically asked not to tell his parents what he discussed with them.
Initially, some administrators advised James to tell the school principal that he was “confused”, that he would take down his web business, and would attend psychological counseling.
The school later issued the following statement, as reported by the Dallas Morning News: “As a community of Christian families we also believe the Bible provides insight to help us discern God's desire for our conduct. Therefore we demand high Biblical standards of behavior from our students both academically and socially. Our families are asked to embrace these standards of conduct by signing a covenant with the school when students are admitted. Within this framework of Biblical standards and academic rigor, an atmosphere of enhanced learning, character development, and love are allowed to flourish.”
“Being in the middle of Dallas,” James says, “Everybody, all the kids at my school would use the word fag, or queer, and say, you know, ‘that’s so gay,’ even if it’s jokingly. We had a [former] Bible teacher who said homosexuals are going to Hell,” he continues, describing his intolerant environment growing up.
“I’d been there [at TCA] since Kindergarten. This was my 13th year there. I was one year away from graduating and had been there so long. I had established relationships and had a life there,” he adds.
At the present time, Barnett is still living with his parents and is trying to decide whether to go on ABC television with his story. He plans to graduate high school still in May; all his credits transferred from TCA to public school except for fine arts and bible class.
But his trust, he says, will forever be shaken. “What the school did, every constant in my life for 13 years was changed. My trust in the school, and in people I’d known personally, was violated. And they didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me they were calling my parents?”
Matthew Cardinale is a freelance writer, activist, and graduate student in sociology and democracy studies at UC Irvine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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