Today'S Truth-Is-Stranger-Than-Fiction Department - Jenei
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 96 00:00:34 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Today'S Truth-Is-Stranger-Than-Fiction Department - Jenei
Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forwarded-by: email@example.com (Michael I. Bushnell, p/BSG)
Brookline Suit Looks Silly On
-- Patricia Smith, The Boston Globe, March 15, 1996.
The sole occupants of today's truth-is-stranger-than-fiction department
are the parents of a Brookline High student, who claim that their daughter
was deeply traumatized when her social studies teacher calmly and quite
tastefully revealed herself to be a lesbian.
There's no grist here for a topically trendy movie of the week. The
teacher didn't rip off her blouse, jump up on a desk and twirl neon pink
pasties to Chaka Kahn's "I'm Every Woman." She didn't organize a field
trip so everyone could get butch cuts and nipple rings. She didn't peddle
grainy photos of little girls in sleazily unzippered Dr. Dentons. What
Polly Attwood did do was take part in a TV interview that hinted at her
sexuality, and she decided to share the information with her students
before they found out via the small screen. That's exactly what a
competent, caring teacher would do. No students left skid marks
screeching from the classroom in disgust.
But, according to the indignant parents, something began to unravel in
little Johanna Jenei, who was 14 at the time. Evidently the family's
staunch religious belief in the glories of heterosexuality didn't say
anything about having to share air with a dyke. The horrifying classroom
revelation popped Johanna's synapses, overloaded her circuits and
irreparably damaged her delicate psychological innards.
Well, not irreparably. Johanna's folks are seeking roughly $360,000 from
the town of Brookline -- including private school tuition, medical bills,
lawyer payments and $300,000 for "emotional distress" -- to ease the
trauma suffered when Attwood admitted her depravity in the presence of
their daughter. We should all be so distressed.
Until all the facts come to light, it's hard to say what else was at play
here. Was Johanna taunted by classmates for her straight-arrow stance?
Did she question a lesbian's ability, or right, to teach? Had Johanna and
Attwood clashed over the issue of sexuality in some other forum? Or are
Thomas and Jeannine Jenei, the Bunkers of Brookline, just this willing to
use their daughter to advance their weird agenda?
That would seem to be the case. After three years of wrangling with
Brookline school administrators over this nonsense, the Jeneis waited till
now to raise their sword to the wind, claiming that Johanna was not only
forced to flee to the comforting clutches of a Christian academy in
Lexington, but that she was "deprived of her right to a public education."
If Johanna was planning to continue living in the real world, Polly
Attwood was an important part of that education.
But the incident, as surface silly as it is, reminded me of a similar
trauma I suffered years ago.
In high school, Latin was a favorite subject. I liked the clunky, ancient
clatter of the words and the sense of being tied in to one of the most
romantic of histories. Also, I'd been told that once I was proficient in
Latin, it would be a cinch to master French, Italian, and Spanish. Of
course, that was a baldfaced lie, but at 14 I was mucho gullible.
But the best part of Latin was Mrs. Stine, who could rattle off agricola,
agricoli, agricolum with the best of 'em. She looked like she'd been
lifted straight from ancient Rome, with a dramatically crooked nose and
heavy dark hair. When she spoke, it was as if she were addressing a
tribunal. If anyone could chronicle the fall of the Roman empire, she
could. I suspected she'd been there.
One day as Mrs. Stine was grading papers, I looked up from my desk and
noticed something that would change my life forever. She was left-handed!
I was right-handed! The room spun. My lunch rumbled in my gullet. My
vision blurred. I knew I'd never be able to set foot in her classroom
again. I fled from that evil place. I needed air. I needed space. I
needed to know that all righteous people used their right hands.
Life's been hell since then. I haven't slept since 1964. And I can trace
it all back to the day I learned my Latin teacher was a southpaw.
There's only one thing left to do. I'm going to get in touch with my old
high school. Then I'm going to sue the city of Chicago for failing to
protect me from society's wretches. Let's see -- a couple of hundred thou
to pay off the mortgage, $1,283,677.43 for emotional distress and $4.95
for a bottle of antacid to get rid of this annoying stitch in my side.
How'd that get there? From laughing at the Jenei family and their
ludicrous stab at the "gone loopy because of a lesbian" lottery. It's
amazing how far some folks will go to hear the merry mooing of a cash cow.
© 1996 Peter Langston