Support Your Students. With Your Help, They Can Change The World. - National Council of Teachers of English
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Support Your Students. With Your Help, They Can Change The World.

It is one thing to speak out against censorship, and another to face it head on and fight, especially for high school students. Six members of the Straight and Gay Alliance and their teacher advisors stood up to the threat of legal action regarding the reading of I am Jazz at a community school. Having been cancelled by the school because of this threat, the SAGA 6 and their advisors were determined to support a community member who had recently transitioned. They worked together to locate other venues in which to hold this reading. Taking their event to the public library with the help of community supporters, this group presented to over 600 people. But the students wanted to reach more people, so the members of SAGA (all high school students) led a reading of this text at their own school, gathering an audience of over 200. What these students, teachers, and community members did was not only brave and honorable; it sets a precedent for others to follow in supporting and encouraging conversations surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) culture and issues – something we all know is still considered taboo and met with resistance in our schools today!    —2017 Selection Committee, NCTE National Intellectual Freedom Award

Members of the SAGA 6 (Dylan Carden, Karissa Red Bear, Claire Jenkins, Toby Louther, Emma Lookabaugh, and Liam Grahman) and their three adult sponsors (Amy Lyle, a community member, and Beth Maglio and Michael Sauer, teachers at Mt. Horeb High School) received an Honorable Mention for the 2017 NCTE National Intellectual Freedom Award.

Community Moms took action..

Amy Lyle, one of the moms, noted, “What a wonderful job the filmmakers and producers of the video did telling a part of Mount Horeb’s story. I felt badly that the SAGA 6 and their part of the story were left out of the production. But hopefully other folks watching the video feel that they, too, can do something. All of us can do “something.” And we need that right now. We need that hope that we can make things better — even just in our little corner of the world. “

Parents of the transitioning student wrote:

“ Many of you may not even know who we are but you have stepped up to do a truly amazing thing—to support us 100%”

Yet other details of the story of how the Mt. Horeb community supported one of its younger citizens is told in this newscast, Mt. Horeb Library Hosts Reading of Book Removed From School Curriculum.

Dylan Carden, Karissa Red Bear, and Claire Jenkins of the SAGA 6, Beth Maglio (teacher at Mount Horeb High School) and Amy Lyle (community member) came to NCTE St. Louis to accept the award. They were joined on the stage by NCTE President Jocelyn Chadwick. Here’s what they told us.

“When we heard that our district had opted to choose fear of a lawsuit over supporting its students, we were disappointed to say the least. It was such a small thing that the district could have done to make a world of difference, but they chose not to. So we picked up where they left off, and the community joined in. By reading one picture book, we started something that immediately took on a life of its own, and it continues to thrive today. What we did was easy. It wasn’t hard to read a book. What mattered most was that we took the first step, and that our community supported us. We couldn’t have done anything without our community, but they needed someone to make the first step. It’s so, so important to encourage young people to never be afraid to make the first move for change, but that promise of support can’t be empty words. Support your students. With your help, they can change the world.”

Proud teacher Beth Maglio shared,

“SAGA 6 also held a flagpole reading of I Am Jazz at Mt. Horeb High School. They came up with the slogan “Close the Book on Hate” and it is still used as a hashtag today for nationwide readings! #closethebookonhate”