Screw a Kid, Gain a Vote: Texas Politics and the Children Who Make It Possible

J. Lee

The Dignity for All Students Act continues to rot in committee, Grusendorf is making sure that his own

"Think of the children. The CHILDREN," pleads the politician from the podium, staring into the television cameras with quivering lips. "If you support my plan, you will be helping the children." Have you noticed how legislators like to say their agendas benefit children? Go ahead, think of a topic. Somewhere in it you'll find a link to a group of innocent, doe-eyed kids praying you don't let them down. Social Security? Privatize now or your children will have no money for retirement. School textbooks? Include creationism as a theory or your soulless child will grow up praying to Darwin. Public health? Don't even THINK of mentioning condoms to your kids or they will instantaneously sprout pubic hair and become raging whores.

The Dignity for All Students Act continues to rot in committee, Grusendorf is making sure that his own "pro-child" bills don't get tampered with to include gay kids.

Down in the Lone Star State, the latest "kids" issue is, in fact, a kids issue: how the state should raise money for and invest in public schools. Everybody has something to say about it since it touches on the three things closest to every upstanding Texan's heart: children, taxes and education. The latest politician to take the reins on the issue is state Rep. Kent Grusendorf, a conservative Republican who, despite his zeal to shovel his "Roadmap to Results" plan for education reform down the throats of his peers, thankfully stopped short of squeezing into a skintight Superman bodysuit. Conveniently the chair of the House Public Education Committee and a cohort of Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, Grusendorf is in an ideal position to grab headlines, take credit for reforming the state's education system and yes, save the children.

Unfortunately, for all of his "it's about the children" speeches (and believe me, there have been many), Grusendorf's plan actually screws those adorable little rugrats. A not-so-close look at his bill shows he is more interested in helping wealthy people pay less in taxes than in reducing soaring school dropout rates or helping an exploding Spanish-speaking population learn how to pronounce "citizenship." As if there's not enough irony in watching Grusendorf hurl himself in front of television cameras and declare himself the quintessential pro-child politician, when his bill actually hurts the kids most in need, another state legislator has filed an actual pro-child bill that was single-handedly killed last session by guess who: Grusendorf.

The bill, known as the Dignity for All Students Act, tackles a simple, seemingly nonpartisan issue: it protects gay kids from being harassed in public schools. The bill's author, Democratic Rep. Garnet Coleman, filed the bill in response to the fact that no state law (or Federal law, for that matter) extends protections to gay youth being picked on at school. Statistics weigh in Coleman's favor: national studies indicate 91% of gay youth in public schools regularly encounter homophobic remarks. In addition, gay youth are linked to higher rates of dropout and attempted suicide as a result of harassment.

In a political climate ripe with speeches about benefiting the good children of Texas, this bill is a natural fit. Even so, regardless of what might be a popular issue right now, how could someone oppose a bill that says it's not okay for the teachers and students currently harassing gay kids to continue doing so? Alas, Grusendorf does. As chair of the Public Education Committee, he refused to bring the bill up for discussion last session in his committee, effectively killing it. This session, the bill once again sits in Grusendorf's committee gathering dust and most likely will continue to do so until it dies along with the end of the legislative session in late May.

Being the chair of a committee has its advantages. In Grusendorf's case, it allows him not only to push his "save the children" agenda when trying to pass his own bills out of the committee, but it gives him the ability to avoid taking up bills that involve children who don't meet his standards. Clearly, there is only one reason why the man desperate to be seen as the most pro-child lawmaker west of the Mississippi could not support this bill. He knows what we all know: that anyone who so much as utters the word "gay" or "lesbian" must BE one! What a relief that Grusendorf didn't have to talk about "those" children or else he might have been mistaken for a big flamer!

In the meantime, as the Dignity for All Students Act continues to rot in committee, Grusendorf is making sure that his own "pro-child" bills don't get tampered with to include gay kids. When his sweeping school finance bill reached the House floor for debate, Coleman proposed adding anti-discrimination language to the bill to protect, among others, gay youth. But instead of having an intelligent discussion about documented cases of harassment by teachers and students against gay youth in Texas public schools, one of Grusendorf's colleagues suggested that gay kids deserve no special protection since they are just as likely to be discriminated against as children with freckles.

It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry, but it turns out the majority of Texas legislators agree that freckled children are as much of a target for harassment as gay youth, and therefore just as likely to drop out of school or try to kill themselves in response to the grief they endure at school. Since nobody thought freckles should be added into the state's school finance bill, Coleman's proposed amendment failed by 88 to 59, in the name of melanin.

The moral of the story? Just mention children the next time you want to make a sweeping change that affects millions of people. How could anyone vote against you when you're saving children, no matter how homophobic or self-serving your political agenda may be? After all, one doesn't need a background in public policy to know what Texas needs to do to confront problems with harassment and discrimination in its public schools: look to the strength of freckled children.





Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.


Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.


That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.


Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.


Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.


Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.


'Thor: Ragnorak' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.


Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.


Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.


Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.