Posted by: Phaidra | March 26, 2015

Why I Now Fully Oppose Austin LifeGuard

Summary of my complaints against  LISD’s use of Austin LifeGuard as a sex ed provider

LISD’s Consideration of other programs and the SHAC

  • Lack of easy access to SHAC standards by which they compare sex education programs/providers
  • Unclear history of LISD approving Austin LifeGuard as a provider before they started using them
  • Lack of equivalent standards for sex ed in view of LISD excellent scholastic reputation.
  • While comparing ourselves to other districts is not always appropriate, it is concerning that we find ourselves in an ever-shrinking group of districts using Austin LifeGuard

 

Lack of Pedagogical Experience & External Review

  • No one on their staff is experienced in curriculum development
  • Using an association of colleagues to “review” their curriculum rather than a non-biased third party
  • Information based on personal oriented belief systems rather than scientific evidence
  • I’ve spoken with experts in the field of Health Education and Teen Pregnancy prevention and they responded that Austin LifeGuard is “the worst of the worst” and their curriculum is “truly horrendous.”

Transparency & Texas Law

  • Requires reasonable access to materials for sex ed courses provided by schools. Austin LifeGuard’s “proprietary” stance on their material goes against this by refusing electronic distribution
  • Leander ISD’s solution by placing copies, that are not regularly updated, in school libraries are not reasonable for all parents as work schedules conflict with school schedules. “Reasonable access,” in this day and age, should include online/electronic access.

 

Sexism and Rape Culture Issues

  • Overtly stating that girls should be kept ignorant of their bodies to keep them from “using it to their advantage”
  • Comparing women to trash cans in the sexual act
  • Their graphic on the “stages of arousal,” teaching girls and boys that boys get aroused extremely early & girls extremely late in the stages and adding the commentary that boys actually need to encourage girls to get there thus promoting the idea that girls have no sexual agency
  • Stages of arousal slide commentary also teaches boys that they shouldn’t be surprised is a girl is not aroused at first and thus of course they need to “encourage them” if they want to have sex. With 14 confirmed sexual assaults in Vista Ridge alone, this is dangerous.

Religious/Spiritual Diversity Issues

  • They are a Christian only organization using the tenets of their faith to pass on a specific agenda with little to no input from other spiritual points of view
  • LISD should be open to the growing diversity of our district
  • Their basis of information is not evidence based on controversial topics such as abortion and gender-oriented arousal

Title IX Issues: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

  • Director specifically stated their belief that access to information on ovulation shouldn’t be provided in sex ed because girls would use it to their advantage to have sex and get pregnant.
    • This is deliberate withholding of information based on gender.
    • This is also discrimination as it points to one gender as being better off uninformed.
  • Instructors “unfortunate” comparison of women and trash cans
    • Discrimination, blatant
  • False information about female condom usage
    • Discrimination by way of keeping one gender uninformed
  • Anti-abortion propaganda disproportionally affects young girls as it shames them into making decisions without the advice of medical experts and with no scientific evidence supporting such claims
    • Discrimination
  • Withholding of factual, reality-based sex education disproportionally affects girls with single mothers, especially young ones, falling into lower socioeconomic groups.
    • Discrimination

Separation of Church and State: Students may be taught about religion, but public schools may not teach religion.

  • Having a Christian organization, led by a pastor, teach in public school goes directly against the idea of separation of church and state. This deliberately uses public schools as a forum for a specific religion’s viewpoints on sex, relationships, and contraceptives as evidenced by the choice in anti-abortion propaganda over biology.
  • Picking an organization, led by a pastor, using a specific religion’s moral base discriminates against other religions in our district thus enforcing the idea of a church sponsored religion
  • Also, by promoting a religious organization that reviews student questions and only picks ones they want to answer, they are limiting students free-speech rights to their own religious opinion and show a lack of teaching experience that should be required.
  • “10. Outsiders may not be given access to the classroom to distribute religious or anti-religious literature. … religious groups must be allowed to do so on equal terms subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.”
    • Austin LifeGuard’s distribution of material to students is blatantly illegal in this way as they do not include views from other religions or non-religious spiritual groups on sex education.
  • “Teaching Values: 16. Schools may teach civic virtues, including honesty, good citizenship, sportsmanship, courage, respect for the rights and freedoms of others, respect for persons and their property, civility, the dual virtues of moral conviction and tolerance and hard work. Subject to whatever rights of excusal exist (see #15 above) under the federal Constitution and state law, schools may teach sexual abstinence and contraception; whether and how schools teach these sensitive subjects is a matter of educational policy. However, these may not be taught as religious tenets. The mere fact that most, if not all, religions also teach these values does not make it unlawful to teach them.”
    • Using a religious organization led by a Christian borders if not crosses into teaching religious tenets as they teach falsehoods such as the negative physical and mental effects of abortion as they see them with no significant scientific merit to back these claims up. Using opinion as stated fact equates to teaching religious tenets.

Sources:

https://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/joint-statement-current-law-religion-public-schools

http://www.titleix.info/History/The-Living-Law.aspx

http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/teen_pregnancy/db/

Alternate Texas Program

  • Big Decisions, bigdecisions.org. Free to use. Online access to materials. Written by a doctor with a master’s in public health. Recommended by Dr. David Wiley, PhD Health Education. Approved for us in 26 other Texas school districts.

Other Sex Education Programs for consideration as stated by US Dept of Health and Human Services:

EVIDENCE-BASED PROGRAMS MODELS

Click program title for more information

PROGRAM NAME EVALUATION SETTING
Aban Aya Youth Project Middle school
Adult Identity Mentoring (Project AIM) Middle school
All4You! High school, Specialized setting
Assisting in Rehabilitating Kids (ARK) Specialized setting
Be Proud! Be Responsible! After school program or community-based organization
Be Proud! Be Responsible! Be Protective! Middle school, High school
Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART) After school program or community-based organization
Children’s Aid Society (CAS) — Carrera Programs After school program or community-based organization
¡Cuídate! After school program or community-based organization
Draw the Line/Respect the Line Middle school
Families Talking Together (FTT) Clinic-based
FOCUS Specialized setting
Health Improvement Projects for Teens (HIP Teens) After school program or community-based organization
Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education Middle school, High school
HORIZONS Health clinic
It’s Your Game: Keep it Real (IYG) Middle school
Making a Difference! After school program or community-based organization
Making Proud Choices! After school program or community-based organization
Project IMAGE Health Clinic
Project TALC After school program or community-based organization
Promoting Health Among Teens! Abstinence-Only Intervention After school program or community-based organization
Promoting Health Among Teens! Comprehensive Abstinence and Safer Sex Intervention After school program or community-based organization
Raising Healthy Children (formerly known as the Seattle Social Development Project) Elementary school
Reducing the Risk High school
Respeto/Proteger After school program or community-based organization
Rikers Health Advocacy Program (RHAP) Specialized setting
Safer Choices High school
Safer Sex Health clinic
SiHLE Health clinic
Sexual Health and Adolescent Risk Prevention (SHARP) (formerly known as HIV Risk Reduction Among Detained Adolescents) Specialized setting
Sisters Saving Sisters Health clinic
STRIVE After school program or community-based organization
Teen Health Project After school program or community-based organization
Teen Outreach Program (TOP) High school
Seventeen Days Health clinic
Posted by: Phaidra | May 29, 2014

Dancing, Tights, and Empathy: How I Almost Got Raped

About a year ago, I went dancing with a couple of dancer friends and had a great time. We had eaten and walked around and, yes, drank some wine and cocktails. There was loud music at the bar in the W in downtown Austin. So, we danced. With each other. With other groups. I danced with men and women alike. One guy bought us drinks, most of which I spilled because we were so busy dancing…

and then I saw a guy sitting on a couch looking very sad. Tipsy & yet still me, I approached him and asked him what was wrong. Turns out he had just broken up with a girlfriend so I let him talk for a minute and I told him that shit happens and the trick is not to let it keep you down. We both giggled at the drunken cliche and I hugged him. There could not have been anything less romantically inclined than that conversation and hug. He was lonely on the couch and I just let him talk.

But in the next moment after the hug, I’m was pulled off the floor and down the hallway. I stumbled to keep upright as some person decided to grab my wrist and drag me away. I half thought it was one of my friends and we were heading to the bathroom to conference on something.  But when I gathered my bearings and heard the door lock, I looked up and saw Drink Boy. I also knew I was in trouble.

We’ve all been taught the “Fight or Flight” reactions, but few people talk about a third which is Freeze. It’s the reaction that is *very* common in sexual assault situations because it’s the brain recognizing that you can’t escape unscathed and thus better to reserve your energy for the time you *can* escape. It’s why survivors don’t fight back like they most people think they would. It’s why you see victims shut down and seemingly “let” things happen. It’s what happened to me, in that moment the lock clicked; my brain very precisely showed me two options:

* Let him do what he’s gonna do so you can get to the door with as little damage as possible, or

* Fight back, scream, and most likely get very hurt

I went numb. He was between me and the door and I knew, I just *knew*, that he was going to rape me on that bathroom floor, but I’d rather be raped than broken so he could just start doing what he wants to; I just had to get to the door. I was pushed up against the wall. I put my hands on his arms in an effort to maneuver him; he took it as encouragement. He grabbed my hair so he could use his other hand. I scooted closer to the door. For every action he took. I took one movement closer to the door. I could hear the loud thumping music and focused on the door. Nothing that was happening to my body, just the door.

I wasn’t raped. You see, I had worn tights under my skirt. They thwarted him long enough that I had managed to get closer to the door and frustrated him to the point that he ended up just rubbing himself up against me and then leaving the bathroom, point made:

I had accepted a drink thus he felt entitled to my body.

As I made my way down the hall, looking for my friends, the line waiting to use the bathroom was filled with people looking at me. Some annoyed. Some faces seemed to know. Others living in their own experiences. I found my friends and asked to leave. I had already been through another incident involving assault and knew that calling the cops most likely wouldn’t help me. Just like the security guard as he escorted us out of the bar, they would shake their head at the drunk girl and chuck it up to just another “unfortunate incident” that happens downtown on Saturday night.

It’s like I heard our collective society saying, “Don’t you know better, sweetie? Men are pigs and you shouldn’t drink so much. Remember, you are responsible for your own safety and thank goodness you were decent enough to wear tights. Imagine if you’d worn something more revealing.”

Here’s the thing about my story, though. It’s minor. It’s a blip on the screen of these types of incidences. I’m not belittling it. I’m trying to get through to you that ALL women. Every. Single. Woman you know has been harassed, or stalked, or inappropriately grabbed, or verbally harassed. The statistic of 1 in 4 being raped is bad enough. Add all the factors that feed our rape culture, our culture of male entitlement, and it the number is 100%. Have a mother? Have a sister? Have a girlfriend, a female friend, a coworker… Have a daughter? As it stands, she’s gonna be harassed at some point in her life, probably several times in her life… probably much more than that.

Ready to do something about it yet? I can’t be the only one.

#YesAllWomen

Posted by: Phaidra | May 19, 2014

Happy Birthday, Grandma

Today is my Grandma Betty’s birthday; she would have been 94 if a couple of her kids weren’t really shitty people, but that’s another story and a product of my still angry opinion…

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and I know that she was not a great mom (not even a good one really). Very much a product of her times. She ran away from a bad family situation in Chicago and joined “the circus,” becoming a carnie as a teenager. Then had kids really young, ran away from abusive situations and got herself into other abusive situations. She left behind children who found her as adults and, as family legend has it, married 12? times (not to all different men, sometimes she tried a second time). She was often rude and let her mouth run in the worst of situations. She was almost shot during an armed robbery because she felt the guy needed to know how stupid he was being and that he should just take the cash and run instead of loading himself down with the beer; he decided to shoot the light above her head instead.

She smoked too much, never left the house without makeup, and was completely desperate for good male opinion at the strangest times…

Family Pictures 105

and was a wonderfully colorful, outrageous grandmother.

She taught me to play blackjack, scratch off lottery tickets, and how to get free drinks out of vets at the VFW; I was like 6 so they were Shirley Temples & no flirting required, much to the chagrin my lack of adult skill set. She showed me what a flawed, but persistent human being does to survive, to both my benefit & detriment (as you may have guessed, she also had no filter). She left me with a day of sarcasm on our last visit that included making fun of “holy rollers” and ended with her telling me:

“Phaidra, I always win. Wanna know how? I don’t stop. That’s how. When other people stopped, I just kept going.”

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I often bemoan our family history of craziness, both colorful and horrible, and feel like I have to make up for that inherited karma with people in my life, trying to be “good” as much as possible. But today I’m going to go buy a scratch off ticket, not worry as much about other people’s self esteem, skip food for coffee then scotch, & remember that it’s often not the ideal people who add color to your life, but the ones who embarrass you at least a little.

Happy birthday, Grandma.

Posted by: Phaidra | September 25, 2013

Skin

He said it was his deodorant, but I knew better. His skin radiated and I wanted to strip naked to crawl up in his shirt and burrow; warm, skin-on-skin, touching as much as possible. My nose in the crook of this neck, lips just about the surface, tongue tip needy with taste. I wanted to feel the sheen of sweat slide along my body hair like dew on Redbud blossoms, my own skin mingling with the scent of rosemary and sea salt.

It reminded me of standing on the boat deck and the barely-contained urge to dive into dark waters, white spray flying around metal. The absolute knowledge that you might die standing on that deck, resisting the sirens’ lyrics, and the only thing holding you back are the ropes of your life on land. I was so sad in that moment, longing for something I could never have: peace. Instead, I had the harder path where luck finds you in batches, but only because you’ve fought through your family’s dependence and the affairs and the divorce and the insults and the assault. Where you set your feet firmly on the deck and shake your puny fist at the storm clouds.

It wasn’t the deoderant. It was my own need for rest, for support, for love. It was his smile and the flash of his blue eyes in the dark. It was my desire to be desired and dependence on touch to provide it. It was the eye of the storm when you both huddle in the corner and talk about the future.

Posted by: Phaidra | April 29, 2013

On Bellydance

I can think of very few things more exposing than a “fat girl” getting up on stage and showing her midriff to a group of strangers. Seriously. If you had asked me 3 years ago if I’d be able to get up on stage and do it, I’d have laughed in your face and called you looney. But that’s exactly what I do, at least once a month. I get up on stage and show my belly, flinging it around like a bag of oranges, twisting, turning, pooching out over my costume in sometimes the most heinous of unflattering positions. I have pictures if you need confirmation.

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And you know what? When I’m on that stage, in “dancer mode,” I couldn’t possibly care less. You could sling all kinds of insults about my flab for the entire dance and if the others dancers, drummers, and friends in the audience didn’t beat you to death with your own arms first, I would flip you off and ask for another set. I feel that good on stage. My self esteem bank account fills with every slap of the drum. I feel safe and supported and loved and beautiful and… just about every other good word you can think about yourself.

And that’s just on an average dance. On a good dance? One where I feel like I rocked it? I live on that adrenaline for days.

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And I know that part of that is just that the belly dance community is SOOOOO amazing in their acceptance, at least where I live. I really hope that it’s that way in every belly dance community, because I can’t imagine it being anything else. Those who dance with me and drum with me and support us all in the audience are phenomenal.

This is not to belittle the other support I get in life. The last couple of years have been hard, and at lot of the time, it’s felt really hard and you’ve watched me cry, visited me in the hospital, stroked my hair, bought me wine, and taken me out for dinner. You’ve listened to me bitch about politics, threatened to beat people up, kissed my face, and just said, “Got your back.” Talked, cajoled, complimented, driven… Once, at my home away from home, I told a friend that nothing bad would ever happen to me there because it would never be allowed. As I walked away to the bathroom, someone came up behind me and yanked my pants up. Surprised , I turned around and it was one of those friends, “Your underwear was showing.” Talk about having my back. :D

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And I wish I could give every single one of you something that was filled with the level of joy I feel when I dance. It’s why I’ve begged some of you to come see me dance. It’s why I nearly jump out of my skin in happiness when I see one of you in the audience. It’s why when I’m down, I go downstairs and dance or when I’ve so despondent that I can barely make it out of bed, I review choreography in my head until I can take my first steps in the morning. It’s why I can barely wait for Kick Butt weekend in order to fling my midriff around in complete joyous contentment when most mornings I obsess over the scale in my bathroom. It has saved me countless times now and I will get up there in one of those boots I always manage to get myself into if I have to in order to continue dancing.

It’s that much joy for me. It’s that important to me. And me asking you to join me at a show or patiently look through all the pictures on Facebook? It’s that how much I love you.

Posted by: Phaidra | April 4, 2013

Potential

A single kernel of black pepper is
wedged between his top two teeth.
To tell him, only polite, or jump
across the table and lick it away?

“This is good.”

Spice on my tongue. His
surprise on my breast.
Keys stabbing both our
thighs. The palatable envy
of caressless judgers.

“It’s packed in here.”

The smell of smoke curls
off the barbeque pit and
lands in my hair. Want
filling my stomach as I sit,
leaving no room for charred
brisket or cole slaw. We’ve
isolated ourselves too much, but
words skitter off the table,
blocked by my sudden
obsession.

“Are you not hungry?”

A heated attack of digits
pulling at his buttons. Hands
gripping the sides of my head.
Shared sauce on lips. The feel of a
wooden table on my back.
Shimmering everywhere as
sweet pepper burns.

He pauses, “Are you ok?”

I smile.

“You have pepper in your teeth.”

Posted by: Phaidra | April 3, 2013

Dose

It’s that morning when
you realize you’re not worth
the sunlight on your skin.
Cement shoes rip at the
ligaments in your legs.
Friends call to ask
what’s taking you so long.

It’s that afternoon when
air becomes liquid.
You swim for the surface,
afraid to think of the
dark shadows stirring around
you. The feel of your shirt
reminds you of slick skin.

It’s that evening when
toothpaste becomes sawdust
and your sheets are stale.
Ants crawl up your arms and you
feel the electric pulses
between your synapses.
Words burrow in between.

It’s that day you plead,
“Quiet. Just a little quiet.”

Posted by: Phaidra | April 2, 2013

Honesty

Don’t give me a bouquet of Baby’s Breath,
greenery, and scentless, long-stemmed roses
wrapped in tissue paper and a red ribbon.

Instead plant me a garden full of mint and lavender.
Let me have hibiscus flowers to drink, rosemary to eat and
honeysuckle to dissect for its nectar.
Place strawberries under Mountain Laurels
where birds can gorge on red flesh.
Leave the praying mantis to her cricket and
the snakes to the blackberry bushes.
Shun the nets that cover apple trees and
provide a path to the orange blossoms.
Let the gate stand open and
be damned the neighbor’s dog.

But if instead a posy you must give me,
fill it with oleander and
leave the thorns on the roses.
Fill the gaps with thistles and bramble and
I promise to grab it ungloved and
let each trickle of blood
wrap and curl around the stems
like a red ribbon.

Posted by: Phaidra | April 2, 2013

Heart

Her breath fogs the glass,
ignoring the chatter of classmates
in their padded, high-back seats,
and the shuddering of the bus doors.

Finger first to dipping mid point
then up around the curve,
down to bottom tip.
A reflection to complete.

In the middle, four initials with
curling tails and dripping sweat.
Head and quill piercing
down and up, arched.

The boy in front of her turns,
sees her frosted handiwork then
reaches over and wipes the glass clean,
blushing at such silly things.

She scowls while he turns back around.
Laughter and the sound of slapping hands
announcing his congratulations.
Another thought thwarted.

Then with raised eyebrow and small, knowing smile
her finger drifts down,
touches a new frozen pane and
starts again at dipping midpoint.

Posted by: Phaidra | April 2, 2013

Resurrection

I’m resurrecting this blog to participate in the NaPoWriMo during the month of April. In response to how life has been bothering me the last couple of years, a friend of mine told me, “You do better when you’re writing.”

We’ll see how many poems I actually get written and posted in light of that insight.

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