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Guest Opinion: Come on Sunol, you can do better

Bryan Gillette.

Forty-one years ago I graduated from Sunol Glen School having attended kindergarten through eighth grade. I felt proud of my education and loved the town.

My teachers were outstanding and we were deeply involved in the community. My dad organized and designed the school's playground and handball court that stood well past our time in Sunol. My mom volunteered in every classroom during my nine years.

We have all contributed to the district in times of need. And, my family trust has a large financial donation to the school upon my death. No longer.

After graduating from Sunol Glen in 1982 and then moving on to Foothill High, I saw how insular the thinking was in our small town. I have come to realize the amount of racism and homophobic behaviors that were endemic in the community.

At that time in the late '70s and early '80s, this behavior was more accepted. Not right, just accepted. There were no Black kids, no Asian kids and definitely no gay kids (that we knew about). Our diversity came from the two outsiders who drove in from Pleasanton and the one Hispanic kid living on the outskirts of town.

I can only imagine that any kid not identifying as a heterosexual during those years would have been beaten up on the playground. While we have made some progress since then, we still have a long way to go.

As I watch the debate rage on about whether a Pride flag should be flown below Old Glory and our state flag, I am disappointed with the stance the Sunol Glen School Board took. They missed an opportunity to raise awareness on a topic that needs to be more openly discussed. I am not suggesting that any flag be flown, but we should look at ways to represent those who need more representation.

The principal put the flag on the fence, but someone tore it down. That is the crime and where our anger should be targeted. She then explored a way to safely display this symbol until people complained. I fully understand that by allowing any symbol to be flown on the flagpole, we run the risk of someone wanting to raise something hateful or inappropriate. It is a slippery slope. But, couldn't there be another solution?

I have two high school boys and hear about how kids are exploring their sexuality. It wasn't the case when I was in school and, to be honest, sometimes it confounds me. But then, sometimes older generations going, "Hmm, that is different" is progress. Remember when Black people couldn't ride in the front of the bus?

We need to be more inclusive. It doesn't mean that we have to like or agree with them, but at least accept their views.

I am Agnostic but still believe Christians, Jews and Muslims should be able to pray. I am not gay but still believe they should be able to marry, raise kids and openly display their affection without retribution. It used to make me feel uncomfortable but that wasn't their problem, it was my ignorance. As a favorite quote of mine says, "Growth and comfort do not coexist."

They should also be welcomed into society just as I am every day as a white, middle-aged heterosexual male. Just because we raise a flag for a few weeks to give them a voice doesn't mean they are shoving their views down our throats. It just means we are showing they are part of this society when for so many years we have shunned their lifestyle.

Come on Sunol, you can do better. Until then, I will remove the Sunol Glen School District from my will. And while my contribution may not change things, if others do the same, it just may. If you don't believe me, ask the Boy Scouts.

Editor's note: Bryan Gillette spent his entire childhood in Sunol and graduated from Sunol Glen School in 1982 before going to Foothill High School. He has lived in Pleasanton since 1995 and is actively involved in the community where he and his wife are raising their two teenage boys.

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