Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Supreme Court paves path of social justice

By Kathryn Reed

Few issues related to social progress have been decided by the people. The men and women in black robes whose job it is to uphold the Constitution of individual states and the United States tend to make the really big decisions.
Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954. It crushed segregation in schools and other public venues. But white people didn’t automatically let in people who didn’t look like them.
Even with a black man about to take the highest oath of office in the United States on Jan. 20, discrimination is alive. An undercurrent of racism ran throughout the presidential campaign. Discrimination was evident with the passage of Proposition 8 on Nov. 4. It was evident on South Shore schools in November during Challenge Day.
One person who knows all about discrimination is Melba Beals. She harbors no resentment toward the people who reviled her, who nearly killed her, who treated her as though her black skin made her less than human.
Beals brought her story to South Tahoe Middle School in November, four days after about 100 of those students participated in Challenge Day.
Challenge Day is about challenging preconceived ideas. It’s about realizing fellow students and others in the community aren’t so different from the person in the mirror. Tears flowed Nov. 20 as students broke down stereotypes, acknowledged the hurt they had inflicted on others and that they are not alone in their struggles.
High school students participated in Challenge Day the day before.
It seemed appropriate to have Beals on campus that next Monday. Even though her experience as one of the nine black students to first attend Central High School in Little Rock in 1957 is something local students find in history books, her story is apropos in today’s climate as the country is at a major crossroad of change.
Until November, only little white boys had a role model of what a U.S. president looks like.
Through her quiet, non-inflammatory rhetoric, Beals told this rainbow colored mass of students seated on the floor in front of her about being scared, about the courage it took of everyone on the side of justice, about how life evolves for the better for all.
Girls can point to Title IX in the federal education code for giving them equal rights in athletics. This didn’t get approved until 1972.
Without it, the hoopla regarding Joann Allister at South Tahoe High wouldn’t even be an issue. The varsity softball coach and PE teacher is under fire from some parents and players because they don’t like everything she does.
During closed session at the Nov. 18 Lake Tahoe Unified school board meeting more than a dozen people spoke. Because it’s a personnel matter, testimony is confidential.
The board ruled Allister will be told to adhere to Ed Code rules – like letting athletes stay properly fueled and hydrated for competition. Her job will be posted before the start of the season and she will be allowed to apply for it along with anyone else.
In the future, after the end of each season for each sport at STHS, parents will have the opportunity to anonymously fill out a survey about the coach that will be evaluated by Vice Principal Jack Stafford.
Another social issue gripping the South Shore is the passage of Proposition 8, which makes it illegal for gays and lesbians to marry. The populous, 52.3 percent, said OK to this California measure.
About 100 locals marched near El Dorado Beach on Nov. 15 during a nationwide rally in support of gay marriage. It was a cornucopia of gays, lesbians, heteros, couples and singles of various colors and ages.
The issue is winding its way through the courts. Some wonder how a change to the state Constitution took a simple majority vote, whereas it takes a two-thirds majority to pass taxes.
Those in support of gay marriage are hoping the men and women in black robes do for gay marriage what they did for desegregation and equal rights on the ball field.

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