How lucky can this year's graduates of Kansas Unified School District 501 get? Michelle Obama will speak at their graduation! Usually, Topeka's high schools have their own graduations, but this year, there will be a joint ceremony for them on May 17. Michelle Obama will speak in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education in Topeka, the landmark court decision forcing schools in Kansas and the rest of the nation to stop racial segregation in schools and allow everyone to attend.
Something all public school administrators and teachers in Kansas need to remember and discuss more efficiently with students is that the State of Kansas was in the wrong in that lawsuit. A black family decided to challenge the unlawful, racist lifestyle that made all those pink, fluffy, white Topekans very happy back in 1954 and challenge racial segregation in schools. No doubt, if Dean Dalinghaus, principal of Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Kansas had been the defendant, he would have told parents the same thing he told the parents of Frankfort High's valedictorian last year: "We do not encourage the children to learn very much about the Constitution because it's easier to run the school smoothly without teaching it". Yes, a public school principal in Kansas said that, as recently as last year. The comment was made by a pink, blue-eyed, bald, white high school principal, who encourages children to bully any child with a disability, and any child whose parents do not identify with mainstream christian whiteness as enjoined in the Midwest.
Kansas has resisted a lot of the equality and progress enjoyed by other schools since Brown v. the Board of Education by refusing to consolidate it's public schools and make them all answerable to the State of Kansas, rather than to tiny school boards in "unified districts". The unified districts do not have to follow any state laws, and thumb their noses at federal laws as often as they can get away with it. If schools disbanded the unified districts and consolidated, they would be more organized, and students in Frankfort would have the same opportunities to take drama or a foreign language as students in Topeka. Children who are good writers could take honors English, which is not offered in many smaller Northeast Kansas high schools, instead of being blackballed as "dangerous" for writing petitions and going door to door for signatures. (Marysville High School, in Kansas, after a student wrote a petition asking for a more challenging curriculum)
Kansas also needs to remember how very welcome Westboro Baptist Church has been over the years, conducting their picketing campaign. Many native Kansans do not think they have anything in common with Westboro Baptist Church, but other christian churches, in Kansas are almost identical, only lacking the publicity enjoyed by Westboro. New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kansas, teaches that law enforcement should shoot anyone who identifies as gay. Teenage church members then attend local public schools and bully any gay child, with Reverend Curtis Knapp's blessing. Also, while discussing discrimination in Kansas, we must not forget that Republican congresspeople in Kansas recently wasted everyone's time passing House Bill 2453, a pathetic attempt to legalize unlawful discrimination. The Senate took one look at it and tossed it in the circular file, but if it had passed, it would have given businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies the right to refuse service to anyone perceived as "different" in some way....using faith and adherence to the christian religion as the basis for the discrimination. A skin complexion or religion seeming somehow "unbiblical" to a Kansas emergency room nurse could grant her the right to turn away a sick child. A pharmacist could refuse to fill the sick child's prescription for antibiotics because the bible says to hate certain minorities. Schools would have the right to turn gay students, black students, and any other student failing to be pink, fluffy, white, and conformist away. So much for Brown v. the Board of Education in Topeka. Kansas is still looking for ways to break the law and stay as vile and prejudiced as it was in 1954.
I wonder what Michelle Obama is going to say.......