LGBT curriculum battle heats up
The debate over Alameda Unified’s plans to introduce lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity at the Island’s elementary schools is intensifying. Members of an online group for the Island’s gay community are urging support for the proposal, while someone claiming to represent a group of “concerned parents” has set up a website making their case in opposition of the plan.
The author or authors of the website, which was advertised in the Alameda Journal on Friday, say the district’s proposed curriculum is not appropriate for elementary school students, and that they think that its lessons should be taught at home, not school. And they want to see other groups included.
From the site:
While the stated intent is to ensure that our schools are free from bullying and prejudice, the new curriculum is, in reality, an overt promotion for the homosexual lifestyle. It appears to be advocacy for homosexual causes that goes beyond the mission of providing safe schools.
I e-mailed the contact for the site, who said they started it because they think the district has been dismissive of some parents’ concerns about the proposed curriculum. They did not offer their name and said their group does not have a spokesperson who could be named.
Here’s what they said:
Concerned Parents has chosen not to have a spokesperson due to the unsafe school community environment that has resulted from the AUSD’s promotional material for the proposed curriculum. Parents who have concerns are being labeled “close-minded or bigoted,” but a spokesperson risks damage to career, home or life. Some of us have parents who have asked us not to make our names public to protect the safety and academic futures of their grandchildren.
They said the group started out at one school and has since spread to other schools, but did not identify the school and would not say how many parents were involved.
I also checked in with Leland Traiman, a gay father of two who is one of several people who have recently urged support of the plan on an e-mail network for the Island’s gay residents. And he said that the issues raised on the site are, in fact, a smokescreen for hatred of gays. He dismissed opponents of the proposed curriculum as a very vocal minority of Alamedans.
“Anyone who has looked at this program and is not a bigot shouldn’t have a problem,” Traiman said.
He said the lessons are useful for everyone, including children from gay-headed families, children of heterosexual couples who are gay and children who could be tempted to bully without the lessons.
“They don’t have to like other people. They just have to learn to live in peace,” Traiman said.
The district started working on the curriculum, part of a broader anti-violence curriculum it presents in the first trimester of school, last year. Earlier this year, district staff presented the proposed lessons at two schools and did individual presentations at some elementary schools (though for what it’s worth, they said they scheduled one at the school where we attend and I didn’t receive any notification about it).
The school board is getting an update based on parent feedback on April 28, hold a public hearing on May 12 and make a decision on May 26.
As of Tuesday morning, the district received more than 200 e-mails on the proposal, with 108 supporting the lessons, 94 opposing them and 18 expressing concerns about the process, per school board president Mike McMahon’s website.
His website, by the way, has the complete rundown on the process so far, plus links to the lesson plans and the text of all the e-mails the district has received. (The district has some of that information on its main page, too.)
McMahon had no comment on the brouhaha. Superintendent Kirsten Vital said she has seen the website and appreciates all the feedback the district is getting.
We are in the process of revising the lessons based on the feedback. We just met with elementary principals and will begin grade level teacher focus groups soon. I believe that by the time we get to the BOE meeting we will have refined the great work that was done by the LGBT committee into lessons that are custom made for the Alameda schools.
As always, I’ll keep you posted.