SCHOOL BOARD OKAYS LGBT LESSONS ON 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.