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Submitted by on 1, May 26, 2009 – 8:31 pm4 Comments

Alameda Unified’s school board has approved lessons dealing with anti-gay harassment and bullying on a 3-2 vote.

“It’s been a long journey in regards to building an inclusive community. Apparently, we need to continue having this dialogue. But I feel we need to begin somewhere,” Trustee Nielsen Tam said in supporting the lessons.

Trustee Tracy Jensen, in a statement offered after her yes vote, said this has been the most divisive issue she has faced in her seven years on the school board.

Ron Mooney cast the third affirmative vote.

Trustee Patricia Spencer, who voted against the lessons, said she thinks the lessons don’t go far enough to address bullying of children due to their race, religion or other reason. And she said she thought the lessons could increase harassment and bullying of children who don’t agree.

“I look at that, and I can’t help but think that that goes against the spirit of the law,” Spencer said.

School board President Mike McMahon said he would only support the proposal if it contained an opt-out for parents for the coming school year, so that the curriculum could be evaluated for effectiveness.

Superintendent Kirsten Vital said the discussion around the lessons showed that more work needs to be done to protect children of different races and religions from harassment and bullying.

“What’s come out of this conversation is, we need to do more for all groups,” Vital said. She said the district intends to put together a supplemental guide to support the district’s existing anti-bullying curriculum to cover race, religion and other classes legally protected from bullying and that district leaders will evaluate the curriculum to make sure it meets students’ needs.

Opponents of the lessons handed the board a petition with 468 signatures on it (but withdrew it, they said, out of fear of retribution if the names were made public). They asked the board to set up a task force to come up with lessons that more people can agree on.

They said the lessons would lead to costly lawsuits and recall petitions, and that they aren’t inclusive enough.

Proponents said the lessons are needed to address anti-gay bullying that happens as early as elementary schools, and that the lessons have been effective in other schools where they have been taught. They said other groups, like people of different races and religions, are reflected in the current curriculum and that gays are invisible.

They said a lack of a curriculum could expose the district to more lawsuits, with bigger costs. And they said notifying parents when the lessons are to be taught would amount to an opt-out provision, as parents would take their children out to avoid them.

The decision came on the same day the California Supreme Court upheld the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. The court also said 18,000 marriages that already took place can remain legally valid.

I’ll have a complete story for you tomorrow morning. So stay tuned. In the meantime, the lessons are here.


  • Crystal says:

    These lessons violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Government run schools are suppose to remain neutral on issues of morality. These lessons obviously promote multisexuality, while marginalizing children with religious convictions. It is sad that a political battle has entered the classroom. I can only hope that this will become a legal battle and all multisexual curriculum will be cast out of the California public schools. Three board members with a political agenda should not be allowed to set policy for Alameda Unified School District.

  • dave says:

    If your religious convictions prevent you from recognizing equality, take those convictions to a religious school.

  • David Kirwin says:

    To those who care about Alameda Unified School District and their BOE’s vote to approve an LGBT curriculum;

    I am saddened by the vote tonight which will be so costly to the district, so discriminatory in putting gays above all other protected classes, turns an ‘overall’ curriculum meant to be a “framework” into an LGBT-exclusive ‘victory’, and dividing the house that was our school district’s community.

    This curriculum could have been valued by all if it had similar tenants for all classes and was achieved by a “unified” group of diversified opinions gathered together to benefit all the classes. Now this is perhaps a turning point for our schools. AUSD’s use of lies and deceit to support this curriculum is the saddest part. We cannot disregard truth to support ideals, or all is lost. The district has lost integrity and also lost my trust.

    The lawyers were in the room and there is no way of knowing how much this will cost the district in terms of funds. No way of knowing how many lawsuits will result. No way of knowing if the curriculum will achieve the goals for the gays, or if it will create more name calling after the curriculum is taught as it has at Otis School after the test classes.

    Most disappointing is the exclusive way the curriculum was put together, and the lies which were fed to the public by staff. This is fundamentally unacceptable. Shocking were the board member’s public put-downs of religions with which he does not agree. Right on the dais as he is saying he wants tolerance and equity, he blasphemies religions he is ignorant of, and cheered by those saying the proposal is about tolerance. Surely those who are going to be suing the district will be glad to have his remarks recorded.

    If the BOE did not want to vote to start over with a new and balanced committee, they should have at the very least, waited until the guidelines were established to utilize the CSC curriculum for equal benefit to all protected classes, and determine how these lessons would be used without infringing on the religious rights of others. But this too was rejected.

    Almost all the problems cited in support for this curriculum take place in high school, yet this curriculum ignores high school and middle school. Teachers wanted help how to intervene with harassment, instead we ignore them and present a new set of LGBT lessons for our littlest, youngest children.

    It is a shame the new superintendent was invited into our district and let this prejudiced committee’s proposal continue to go out of control. It has been overwhelmingly obvious that the majority of Alamedans rejected this proposal, and did so for a wide range of reasons. Since this is the way this superintendent and Board want to run our schools, they will do it without any more parcel tax support. This is a sad turning point and a heartbreaking way for a new board and a new superintendant of a broke school district to establish a relationship with the community.

  • David Kirwin says:

    Dave the constitution protects us all equally regardless of your personal opinions. It is the vote of the BOE that does not recognize equality, just as the board members comments reflected. I'm sure that will be the basis of the lawsuits. Don't you get it?

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