Gay Student Gets Hate Mail For Activism

SANTA CRUZ – A Harbor High School student who protested rules that outlaw gay men from donating blood is receiving hate-filled and harassing mail at the school.
Ronnie Childers, Harbor’s senior class president, said Monday he’s received about 50 letters attacking his sexuality since his complaints about national blood donor rules, and his photo, were published in a Sentinel story last month. The story later attracted state and national attention.
Some of the letters were hostile enough that Childers forwarded them to police, “just to be on the safe side”
“There are a couple key phrases, ‘I know where you go to school,'” he said. “I think adults need to understand that letters like this are inappropriate”
Santa Cruz Police Department officials could not be reached Monday to comment on the letters.
The controversy began at a Red Cross blood drive at Harbor High on Dec. 14. There, Childers was prohibited from donating because he is gay. Guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration don’t allow any man who’s had sex with any other man to give blood.
The Red Cross and other blood-collection organizations have lobbied the FDA to relax the rules, which were established during the AIDS scare in the 1980s, but, so far, the FDA has resisted.
Some school leaders have asked whether it makes sense to have blood drives at schools if students are required to divulge their sexual histories. After considering halting blood drives at the school, Harbor students have decided to host another drive this spring, though all students will need to get parental permission. California law requires anyone younger than 17 seeking to donate blood to get the consent of a parent or guardian.
“As much as I think we need to protest what’s happening to Ronnie and the gay community, I think stopping efforts to save lives would be the worst way to protest,” senior class Vice President Ariel Bowman said. “Obviously people need to give blood. I think we need to be bigger and continue to give”
Harbor Principal Nancy Tocchini said the school is hopeful that pressure on state and federal legislators will lead to new rules at the FDA.
“We’re going to put together some kind of letter. And instead of sending it directly to the FDA, where it will get ignored, we’re going to start hitting federal and state legislators,” Tocchini said. “Because if the state Legislature also gets behind this then maybe they’ll listen”
Some of the letters sent to Childers deride gay people as “evil” or admonish him to “think about it. Sex with the same sex is weird and sick” Some were sent from the area as evidenced by local postmarks.
Despite Santa Cruz’s liberal reputation, an anti-gay sentiment has gained traction in recent years, said Merrie Schaller, a leader of the county’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Alliance.
“Santa Cruz is a relatively good place to live if you’re queer, but I’m not surprised,” Schaller said. “Things are so much better than they were 20 years ago, but in the last couple of years we’ve become more of a scapegoat, it’s become more acceptable to do this kind of thing”
from The Santa Cruz Sentinel

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