Teaching Hate: Karen Pence to Begin Teaching at Openly Anti-LGBTQ School

On Tuesday, January 16, Karen Pence, wife of vice president Mike Pence, announced that she will be returning to her teaching job at a Christian elementary school. She will be teaching art to children in a school that asks employees to initial a passage that reads, “I understand the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman. Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees include, but is not limited to, heterosexual activity outside a marriage (e.g. premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties towards minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.”

 

I really want to draw attention to the fact that sexual harassment comes after the bit about being gay or transgender. Likewise, prohibiting the use of porn comes before the prohibition of the sexual abuse of children. Someone crafted this passage. Someone had priorities, and they prioritized being gay or transgender as worse than sexual harassment, watching porn as worse than abusing children. Presumably, this passage was approved before it was put on the application. The order in which things are listed might seem small, but this was a list that someone came up with for an employee application at an elementary school. Political and religious views aside, anyone working at an elementary school should be worried about the kids attending that school before they’re worried about anything else. This passage, which obviously a number of people agreed to, as Immanuel Christian School is a functional school with teachers and administration, did not prioritize the kids when writing out this part of their application.

 

When talking to queer friends, a lot of us can come to a humorous conclusion: “Yeah, my best friend in elementary school was _____. Looking back, I definitely had a crush on them, but I didn’t fully realize it at the time.” Every year of school is an incredibly formative time in the lives of kids. Whether it’s kindergarten or second grade, junior year of high school or sophomore year of college, students are constantly learning and changing, influenced heavily by the people around them. When I came out, I was asked why I didn't do it sooner. I could easily point to the numerous times I heard biphobic and homophobic comments from people I looked up to, beginning in elementary school. Any person willing to work at a school should be able to put their biases aside and focus on the needs of the children. If a child says that their moms are fighting a lot at home, they should be supported by whoever they were comfortable enough with to reach out for help. It’s not too often that homelife comes up at school unless there’s a problem―this is to say, a healthy homelife of a child shouldn't be seen as problematic to a school. Yet at the Immanuel Christian School, a school policy states that they have the right to “refuse admission” or “discontinue enrollment” of a student if  “the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home, the activities of a parent or guardian, or the activities of the student are counter to, or are in opposition to, the biblical lifestyle the school teaches.” These include “sexual immorality, homosexuality, or bi-sexuality.” This is an incredibly limited way to look at it, and honestly, anyone who clings so tightly to their prejudice should not be in a position to teach and influence children.

I’m tired of having this argument. I’m tired of reminding alt-right people that queer people are people, too. I’m tired of reminding Christians that Jesus also says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” I’m tired of feeling the need to beg that we treat human beings with the absolute bare minimum of respect and decency. We need to do better for ourselves, for each other, and for our kids. I’m not surprised Karen Pence once worked at a school that holds these values, and I’m not surprised that when she made the decision to return to teaching, it was also a decision to return to a school like this. The Pence family, along with the current administration, has made their stance in regards to the LGBTQ+ community clear. It’s upsetting when a teen or adult is attacked because of their gender or sexuality, but children don’t fully understand the concept of why some people could see it as wrong. It’s upsetting to know people with such strong, hateful biases are still in positions of power, and continue to take positions of power that can heavily influence our kids. Hate is taught, and with people like Karen Pence in teaching positions, it’s clear that hate will continue to be taught.