Tuesday, March 10, 2009

tween trouble

Ashley belongs to the GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance) at her school. There are about 20 kids or so who meet twice a month to talk. The group is led by Ashley’s homeroom teacher. The group mainly focuses on acceptance, tolerance, equal rights and how to stand up for yourself and others when teasing or name calling occurs.

I think the subject matter is important and had no qualms about my daughter being a part of this group. They are only in middle school, so they are not talking about the sexual side of things in this group. I feel strongly that being gay is not just a sexual thing. Attraction is not just about sex. When people fall in love, it’s not about sex. Sex is part of a healthy relationship, but it is certainly not the be all and end all. I think that too many people thing about gay people and think it is all about sex.

Ashley and her best friend went to the regional GSA meeting this last weekend. It was big, about 100 kids and was held at a church. It was an all day event and lunch was included. Ashley and her friend had a blast; they played games, made new friends and even managed to learn a bit.

I’m going to digress a bit here. Christopher and I give Ashley a lot of privileges. When it comes to her, money is really no object. We will happily go without things for ourselves so that she can go to camps in the summer, play sports, have season tickets to plays and operas and have nice clothes. She has her own cell phone and texting plan too. That being said, within those boundaries, we are very strict. We expect her to maintain at least a 3.5 GPA (we re-evaluate this requirement based on the classes she is taking and how difficult they are for her- we don’t want to push, but we do expect her to do her best), when she is with friends, we expect to know exactly where she is and she is not allowed to go to a friend’s house unless we have met the parents. Our cell phone bill is reviewed to make sure that there were no calls or texts during school hours and we will occasionally take her phone and do a check on the messages to make sure everything is on the up and up. When Ashley misbehaves, she loses privileges. This process has worked out well for us so far, but we are very aware that at this age, her needs change day to day and we try to accommodate for her hormone filled emotions. J

On Sunday night, I asked for Ashley’s phone to do a random text message check. There were some very inappropriate text messages sent to her from some high school boys. They were sexual in nature and also asked her for her address and more personal information. Needless to say, Christopher and I were irate. We tried to talk to Ashley about it, but of course, she doesn’t see the harm. She maintained that she just blew off the sex talk and that other than that everything was fine. She just doesn’t have the maturity to understand why this is wrong.

On Monday, I called Ashley’s teacher and talked to her about this. We had a nice talk and I told her that I wasn’t looking for consequences for the boys; I just wanted the proper people informed of the issue. She informed the head of the conference and he called me today. We had a great conversation and I suggested that perhaps the code of conduct that is in place for meetings and conferences needs to extend beyond just the physical meeting times. He agreed and asked me if what I would like to see done to the boys. I told him that we don’t need anything done this time, just a change in the way things are approached in the future. I told him that we will have Ashley gently remind the boys that she is still only 12 and wants to be their friend, but that she wants to focus on things other than sexual topics. If this doesn’t work, we will talk to the GSA head again and he will address the boys personally.

I think that a simple text from Ashley will be enough; I am going to give the kids the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t thinking about the age difference and hope that a quick reminder will do the trick. The one thing that I found out in the conversation today was that of the 100 or so kids, only 7 were middle schoolers. I expressed my concern that 6th graders and 12th graders (or 7th and 11th)are just too far apart in their emotional development to be a part of a group together. I told him that I wish I had known the demographics, that maybe I wouldn’t have allowed Ashley to go until high school. As it stands, it happened and we need to turn it into a positive learning experience for all of us. Let’s hope it all ends here.

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