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In their own words: Two viewpoints on Lesson 9

Submitted by on 1, May 22, 2009 – 6:00 am10 Comments

Alameda Unified’s much-discussed elementary school lessons to address anti-gay slurs and bullying are coming to a vote this coming Tuesday, May 26. Supporters call it a much-needed step toward providing support to students who might be subject to such slurs, and to families who have long lacked visibility in our school system. Opponents accuse the district of trampling parents’ rights to offer their children their own views on homosexuality at a time of their choosing.

The Island decided to give space today to a proponent and an opponent of the plan to offer their views (and I flipped a coin to decide the order). And just a quick note on this specific piece, commenters: I’d prefer it if you used your names on these, please. (Sorry, should have said that two days ago. My bad.)

We’ll start with Kerry Cook, an Alameda resident and former anti-discrimination professional turned stay-at-home mom who opposes the lesson plans:

“Addressing Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” fails to clearly explain to teachers, children or parents what their legal rights and responsibilities are. Instead, it tries to shape beliefs and values around an issue that is too complex for elementary school children. Teachers might not like the values of children from many races, cultures, religions, and traditions, but no law justifies crushing them by teaching words like homophobia incorrectly.

My son has an uncle who has a friend, but he does not have two uncles. Even if my brother “married” his friend, we would still say uncle and friend. It is our right to take away the visibility demanded by homosexual rights activists in our own personal lives. And it is not the school’s responsibility to give homosexual families visibility – just to keep them as safe as all the other groups protected under anti-discrimination laws.

Here is an idea for elementary school instead of the thought-control-curriculum. Review the Nondiscrimination/Harassment Policy BP5145.3 (update if necessary) then write a detailed protocol for responding to all types of teasing and bullying. This protocol is the best tool for teachers if it has the power of disciplinary measures. Write it up in simple terms that make everyone accountable, distribute brochures and conduct presentations for teachers and parents.

Alameda needs a Common Ground Taskforce for K-12 with equal representatives of the different views on homosexuality to undertake this work. I want my son to learn all the facts about homosexuality, but not when he starts kindergarten this August. It is no accident the California Department of Education Health Content Standards wait until seventh grade to introduce sexual orientation. Homosexuality is a complex topic because there are two theories, but one of them is unfashionable, and most adults are confused.

When our children start seventh grade, we will teach them that same sex attraction (SSA) may be temporary and “transgender” behavior may be Gender Identity Disorder (GID). We have a love for our children’s uncle that includes the hope that someday he will find a wife. This is honest, respectful love based on personal relationship over decades; not homophobia. Seventh grade students can evaluate the evidence within the broad context of sex, where this belongs.

Instead of expensive consultants pushing political definitions of homophobia and pressuring children to “come out” and identify as homosexual, I want my children to know all about homosexuality. Blaming people who do not approve is not a very academic approach. Let’s have a task force that will support academic curriculum with all the facts and theories, when the time is right.

For more information, please visit the Concerned Parents website here.

Allan Mann, an Alameda resident and business owner who teaches at Golden Gate University, supports the lessons. Here’s what he has to say:

Forty years ago, Iowa teacher Jane Elliot segregated students in her third grade classroom by the color of their eyes and gave one group special privileges over the other to demonstrate the effects of discrimination. The exercise has since been used nationwide to teach two generations of students how it feels to be discriminated against based on simple biological differences.

People in same-gender relationships and their children know all too well how it feels to be made to feel ashamed, invisible or, worse, to be bullied for a biological difference that occurs naturally in a percentage of the population.

The Alameda Unified School District is expanding its Caring Schools Community curriculum to address, for the first time, differences related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The elementary activities are a wonderful array of age-appropriate exercises that include references to kids who have two mommies or two daddies, or who engage in behavior that does not conform to gender stereotypes. A secondary school curriculum will follow.

Although community support for the new curriculum is widespread, a vocal group of parents have raised objections to the added lessons. Opponents claim that the lessons pay special attention to just one group and ignore the needs of others. They are apparently unaware of how Alameda public schools already address issues of race, religion, gender, national origin and physical ability. The new lessons simply enhance the existing curriculum by focusing on those who have been totally overlooked until now.

Those opposed to the curriculum also say that elementary children are too young to be taught about relationships based on same-gender attraction. However, nothing in this curriculum requires teachers to explain same-gender relationships in sexual terms any more than they currently do when discussing traditional heterosexual relationships.

Opponents say that these lessons elevate one moral viewpoint over another and thereby conflict with their religious belief that homosexual behavior is immoral. In fact, the curriculum removes moral judgment from the equation altogether: It simply acknowledges the existence of same-gender relationships in a non-judgmental manner and encourages the children to treat everyone with respect.

The books that many of us read as children did little to help us prepare for life in a diverse and multicultural world. Over time, many other formerly invisible minorities have been acknowledged through curricula such as this. It’s time for people in same-gender relationships and their children to be able to safely come out of the closet and enjoy the recognition and respectful treatment that they deserve. It’s a small step toward helping people begin to see eye to eye, regardless of what color those eyes might be.

For more information, please visit Alameda C.A.R.E. at http://www.alamedacare.org.


  • Jon Spangler says:

    Why does Kerry Cook believe that other public elementary school parents–but not those belonging to her privileged class–should be treated as “invisible” second-class citizens, and their children left vulnerable to bullying and harassment?

    Perhaps she and her husband should try hiding their different-sex relationship for a while at PTA meetings and in the classroom to see what invisibility feels like. (Would “hiding” your love be considered “immoral”? Think about how committed, loving single or LGBT parents feel when you identify their love and commitment as unequal to yours.)

    As a straight, married Christian, I was appalled at the number of bullying and harassment incidents I had to deal with while supervising kindergartners at Franklin School for three years. (I suffered from much more frequent anti-gay epithets, all false accusations, in grade school. Similar verbal abuse still goes on, although less of it, and it starts in kindergarten. I still bear my own scars from that schoolyard abuse 50 years ago.)

    The only way to stop the physical and verbal bullying is to teach mutual respect and tolerance for every student and every student’s family. Than means that students need to learn about and learn to respect the many different kinds of families (nuclear, single-parent, grandparent-led, two-mom, two-dad, adopted, biological, and more) that exist in their own community, the classroom and school.

    Teaching respect and tolerance is not s*e*x education, it is a matter of teaching demographics, civil rights, and how the world really is. And, at this level, teaching kids about the different kinds of families represented in their own classroom is eminently simple and straightforward (“Kris has two moms.” “Eric has one mom.” “Susan has a mom and a dad.” Sam lives with his grandmother.”) One might even call it being polite, a value that parents can adopt, too.

    Teaching politeness, civil rights, and democratic principles like mutual respect and tolerance for all–including those with diverse religious views–is not Orwellian “thought-control.” It is Civics 101, and it is mandated by the CA Penal Code (Section 466.2) and AB 537, the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000.

    Learning respect for “different” families and their fellow students who are loved by parents in relationships that look different from their own is how we will reduce the bullying. Asking your fellow parents and PTA members who belong to the LGBT community to stay “invisible” is asking them to do something you would never accept. Why the double standard,which runs counter to basic democratic principles?

    Knowing about families with different structures will not “convert” children to anything but being more aware and respectful of their peers. Knowing that Sam has two dads will not make Sarah a lesbian, and does not make her different-sex parents into gay or lesbian parents, either. There is no need to fear an “agenda” that does not exist. The “agenda” here is peacemaking, as I see it from my Christian perspective, and nothing more.

    “Love one another as I have loved you.”

    Love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • David Kirwin says:

    Teaching respect and tolerance is not s*e*x education…

    But LGBT education is part of sex education

    Save it for middle and high school, where most of the LGBT harassment takes place.

    Staff will usually not intervene in middle and high school peer harassment without a clear written procedure. Why isn’t there one?

  • David Kirwin says:

    For people who think AUSD teaches heterosexuality – where do you get this idea?

    There are no lesson plans to promote any sexual orientation. Parents do not “exhibit” their sexual preferences on school grounds.

    Who at PTA meetings or anywhere on AUSD property are “displaying their heterosexuality?”

    Don’t you get it? It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is, or what someone else does in their private spaces, we don’t need, nor should we have displays of it in our schools!

    What’s your hang up and preoccupation with other people’s sexual orientation? Get a grip!

    Terms like “husband”, “wife”, or the wearing of a wedding ring are not symbols of heterosexuality these are words and symbols also used by our gay parents. There is no ‘inequity’ in this.

    It is crazy talk to say gay parents are invisible, and hetero parents are displaying their heterosexuality. Just because there are more hetero parents than gay parents does not make it necessary to teach values of one differently than another.

    The proposed curriculum does not teach equality of protected classes, it does not teach tolerance of protected classes, it only promotes the LGBT ‘cause’. None of the other lessons in the ‘Caring School Curriculum’ address any other protected classes such as race, nationality, religion, or physically or mentally disabled, or “other abeled.”

    For the BOE to Approve this curriculum will cause widespread and long term community distrust and animosity within our community and with our school district.

    This community can work together to put a far better program together. Every successful program, like the one SFUSD put together starts with a committee that represents the entire community. SF’s program addresses all forms of harassment, and provides staff with direct steps to take to intervene.

    Everyone in our community wants all students to feel safe and welcomed. The BOE must give the community the chance to come together or they will be dealing with an angry distrusting community. BOE must admit that AUSD staff went about this proposal the wrong way by allowing the LGBT community to exclude the rest of our community in putting the curriculum proposal together.. We’ll have a better program if given the chance to work together.

  • Charlotte Tlachac says:


    Thank you for posting the two opposing responses considering the new curriculum changes proposed to deter bullying based upon sexual orientation. I think that both were clear explanations of the diametric views.

    I found it so sad that an adult family member of a gay person would still be denying that person the right to be who they are. Hoping for a gender "change" and trading in a partner/husband for a wife is exactly the form of ignorance of the science of the matter that leads a community to have to rely upon the educational system to insure that children are taught the facts and not just a morally slanted and distorted view of reality.

    An educated youth can become a thinking, responsible member of society whereas someone held back by antiquated beliefs may endanger the freedom of others. We can not allow the civil rights of the whole to be determined by the discriminatory feelings of the few.

    I feel that people are certainly entitled to teach children their beliefs, no matter what viewpoint they may hold. However, the facts must not be clouded by religious prejudice which is not universally held in the community. Children should be exposed to a variety of philosophies and taught how to study them objectively. Comparing and contrasting differing veiwpoints will enhance their ability to think and develop educated morals that are not just passed down and accepted without due thought process.

    As an associate professor in the UC system for 25 years, it was always clear to me which students had been taught to think for themselves and which had just learned to memorize what was presented to them. Successful students, professionals and societies are based upon open-mindedness and a thirst for education that allows varying theories to be considered and adopted when proven to be viable.

    Let's not allow the children of Alameda continue to be "protected" from the truth of life: there are people of many gender orientations and preferences, just as there are people of varying dietary practices and musical choices. Our job in educating our youth should be to expose them to all the wonders that humanity has to offer, not just the ones that the religious right approves of.

    Keep up the good work of keeping Alameda's issues in the forefront for all to participate in.

    Charlotte Tlachac, O.D., F.A.A.O.

  • David Kirwin says:

    "Children should be exposed to a variety of philosophies and taught how to study them objectively. Comparing and contrasting differing viewpoints will enhance their ability to think and develop educated morals that are not just passed down and accepted without due thought process."

    While I agree with Charlotte who taught at the college level for 25 years, I notice she has not addressed the age and maturation factor related to teaching which is one of the major factors in the current AUSD controversy. Nor did she address the exclusion of the community in putting the proposal together, or the untruths told to the public concerning requirements, curriculum, format, other protected classes etc, all fed to the public by AUSD staff.

  • Susan Davis says:


    You refer to the proposed curriculum as "thought control." But is it not "thought control" to tell your son that his uncle's partner is just a "friend" — to essentially deny the nature of a relationship that exists within your family?

    And what sort of control do you need to exert to ensure that said uncle and friend never betray their deeper feelings in your son's presence?

    I felt sad when I read your post — sad for you, sad for your son, and especially sad for the uncle.

  • David Kirwin says:


    While I might agree with you, you and I will not charge over to Kerry's son and tell him what's what according to our perceptions of the world. We have that much respect for the rights of others. We may also have the belief that when Kerry's son is old enough that he will learn the differences in peoples religions, and determine in his own way, what is 'useless dogma' and what is useful for he and his society, or the community he joins.

    I think this portion of re-education of Kerry does not belong in K-5.

    On a tangent – did you know that K-12 and colleges are legally very different at their very core? Children are "legally bound" to attend K-12, therefore great concern is placed upon what the State offers to meet that legal requirement. Not so with higher ed, because that IS a choice. In fact by definition of all building, fire, and safety codes, colleges and universities are not educational facilities, they are considered "business occupancies".

  • David Kirwin says:

    I think this portion of re-education of Kerry does not belong in K-5.

    I meant; I think this portion of re-education of Kerry's son does not belong in K-5.

  • Federale says:

    This is nothing more than homosexual propoganda. It is more appropriate for an adult political discussion than validating homosexuality. Shame on AUSD for trying to immitate SFUSD. It shows how many of the outsiders who moved here just want to remake what they fled here in Alameda.

  • David Kirwin says:

    It is meant as ‘homosexual awareness’ not propaganda.

    I agree it is better left to older kids, not K-3, but the LGBT committee wanted to ‘bring it down a notch’ for little kiddies, and especially for the kids of same-sex parents. They were close to having an curriculum which would have much more widespread acceptance, but 3 BOE members decided to force a dramatic fissure in our community.

    It is really sad when after talking to LDS parents, a happy medium could have been reached with real community unity and mutual respect, but the LGBT committee refused others who wanted to negotiate how the issues would be brought to their children.

    I can’t imagine a worse way for the new BOE to start in these times – the audacity to not care about everyone in the district, to allow an exclusionary committee to determine for all what ‘inclusion and tolerance’ means and how it should be taught to all, to kiss-off the next parcel tax attempt, to build animosity instead of a foundation for the community to work together. -The kids don’t care, this was not their issue. From the chosen curriculum this was also not about bullying or harassment either.

    The most disturbing aspect is the lies and deceit of the AUSD staff and the steady blend of misinformation to promote this LGBT agenda, and that BOE members knowingly went along condoning the lies and deceit by AUSD employees.

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