Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

October 11, 2012

TMS official denounces assault on anti-bullying program

An email circulated by certain community members claims a call for tolerance is a move to recruit youth into the ‘gay lifestyle.’

TAHLEQUAH — Teaching tolerance means embracing the rainbow of diversity, and encouraging others to do the same.

A decade ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center launched a national “Mix It Up at Lunch Day” campaign to encourage students to identify, question and cross social boundaries every year on Oct. 30. Surveys conducted by the SPLC revealed that students identify the school cafeteria as the location on campus where divisions among the student body are felt the most.

The Mix It Up peer activity asks students to leave their comfort zones of familiarity in friends and routine, and try to establish new relationships and meet some of the strangers they see near their lockers, in the hallway and even in their classroom.

Last week was Bullying Prevention Week at Tahlequah Middle School, and one of the many activities geared toward promoting positive interaction and peer acceptance was a Mix It Up at Lunch Day. The event was received with mixed reviews, said TMS Preventionist Fred Poteete.

“Some of the younger kids did well, and some of the older kids rebelled against it,” he said. “Not everything that we don’t like is bad for us. They didn’t like it because they couldn’t be with their friends.”

The interaction only lasted a short time, Poteete said.

“We let them eat and sit with each other for 15 to 20 minutes, and the last 10 minutes, we let them go outside,” he said. “So some of the younger kids were a lot more receptive to it, and that just has to do with their hearts being younger and more moldable. As they get older, as we get older, our hearts get hard, and we don’t like change.”

The students received one of four colors marked on their hands and were expected to share a table with students who had the same color.

“We upset their normal apple cart, but my goal was just for kids to get to know somebody else and to find out, ‘You know, they’re not quite as different from me than I thought they were, and I do have something in common with someone I don’t run around with all the time,’” said Poteete. “It’s a life skill to me. They’re not going to always get to be around the people they want to be around. Once they get to know someone that is, quote, ‘a little different’ than them, they find that ‘man, they’re not quite so different from me after all.’”

Though the activity was part of anti-bullying activities, some local residents began circulating an email from a group called the American Family Association that painted the event and the Oct. 30 national Mix It Up at Lunch Day campaign as a “radical Southern Poverty Law Center behind gay indoctrination program specifically directed at elementary and junior high” students.

The Daily Press received a copy of the email from one of its faith page contributors. Among those apparently instigating the local email campaign was a former candidate for political office. The Press also had at least two calls from people complaining that members of their churches were circulating the email.

Poteete said he was unaware of the email, and stressed the activity is simply about protecting the rights of others in a public setting like a school campus.

“I think they’re using it as an opportunity to bash the Southern [Poverty] Law [Center] or people teaching tolerance,” he said. “I’m caught in the middle because I want to protect the kid, whether he’s a homosexual or he’s not a homosexual. It doesn’t matter what they’re being singled out for or being bullied for or being picked on for. I want to do whatever I can to resolve that and try to change those mores here at school.”

Poteete attended a national bullying conference last September, and he got to meet a student from Sioux City, Iowa, who had appeared in the movie “Bully.” He also heard several parents speak whose children had died as a result of bullying.

“Some of it was about gay and lesbian, transgender, but we don’t focus on it,” Poteete said. “I’m totally about protecting those kids’ rights here at school. I can’t control it away from school, but I can on the bus or in athletics. They have just as much right to be protected as someone [who’s] Asian or African-American or Native American, Caucasian; or because of their religion or ethnic group; or whether they wear glasses, or they’re a little overweight or real skinny; or whether they’re real short or real tall, blonde-headed, blue-eyed or don’t wear a certain type of clothes. [It doesn’t matter if they’re in] athletics or band or in choir or FFA. People get picked on for all those reasons because they’re different from someone else.”

The AFA email called for parents across the nation to call school principals to demand their school refuse to participate in Mix it Up activities. The email even suggested keeping children home from school Oct. 30 so they wouldn’t have to interact with students who might be gay.

The SPLC posted a response on its website, calling AFA’s labeling of Mix It Up at Lunch Day as a gay indoctrination program an “out-and-out lie.” The post, headlined “Mix It Up and the AFA,” said the activity “is a simple effort to get students to break through social boundaries and make new friends. Each school sets its own agenda, makes it own plans and chooses its own theme.” The website stated that over 3,000 schools participated in 2011, without incident.

“First of all, your leadership has to support it, and [TMS Principal] Mrs. Mashburn totally supports [our bullying prevention efforts and activities], and our superintendent, Lisa Presley, totally supports what we’re doing,” said Poteete. “I teach a fifth-grade class every day, and we talk about social bullying, relational bullying. If someone lives on Basin Street and someone lives by Greenwood; maybe they don’t have a car or maybe their car’s beat-up. Your dad may be a city worker and or president of Northeastern State University. That doesn’t make you a better person. What makes you a good person is how you treat other people, and that’s the kind of things I talk to kids about.”

Text Only
Local News
  • rf-poker-run-main.jpg Poker run

    Fundraiser was in the cards for local philanthropic group

    It was perfect weather, with temperatures in the high 80s Saturday, as boaters filled their vessels with friends for a fun afternoon on Lake Tenkiller. A crowd gathered at Cookson Bend Marina, and folks lined up to support a local charity event.
    As fundraisers go, the Beta Sigma Phi Mu Omega Poker Run last Saturday could be considered huge success, as nearly $9,000 was collected.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • bilbrey-anthony.jpg Man arrested for blackmailing woman for sex

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies put a man behind bars Monday night after he allegedly tried to blackmail a woman by threatening to post nude photos of her on the Internet if she did not meet him for sex.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Peach_photo_2.jpg Peach crop lean, but fruit still available

    Summer is all about peaches in Porter – especially at Livesay Orchard.
    The Livesay Orchard is still busy a week after Porter’s annual peach festival. The orchard’s crop this year was cut in half from what had previously been expected, according to Kent Livesay, one of the owners of the orchard.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • jackson-jaymee.jpg Tot’s injuries prompt abuse charges for two local residents

    A Tahlequah couple was formally charged Tuesday with child neglect and child abuse after an 18-month-old girl was found with a number of injuries.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • proctor-micah.jpg Pair accused of threatening man

    Two men behind bars at the Cherokee County Detention Center are accused of wielding a knife and gun and assaulting a man at a trailer park on West Keetoowah Sunday afternoon.
    Tahlequah Officer Reed Felts spoke with Reinaldo Flores, who told officers he heard a knock on his door and went to answer it.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Reach Higher an innovative approach to college

    The “Reach Higher” degree completion program is helping many Oklahoma students go back to school without drastically changing their lives.
    “This program is designed for working adults,” said Tim McElroy, program coordinator at the NSU- Muskogee campus.

    July 30, 2014

  • City attorney, others questioned chamber use of tourism tax

    Letters written in 2006 by City Attorney Park Medearis to former city councilor and Tahlequah Area Tourism Council board member Jack Spears suggest money from a hotel-motel tax could be disbursed through an agent other than the Chamber of Commerce, without voter approval.

    July 30, 2014

  • Hulbert council discusses Internet service

    During a meeting Tuesday night, members of the Hulbert Town Council discussed the possibility of Lake Region Electric Cooperative’s extending its cable and Internet service.

    July 30, 2014

  • ts-marching-MAIN.jpg Marching in step

    Tahlequah High School Orange Express Marching Band kicks off 2014 season with summer drills.

    The Tahlequah High School Orange Express Marching Band has added 30-35 freshmen to its roster this year, and drills began for the newest members last Thursday.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • studie-roberta.jpg Woman accused of stealing cash, taking it to casino

    A 35-year-old Tahlequah woman is free on bond after she allegedly took $1,200 from a man who had been jailed for old warrants.
    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies said they spoke with Jason Jones last week after Jones was arrested by park rangers for the outstanding warrants. Jones said he came to Oklahoma to see family, and when he was arrested, he left his wallet and cash with one of his daughters.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo


Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways