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Teacher's Firing Over Gender Change Stirs Controversy

California and the West

Schools: Trustees say Dana Rivers ignored an admonition not to discuss topic with students. Her backers launch recall drive.

October 11, 1999|ERIC BAILEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rivers' discussions with students "were unprofessional, outrageous," said Brad Dacus, the group's president. "No parent should have to worry about that sort of bombardment on their child."

The board, which fired a teacher three years ago for showing an R-rated movie in the classroom, agreed. Despite a recommendation from district administrators that Rivers receive a reprimand, the board voted 3 to 2 to fire the teacher. Rivers learned of the decision in late September.

A crowd of 200 students and teachers waved placards outside the board meeting, shouting, "Two, four, six, eight--we demand a reinstate!"

"We're not third-graders--we're young adults," said Roberta Hillebert, Center's student body president and a protest leader. "They're saying that tolerance should be preached but never reached. It's giving us the message that you can't come forward and say, 'I'm different.' You have to hide because otherwise society will go against you."

The furor has caused rifts at the high school. Although many students see the sex change as no big deal, a few say they are relieved that Rivers is gone.

Rachael Crandall, a senior and evangelical Christian, said she is disappointed that the debate has focused on religion instead of a teacher who she believes is guilty of speaking inappropriately with students.

"Seeing a man in a dress would be a distraction" for some students in the classroom, she said, adding that, when it comes to gender, "I don't believe God makes mistakes."

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