Listening to youth?

Loudoun County is “listening to youth” – except when “somebody” might object to what they have to say.

It turns out that the Loudoun Youth Initiative, created, endorsed and administered by county government to address the problems identified by youth, is now being barred from communicating with youth through the school system.

The groundbreaking project Normal (“A new show on bullying that every teen and adult must see”) cannot be advertised through flyers posted on school property or sent home with students, said school administrators.

Why? According to the Leesburg Today, because of the policy governing school plays adopted last year in response to the temper tantrums of anti-gay activists. It seems that the LCPS administration is nervous about not having previewed the play, and afraid of another public uproar.

Normal, according to the county Web site, is an original theater production focused on teens and bullying. Two dozen teens in Loudoun County developed the play with aims to expose the life of teens as they work through issues surrounding bullying, self-esteem, decision-making and being authentic.

The Loudoun Youth Initiative took root in 2004 after a county board action and is in collaboration with the county government, county public school system, business leaders and community and faith-based organizations. According to the county Web site, the goal of Loudoun Youth Initiative is to “coordinate and implement … substantial resources to address challenges identified by Loudoun’s youth.”

One of which is bullying.

Supervisor Stephen J. Snow (R-Dulles), who has been a leading supporter of the Loudoun Youth Initiative, was of mixed-minds about the advertising decision.

“I can see both sides,” he said. “The school gets in a position, they’d get criticized if somebody finds something offensive.”

If this is the criterion, then there can be no meaningful “listening to youth.” Of course “somebody” will find something offensive – that is the mechanism used to control which viewpoints and information are permitted expression. It’s called the “heckler’s veto,” it’s unlawful, and we’ve reported on its use by pro-censorship activists extensively on this site.

There can be little doubt that these same activists will be offended by Normal, simply because it acknowledges that one reason youth are bullied is their sexual orientation or gender expression. Now the possibility of another round of tantrums is being allowed to interfere with the ability of the Youth Initiative to communicate with the youth it’s supposed to serve.

In an e-mail, Kimberly Tapper, the artistic director of the Creative Youth Theater Foundation, expressed disappointment over school administrators’ decision to deny advertising.

“It is truly a disappointment for us all on many levels,” she wrote. “First and foremost, these kids have a message that needs to be heard! When the Loudoun County Public Schools refuse to advertise our show, they limit our ability to reach 20,000 teenagers in the [LCPS] system. This is a very loud and very unfortunate message that they are sending to the teenagers that they represent.”

The message is this: We are “listening to youth” – except when “somebody” might object to what they have to say.

Is this really what our School Board members and administrators want?

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3 Responses to Listening to youth?

  1. Kara Baker says:

    I actually love in Upstate NY but my father is a resident of sterling, VA and i have a brother and sister in the middle school and elemetary schools in Loudon County. I am appaled that suchan affluent area would allow policies like this to be out into place. I have always marveled at the diversity in the schools in that area and now something like this happens. I am calling my father and step mother right now and having them contact the school district. Intolerance like this is unacceptable!

  2. David says:

    Thank you! I hope they and others will let the school system know what a mistake this was. I saw the show Friday night and it was truly excellent. The schools had an opportunity handed to them to reach 20,000 students with a very empowering and sophisticated message, and they dropped the ball. They really let the kids down (again), and it’s becoming tiresome.

  3. Pingback: Equality Loudoun » The trouble with Normal