After a 7-minute graduation speech delivered at Franklin High School by Board of Education President Ed Potosnak, fellow board member Pat Stanley is calling for his resignation. It’s hard to walk away from her letter to Potosnak, copied to all board members and now made public, without concluding she outs herself as a raging homophobe who failed to grasp any substance in Potosnak’s well-received words because she got totally tripped up by the gay.
And no, he will not be resigning.
Nor, I suspect, will he be intimidated. I imagine Ms. Stanley would be a lot more comfortable if gay people – Potosnak is out gay and getting married in a few days – stayed in the closet and allowed people like her to try and shame them into silence. And I do not expect silence at the Franklin Board meeting tomorrow night. A public meeting:
School Board meeting 7:30pm Thursday – Open to the public
Franklin Township High School – 500 Elizabeth Avenue, Somerset NJ
Cafeteria (Entrance is at back of HS)
So, what did Stanley say? In her letter, she accused Potosnak of “hijacking” graduation:
“You presented very personal information regarding yourself and your intimate life which was just uncalled for in that venue.”
“(I)n my thirteen years in professional music and theatre, I have known many, many homosexual men. I still have friends who are professionals in the business. But they always behave like mature gentlemen and are truly considerate of other people.”
Wow. So some of your best friends are gay, huh. Let’s unpack this for a sec. There’s something almost antique about her language. It is an emphasis dah sex?
His “intimate life”?
He never mentioned anything intimate.
“I have known many, many homosexual men …”
From “musical theater”? Cool. Way to stereotype.
And by the way, common vernacular is gay. “Homosexual” is technically correct but you might just be hung up on that sexual part. Whatever can that be about?
Stanley says she’s not anti-gay. This is the standard haven of the bigot after they’ve just unloaded their hatred all over you, to front that your reaction is your problem, because they’re not anti-gay … prejudiced … racist … whatever.
Cake: It’s stunning to me – so unfriendly – that Stanley made a point of attacking Potosnak just days before his wedding. Ed’s term as president, board members tell me, has been one of cooperation, transparency and productivity. Nancy Lacorte, Board VP, told me that at last Thursday’s meeting, they brought out a cake for Ed, decorated”I do“. Guess who refused to sign the card – and have some cake? Ed’s wedding must really unsettle Pat Stanley. She accused him of talking about it in his speech, but it’s not in there.
Some things you should know about Ed Potosnak: Former high school chemistry teacher. Former Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow serving Rep. Mike Honda in Washington D.C.. Former congressional candidate (2010, against Republican Leonard Lance). Current day job: environmental group director. He is also my friend. And I think he deserves community support. He did nothing wrong, and attacks by homophobic women should not be tolerated.
What would it say to kids in that high school – and kids coming up in younger grades – if this woman was allowed to silence a local leader who just happens to be gay? Depression, drug use, suicide – LGBTQ kids are all at higher risk, and the risk goes up with they witness or are targeted by homophobic disapproval. But it’s not just gay kids. Many young people pick up adult or peer discrimination against gays as disapproval of their own perceived otherness. That’s one of the reasons – in addition to the deep-rooted sense of fairness in young people – that we see so many straight kids show solidarity in high school gay-straight alliances. So you can see it’s not so cool when adults in positions of authority cluck-cluck at a community leader who dares speak matter-of-factly about his life. Particularly when the 500 kids at graduation applauded when he mentioned that SCOTUS decision. Maybe they’re more ready for the world than she is.
Ed’s speech – a life lesson, an African proverb, and his thoughts on the world they inherit – was about the kids and their chance to make a difference. The Obergefell decision, released that morning – and the discrimination they won’t have to face like he did – was only part of it. He also talked about women’s suffrage, pay equity, and discrimination against people of color and immigrants. And his hopes the students will make the world more just, more fair, safer and more equal. Several students told Ed what his speech meant to them. And comments on the Facebook page of the Franklin Reporter & Advocate support Potosnak overwhelmingly, including from students and parents. Several are harshly critical of Stanley.
And Stanley? Well, the Franklin Township voters get to decide that one. I’m guessing there are some kitchen table convos going on that maybe she’s not the healthiest influence to be around young people.
Here’s Potosnak’s speech. Decide for yourself if he was too “intimate” about his “homosexual” life with the graduates. Board VP Lacorte saw far more in his words than Stanley did. Like other board members, Lacorte strongly supports him. The message she says Potosnak gave them? “It’s okay to be whoever you want to be in life. We’re proud of that and proud of you. Our community is diverse, and we care about each other. Use that tool to stand up whenever you see injustice. We gave that tool to you. Go be great.”