When a young Beaumont Texas mother heard that a trade school principal had closed down a popular cosmetology class rather than admit a gay student, she decided not to allow that injustice to stand. Amy Loupe Jones, one woman who made a big difference, is On Our Radar.
The white hats won at least a partial victory in Beaumont Texas this week, led by a spunky young mother with friendly smile and an irresistible moniker. Amy Loupe Jones is a name to be remembered. According to her Facebook page, Amy’s usual cause is Improving Birth.org a group that advocates for “evidenced based maternity care”. But this week, Amy organized a Facebook protest group and a rally and started a Change.org petition that appears to have scared a flaming homophobe back into his hidey hole, after he tried to end a long standing job training program because he suspected one of the students who enrolled was gay.
For ten years, the Taylor Career and Technology Center in Beaumont Texas has offered a cosmetology class. Cequada Clark, who owns a local salon, has been the instructor since 2009. The class, which on top of the $75 weekly tuition, demands up front a $1oo non-refundable deposit, a $25 registration fee, plus the purchase of a $175 make up kit, has long been a reliable investment towards a cosmetology license, for which the state requires a number of hours of instruction and practice. Monday was the first night of class for the new school year, and apparently the school’s principal, Thomas Campbell-Amons, didn’t like the look of one particular new student. According to whistle-blower Cequada Clark, Amons ended the long running and popular program rather than allow it to continue with a young man he judged on sight to be gay.
We have run across this slash and burn tactic before, of course. It was the first impulse of the Indiana state legislature when the new Republican majority wanted to take away an LGBT youth group’s fundraising license plate. They were ready to end the entire charity plate program in order to kill the one license plate that would benefit the LGBT kids, before one of the representatives found a loophole that would only require sacrificing two other group’s plates to accomplish their goal. We have even seen it used to counter hate speech, when a Maryland school district ended its flier program, rather than continue to allow the group PFOX to send home messages advocating gay reparative therapy. The tactic may not be a new one, but when one man uses it to deprive many of the students he has been trusted to educate of an opportunity they had already paid for and planned on, rather than allow a gay student attend a class, his story deserves to be told.
The first sign of Principal Amon’s personal animus toward gays came last April. As part of the class curriculum, the Taylor Center students participated in a “hair show,” competing for best hairdo with other cosmetology students in Southeastern Texas. As principal, Amons attended the hair show to support the Taylor students. According to Ms. Clark, she was surprised at that event, when Principal Amons, who is also a deacon at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, showed himself to be homophobic, telling her he found some of the other school’s students to be too “flamboyantly gay” for his sensibilities.
Apparently Monday night, one of the new cosmetology students at Taylor Center fell into the red zone on Amon’s flamboyancy meter. Calling him “riff-raff” Amon’s ordered Ms. Clark to tell the man he wasn’t welcome. Ms. Clark stood up to Amons, telling the principal if that was his message, he should deliver it himself, as far as she was concerned, the young man was welcome in her class. Unable to get the teacher to do his dirty work, Amons next move was to consult the school district’s legal advisor, who told the principal he could not legally remove just one student; the only way to expel him was to end the class for everyone. So Amons did just that. And when Ms. Clark felt morally compelled to let people know the truth behind the cancellation of the popular class, he ended her employment as well.
Ms. Clark, who by all accounts is dedicated to helping her students achieve their career goals, is considering legal action. “I take this very seriously.” She told the Examiner. “Most of my students coming in are single moms trying to move ahead and make a life for themselves. My thing is, I bust my tail off with this program: I give God the glory because it’s been doing good since I’ve been there. At the very least, I’d like to see Mr. Amons apologize to that young man and to allow those already entered in the program to finish their instruction to get licensed,”
At the first whiff of controversy, the Beaumont Independent School District issued a statement saying the Taylor Center had ended the class because of budget concerns, though that doesn’t explain why registration fees were collected and the first class was held. School board member Mike Neil mused, “If it was a budget related situation, then why wouldn’t it have been taken out during the budget process?” Further disproving the claim that money concerns ended the cosmetology class is the speed which the district pulled a Romney. On Thursday morning they insisted they couldn’t possibly sustain the popular program, but by Friday afternoon they had announced they would be reinstating it next month. There was no mention however, about rehiring the whistle-blower instructor Cequada Clark.
Amy Loupe Jones is determined to make that happen. She also wants to make sure Principal Thomas Amons doesn’t take out his personal prejudices on another gay kid. To that end, she founded the Facebook Group Southeast Texans against Taylor Principal Thomas Amons, to make sure Amon’s behavior is not covered up, or forgotten. The group, which held a protest rally yesterday, is demanding an investigation into Principal Amons for federal civil rights violations. If the investigation confirms Amons acted to discriminate, they want him removed from his position so he cannot target other LGBT students in the future. Considering the swiftness with which the school administration backed down on the class cancellation, my money is on Ms. Amy Loupe Jones to make things right in her little corner of Texas.
It is the policy of The New Civil Rights Movement not to identify people as gay if we are not assured they have come out of their own accord, so I will not publish the name of Amon’s target here. But the young cosmetology student in question did make a statement appreciative of the community’s efforts on his behalf. “I just don’t want him to be over any other kids and maybe do that to them too.” The young man said. “He can cause a lot of trouble for students like that.”
Indeed, from his position of power, Principal Thomas Amons’ homophobia can cause a lot of trouble, and a lot of heartache for young people entrusted to his care. Something tells me Amy Loupe Jones and the good people of Texas who have joined her effort are not going to allow that to happen. That’s why today, Amy Loupe Jones, one small citizen who made a big difference, is On Our Radar.