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Springville,UT Man Educates Youth on Gay Issues

December 8, 2010

Local Springville,UT resident Leonard Ridley who is unhappy with his conservative town’s view on LGBT issues took the matter personally.  He began posting signs such as “Gays are Born Gay” and “Stop Gay Suicide” in his back yard facing the local elementary school.  His intent was to attract the attention of school children and spark a conversation between the kids and their parents about LGBT issues.  The local school board expressed discontent with Ridley because they feel it’s an adult topic that school children shouldn’t be exposed to.  Ridley disagrees and is within his rights to post the signs.

Springville,UT

 

Leonard Ridley says he fought for the rights of African-Americans in the late 50’s and now the retired social worker, artist, grandfather and East Coast native is taking on the role of activist again. This time, he is speaking out for gay people in his Utah County community by posting signs in his backyard that read: “Stop gay suicide. Tell the truth. Gays are born gay.”

Note the subtle message telling readers  Ridley’s  not a Utah native… a typical Utah passive-aggressive way of reporting that ‘he ain’t from these parts!’

Ridley focused his message on gay suicide because he said people need to be aware that when young, gay people are bullied at school, they often become depressed. The same happens when gay teens are alienated by their community, their families and church members. Those teens often become so depressed, they commit suicide he said. Ridley was inspired to act by a recent series of articles about suicide that appeared in his community’s newspaper.

Ridley said his signs send a message that might be contrary to beliefs in the local community. “The signs convey that homosexuals are born this way and need to be respected like all other people in society,” he said. But more than his message, people in Springville are upset over the placement of Ridley’s signs. He placed them in his backyard facing the field at Art City Elementary. Ridley feels because bigotry and misconceptions about homosexuality are learned at a young age, then kids should see the signs. He figured kids would see the signs and go tell their parents. “This is the way to combat prejudice. To open the topic for discussion,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a lower court in 2008 advocating teaching children about homosexuality and LGBT relationships as early as Kindergarden.  Ridley is right that teaching children at an early age combats prejudice.  People are not born bigots.

But the Nebo School District said the students at Art City Elementary should not be learning about gay suicide from Ridley. Lana Hiskey , spokesperson for the school district, said parents should be around for that discussion. Hiskey said Ridley went about this the wrong way. “He could talk to the school board, district officials, even talk to the adults here at Art City instead of exposing children to adult content.” Hiskey said while the signs are on Ridley’s property and the school can’t force him to move them.

Ridley disagrees that the topic of his signs is too much for young kids to handle. His own great granddaughter attends the school.

via Springville Man’s Gay Supporters Sign Campaign Aimed At School Kids – Connect2Utah.com.

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