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SCHOOL'S OUT by Dan Woog


The Impact of Gay and Lesbian Issues on America's Schools

by Dan Woog

Pub Date: May 8th, 1995
ISBN: 1-55583-249-0
Publisher: Alyson

An erratically presented survey of gay and lesbian experiences in schools across the country. In interviews with students, teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, school nurses, and parents, journalist Woog explores the ways that schools deal with gay and lesbian issues. His portrait is accurately complicated, at once dispiriting and heartening. He finds that ``faggot'' and ``queer'' are still the most common insults in schools, that many teachers remain closeted on the job, and that education and group counseling efforts are often obstructed by the religious right. He talks to a student who was kicked out of a vocational high school for being gay, and another who, fag-baited and physically threatened, went to the guidance counselor for help and was told, ``You chose that lifestyle...You just have to take it.'' Fortunately, Woog also finds openly lesbian and gay coaches and teachers who are valued mentors to gay and straight students alike, some gay-positive curricula on both coasts, more support groups for gay and lesbian students, and a boy who became more popular after coming out because other kids admired his courage and ``girls thought it was cool to have a gay friend.'' The diversity of setting and experience keeps Woog's narrative lively: The milieus range from urban Boston English High School to elite East Coast prep schools to the Bible Belt and rural Montana. The problem is, Woog's renderings of people's stories are often confusing, with gaping holes in the narrative. In one instance, after reading a three-page profile of one teacher, we still don't really know why he went back in the closet. Throughout the book, the author fails to reconcile contradictory details and relates events in an illogical order. The stories themselves are admirably various, but Woog's spotty logic and narrative inconsistency make this a frustrating read.