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Hundreds turn out to talk about LGBT lessons

Submitted by on 1, May 13, 2009 – 6:00 am16 Comments
Devil at City Hall

I know the meetings are long, but ...

An overflow crowd turned out Tuesday night to offer their views on Alameda Unified’s proposed lessons to combat anti-gay bullying.

More than 200 people signed speaker slips to tell the school board (sans Niel Tam, who was absent) what they think of the lessons, and the board took three and a half hours of testimony.

So many people signed up to speak, the board decided to hold another hearing to deal exclusively with the issue (in large part to accommodate people who got kicked out of the packed council chamber for safety reasons). It’ll be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 18, at a location to be confirmed (the middle schools they ah hoped to use weren’t available; I’ll update you with the full details when they’re available).

Those who favor the lessons said they represent an important step toward stopping anti-gay slurs and bullying, something they said teachers have few tools to combat right now. And they also provide visibility to a group of people who are not represented in a positive way in the schools.

They said the use of anti-gay slurs starts early, and the damage they cause is serious: gay youth and those who are targeted by anti-gay bullying are much more likely to skip school, abuse drugs and alcohol and commit suicide than those who aren’t.

The curriculum is not about sex, they said, but about respecting people’s differences.

“Just because you (teach) tolerance doesn’t automatically mean the child will become a gay or a lesbian. It is more that they learn tolerance is an important aspect of being a human being,” Ray Piwakar, a supporter of the curriculum, said.

But opponents said the lessons represent a political and cultural point of view that not everybody shares, and they feel that by validating gay relationships in the classroom, the district is violating parents’ right to teach their children otherwise. They said they fear their children will be harassed for not going along.

Some questioned whether the district has the legal right to require students to take the lessons, which they said should include a broader array of groups. And they want the right to opt out.

The district’s legal counsel said the district should provide parents notice of the lessons, but should not provide an option to opt out of them.

Thomas Chow told the board he’s worried his daughter will be labeled a “bigot” and a “hater” if she disagrees with the lessons in the plan. He thinks the district should allow him to opt out of the lessons.

“Children are cruel to those who are different. And they need to be taught respect to all people,” Chow said. “This curriculum doesn’t do that. It endorses one particular viewpoint, that the LGBT lifestyle is normal and respectable.”

The hearing drew representatives of two conservative, Sacramento-based interest groups; a lineup of TV trucks; congregants from churches that are both for and against; people whose kids aren’t even born yet – and a guy in a devil suit (pictured).

The school board is slated to make a decision on the proposed curriculum on May 26.

16 Comments »

  • Hornetkilla says:

    The schools need to stay out of this issue. Its the parents job to educate their children that homosexuality is morally unaccepable.

  • Jim says:

    The Dept of Education is using the gay-issue to bring Sensitivity Training into the Oakland schools.

    "Sensitivity training is defined as group meetings, large or small, to discuss publicly intimate and personal matters, and opinions, values or beliefs; and/or, to act out emotions and feelings toward one another in the group, using techniques of self-confession and mutual criticism."

    It is essentially "social facilitators" "facilitating" in children an understanding and "correct thinking", as stipulated by the state.

    There is are records around a Garden Grove, California incident in 1969 where many of the issues and agendas were revealed. The same techniques are being redeployed now, but using the gay issue as the impetus and rationale. Parents don't see that it is simply the state attempting to exercise more influence over children.

    Parents, both gay and heterosexual need to come together to fight against the real perpetrators of this policy, the Department of Education who deploy "Change Agents" to deceive the community, create division, and achieve the desired policy objectives.

    Please don't fall for their use of Delphi Techniques on unsuspecting communities, parents, educators, and school administrators.

  • Jennifer says:

    I removed my daughter from an Alameda public elementary school due to bullying because we are Christians. Why wasn't anyone concerned about her when I complained? NO child should be bullied for any reason, ever. Why such concern for only one group? Why aren't ALL children protected?

  • dave says:

    Considering that Christians are a plurality, if not a majority, of AUSD students, that story uh, shall we say, strains credulity. When & where did it happen? What were the particular circumstances? Did you escalate the matter? If not, why not? Was your daughter proselytizing or enagaing in any other inappropriate behavior?

  • Mindy says:

    Jennifer,

    Exactly how was your daughter bullied for being a Christian? Where did you make your complaint? What happened when you made it? When did this take place? What form did the bullying take? Was your daughter called names? For example? Please explain further.

  • Hornetkilla says:

    Jennifer gets grilled because she says shes a Christian, but I know that if she said she was a homosexual there would be nothing but an outpouring of support for the perversion..

  • David Kirwin says:

    Direct wording from AB 397, ‘The Safe place to Learn Act, which is meant to “enforce: AB537 (aka The California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act:

    Article 5.5. Safe Place to Learn Act

    234. (a) This article shall be known and may be cited as the Safe

    Place to Learn Act….. The department (State Ed Dept.) shall assess whether local

    educational agencies (Districts like AUSD) have done all of the following:

    (a) Adopted a policy that prohibits discrimination and harassment

    based on the characteristics set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal

    Code and Section 220.(AUSD – Yes or No?)

    (b) Adopted a process for receiving and investigating complaints

    of discrimination and harassment based on the characteristics set

    forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code and Section 220. (AUSD – Yes or No?)

    (c) Publicized antidiscrimination and antiharassment policies,

    including information about the manner in which to file a complaint,

    to pupils, parents, employees, agents of the governing board, and the

    general public. The information shall be translated pursuant to

    Section 48985. (AUSD – Yes or No?)

    (d) Posted antidiscrimination and antiharassment policies in all

    schools and offices, including staff lounges and pupil government

    meeting rooms. (AUSD – Yes or No?)

    (e) Maintained documentation of complaints and their resolution

    for a minimum of one review cycle. (AUSD – Yes or No?)

    (f) Ensured that complainants are protected from retaliation and

    that the identity of a complainant alleging discrimination or

    harassment remains confidential, as appropriate. (AUSD – Yes or No?)

    (g) Identified a responsible local educational agency officer for

    ensuring district or office compliance with the requirements of

    Chapter 5.3 (commencing with Section 4900) of Division 1 of Title 5

    of the California Code of Regulations and Chapter 2 (commencing with

    Section 200). (AUSD – Following these rules – Yes or No?)

    Not until AUSD is legally compliant should this Curriculum even be considered by our BOE.

    WHY is our BOE not requiring our school district to be legally compliant to anti-harassment laws?

  • suzy says:

    To Dave and Mindy

    After this proposed "Safe Schools" curriculm is implemented, do you foresee a "welcoming classroom" for a Christian child that believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman only (like the 1/3 of Alameda that voted yes on 8)? This view will be in conflict with the teachings of the curriculm (Tango makes 3 and lessons beyond). Will this be a respected a "welcomed" view?

  • Lillian says:

    The school should emphasize that everyone has a choice to be with whomever they want, and it’s not for anyone to judge one way or the other. You may have your beliefs of how it should be, but tollerence is what they need to practice. Maybe leave it at that. You can have 2 moms or 2 dads or a mom and a dad, it’s just a choice people have. Just like you can choose to wear your white or black socks that day.

    Children are cruel, maybe the best medicine for bullies is for schools to make an example of any known bully, that should teach all the children a lesson. I think we often pamper our children more than necessary… there is a lot of social pressures, you cannot count on parents to discipline thier children as there are a lot of bad parents out there, so the school should have a uniform way of punishing bullies. If you show that it’s unacceptible very early in life, maybe there’d be less of it later in life.

  • dave says:

    It's a free country; you can make a single, if dubious, religious tenet the lynchpin of a decision. If it is that central to your life, send your children to a religious school. The Constitution, as well as 2 centuries+ of case law, allows religious institutions to discriminate as they see fit, the love-thy-neighbor thingy notwithstanding.

    The rest of us who choose public schools will continue to abide by the letter, spirit and supporting precedent of the 14th Amendment.

  • Mindy says:

    Gee, I would rather that you simply pull my writing down than neuter it to the point of worthlessness and post it under "Anonymous." It really isn't a very fair fight to have both arms tied behind your back. My comments were good analogies, though perhaps a bit disturbing to some. What do you expect if you report on disturbing topics and invite the public to comment? You always have the choice of not allowing comments. I would suggest that you choose that option rather than bowdlerize respondents. Why remove my comments but allow ones such as, "but I know that if she said she was a homosexual there would be nothing but an outpouring of support for the perversion.."

    If this edit was in error, then please accept my apology.

    • Hi,

      I just want to remind folks that I do have a comment policy and that it is posted to the lower right of your screen. I do apologize for the "anonymous" listing, WordPress does pull the name when I edit a comment.

      As requested, I will pull the comment.

  • David Kirwin says:

    AUSD SHOULD train district staff to be able to address these issues with openness, fairness, and an ability to make students feel welcome and without violating the constitutional protections of anyone.

    But this curriculum is horrible.

    From conversations and discussions out side City Hall last night, those on both sides of the issues agreed the District handled this terribly, starting with the formation and makeup of the committee and the title of the curriculum.

    How simple would it have been for the BOE to have initiated a new policy to simply have early grade reading books reflect our school community.

    Would people have noticed, raised an eyebrow?
    I don’t really believe that the classroom readers don’t already show families of many nationalities, mixed nationalities, families with single parents, same gender parents, or extended families. Books should also reflect the handicapped and model how kids can interact and help students with varied disabilities. We both in favor and opposed to the curriculum agreed the books should reflect the community without value judgments.

    Would people mind simple readers describing differences in religions? As long as such readers neither stated nor implied good or bad values but simply acknowledged the realities of our community in a neutral way, we don’t think there would have bee any real opposition to such a proposal even when using the words “gay” and “lesbian” as words that describe two dad families or two mommy families.

    It was the proposal committee and staff who first said the proposal was required by law (until it was proven to be untrue), then staff said books had to be on an approved State list, which is also untrue.

    This could have been, should have been, should still be, a very simple thing to teach kids what “gay” is without “value statements” which could either harm the constitutionally protected LGB’s or the constitutionally protected religions. Staff would need to be trained on what they could or could not say, just as staff needs to be trained on how to deal with all forms of harassment intervention, especially in middle and high school.

    Would this satisfy the needs of the LGBT advocates? Although as a group we thought it would, and although it would help the kids, and remove the “invisibility” thing the gay parents expressed; I think it would not appease the drive for flamboyant drama of the political will and manipulation game these PACs and advocate organizations are into. But ask them. This could be the common ground.

    But this curriculum is still horrible.

  • Susan Davis says:

    David,

    I am offended by the last paragraph of your comment.

    Over the last few months, I haven't found the individuals supporting this curriculum to be flamboyantly dramatic at all. Instead, I've found them to be thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive and soft-spoken.

    In fact, I've been impressed and inspired by their quietness, especially given the names they've been called in public forums of late — including "repulsive," "abnormal," "perverse," and, now, yes, "flamboyant" (often used as a stereotype about gay men, of course).

    For true flamboyance and drama, my top pick would have to be the man dressed as a red devil and carrying a sign with the words "sodomy" and "hell" on it Tuesday night.

  • David Kirwin says:

    Susan,
    Please re-read the sentence!

    I am not labeling people involved as flamboyant, quite the opposite – it’s the political game being played which is flamboyant. Who titled the proposal? They have been working on this for years. Seems it’s designed to create uproar and headlines. Are you also watching the master plan development and the budget suggestions, or are you distracted?

    Those of us willing to converse on this subject outside city hall the other night (long after the ‘flamboyant’ devil playing dress-up left) came to the realization that a simple policy “to make the reading books in the elementary classrooms reflective the community” would have achieved the goals of “removing the ‘invisibility’ factor, and to de-mystify the words “gay” and “lesbian”, by showing a family with two moms, or two dads and stating that parenting couples of the same gender are called ‘gay’ couples. That would ‘demystify’ the word, without a good/bad value, merely reporting the type of families in our schools. It could also do the same for other nationalities, religions, and especially for the handicapped – a much more apparent condition than the sexual preferences for a school mates parents – don’t you agree?

    Do you see how much simpler this could have been? No big drama, all the benefits serving more subgroups of our community, and it could be dome without the teachers trying to undermine the religious and moral values of a child’s home. It would have to be understood by all that LGBT, or religious advocacy would not be tolerated; that the goal is simply to show positive child role-models from the different kinds of families in our community.

    I believe we agree we want schools to be and feel safe for all children, and I do think children of gay parents may need to see others in their predicament so they do not feel isolated. I feel for the kids, and I have often thought gay couples choosing to raise kids knew beforehand the extra hardships their kids would be facing. But kids don’t get to choose their parents, so I do feel something could/should be done for those kids without raising a moral issue, without a conflict of religion vs. lifestyle. You may react to this statement as wicked or bigoted, but isn’t this the reason for the proposal – to help the kids? And the same could be said of many devout religious families – Sikh, Moslem, Mormon, evangelical Baptists, whatever, – Alameda has a broad based community of faiths, and that should be recognized and is also constitutionally protected, yet it is a greater source of harassment than “perceived or actual gender or sexual identification”.

    The hard part for dealing with harassment will still be at middle and high school levels, and in my opinion, staff will need specific training and a specific written procedure adopted by the BOE to protect the staff from personal liabilities, but that’s another issue that needs to be addressed in conjunction with the requirements of AB 394.

    I shared the suggestion of “making the reading books in the elementary classrooms reflective the community” with mom of LDS faith, who “whole heartedly supports the suggestion”. Extending that conversation I learned there are many other LDS who support the suggestion, but we all agree that the proposed curriculum is unacceptable for a wide range of reasons. (Both the lessons and the curriculum title are so bad as to appear intentionally created just to incite hoopla, high profile hype, creating enough attention to bring LGBT press, but still relatively few will look at the proposal in depth. This probably serves Advocacy groups and people like Barry who have set up cottage industries that benefit from the laws and school or corporate commitments they themselves create; for them this is also their business, their income machine.)

    Others have also reiterated they are “so disappointed in the way the District has handled this. There is tremendous distrust among parents and the District needs to bend over backwards to restore that trust. They must make it clear that they will alert parents anytime the teachers are discussing these issues so that parents can come into the classroom and see for themselves that they are truly teaching “tolerance,” not trying to convince them that it is normal to be gay or to have a sex change, etc.” (Like they did at Franklin)

    The other piece of this is intensive teacher training. Teachers need to know what they must not say to our young children and how to safely handle the older ones.

  • Susan Davis says:

    Hi David,

    I wouldn’t be the one to really talk to about your alternative proposal, as I’m not on the curriculum committee and don’t work for the district. But I can say this much: While I really like the idea of including more images of gay/lesbian families in the schools’ reading materials, your proposal doesn’t seem to address the core anti-bullying messages of the current Safe Schools Curriculum.

    If you look at the lesson plans of the current plan carefully, they really don’t focus on the need to accept LGBT people. They focus on teaching children to *accept differences and not bully*, no matter what their personal beliefs are about the victim and his/her family.

    E.g., the K lesson plans don’t mention LGBT at all.

    The Grade 1 lesson, “Who’s In a Family?,” describes a wide diversity of families — there’s no real focus on LGBT families at all. It’s about acknowledging that different families exist and using that as a preliminary platform for anti-bullying messages.

    The purpose of the Grade 2 lesson is simply to acknowledge that different types of families exist, but that their shared purpose is to nurture their young.

    The Grade 3 lesson, again, is inclusive of all types of families — including adoption, blended, divorced, mixed race, multi-generational, single parent, and, yes, LGBT-headed families. The film has children referring, in their own words, to race, ethnicity, religion, disability, national origin, and LGBT.

    The activities focus on how all different families are similar and different. It’s not just about LGBT — it’s about acknowledging that different family structures exist and respecting them and using THAT as a basis for the message that we shouldn’t tease/bully people who are different from us.

    The Grade 4 lesson, “Developing Empathy & Being An Ally,” does introduce LGBT issues, but, again, it’s specifically in the context of teaching children to have empathy and be allies — no matter who the victim is. In this lesson, children aren’t asked to express their feelings about homosexuality, BTW — they’re asked to express their feelings about being an ally (i.e., someone who will stand up for someone else who is being bullied, no matter what the reason for the bullying is).

    As an aside, this is my favorite lesson — because being an ally can be scary (who wants to get targeted themselves?). It also reinforces the message that ALL name-calling/teasing is inappropriate — a message that I heard dozens of opponents say they support last Tuesday night.

    The Grade 5 lesson examines stereotyping — including, but not limited to, LGBT stereotyping. This lesson does focus more on LGBT issues (including stereotyping and famous LGBT people) but if you take it in the context on all the lessons in our elementary schools about other stereotypes and other famous minority people (African Americans, women, Native Americans, etc) it’s hardly exclusive.

    (Another aside: This lesson may sound “too sexual” to parents of young children, but as a parent of a 5th grader, I can assure you this lesson is age appropriate. Kids at this age are thinking about puberty, wondering about dating, and becoming way WAY more discerning of and critical about other children and their families.)

    To summarize (this may be the longest comment I have other posted) — while your alternative proposal addresses the “invisibility factor,” I just don’t see how it addresses that all-important anti-bullying component which is the heart of the current proposal.

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