01 July 2015

Support for Teacher Who Showed Anti-Gay Film

Support for Ken Simon
A teacher at a Missouri high school had to throw in the towel a few weeks earlier than he planned, and faces disciplinary action to boot, after he showed a class full of "sleepy" seniors a decades-old public service announcement that truthfully depicted gay men as depraved sexual predators.

The video, an early example of the "stranger-danger" genre, hastened Ken Simon’s retirement, much to the dismay of students who staged protests outside the school on 7 May, reported KCTV-TV.

It’s titled "Boys Beware," a 1959 film produced by the police department in Inglewood, Calif. It depicts gay men as child predators who lure young men into "intimate relationships" by offering rides, money, fishing trips and pornography.

Two students lodged complaints with the school’s administration over the video’s subject matter, sparking Simon’s suspension less than three weeks shy of his retirement from a 47-year-career at Raymore-Peculiar School District.

"For a stupid video. I showed it just to compare 1959 with 2015," Simon, 70, told the Daily News. "We talk about the Jews being persecuted, the slave trade, but nobody has ever complained about that."

The same film earned a glowing review from former Florida State Attorney Richard Gerstein, who in 1965 recommended it as required viewing at Dade County high schools to curb what he and others called "homosexuality."

It was "exceptionally well done and in very good taste," Gerstein was quoted as saying by the Miami News.

Tastes certainly have a way of changing.

"What Jimmy didn’t know was that Ralph was sick. A sickness that was not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious. A sickness of the mind," the film’s narrator explains. "You see, Ralph was a homosexual, a person who demands an intimate relationship with members of their own sex."

A former student came to the beleaguered teacher's defense, drafting a petition that says the students took Simon’s lesson out of context and has already been signed by more than 3,500 people.

"The administration then decided to make a rash and uncalled for decision to suspend a teacher, who is about to retire this very year, for fulfilling his duty in educating his students,” the petition’s creator, Alex Taylor, wrote.

Simon said he was grateful Taylor, and also his current and past students, who have reached out to show their support.

"Words can’t express my gratitude to those people," Simon added.

The district has no policy against showing historic news clips, including those regarding LGBT issues, the district’s spokeswoman, Michele Stidham, told The News.