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FROM THE COURTS TO THE CLASSROOM

Philadelphia principal and former high school basketball coach Chris Lehmann reflects on the news that three-time WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes opted to come out of the closet earlier this week. To him, the mere fact that this sort of thing is still news explains why her announcement should be important to educators.

And here's why this belongs on a blog about teaching... I've been the first adult that a student has come out to -- the 'test parent,' if you will. I've seen kids run away from their parents because they were afraid of the ramifications of telling them. And I've seen kids move in with a sympathetic aunt or friend or grandparent because the parents did kick them out. And I've even seen the kids who had the most supportive parents in the world struggle with coming out because they struggled with what it meant to their own sense of self... or the fear of how every friend they had would react.
I've always tried to show the students that have come to me about this the respect and seriousness and care that I felt they needed. I wanted to make sure that the kids knew that I cared about them and loved them and that who they were attracted to... or who they fell in love with... didn't change that. And I wanted them to know that I wanted them to be with someone who cared about them and treated them well... regardless of gender.
And this matters to our kids -- to all of us -- because these athletes are role models. Our kids need see all kinds of people, black, white, Hispanic, Asian... athletes and actors and politicians and writers and teachers and cops... living happy and fulfilling lives, living out of the closet and not ever for a moment being ashamed of who they are or feeling like they have to hide it.

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