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School board denies LGBT lesson complaint appeal

Submitted by on 1, August 11, 2009 – 6:00 amOne Comment

020509_18291The school board voted 4-1 Monday night not to hear an appeal of a complaint filed by a parent who opposes the anti-gay bullying lessons the board approved in May.

Kerry Cook, a parent who has been a vocal critic of the lessons, filed a complaint with the district in June alleging that district staff discriminated against parents whose religious beliefs condemn homosexuality and that the curriculum and the process for creating it were discriminatory, in violation of district policies and state law.

“The curriculum is inappropriate for elementary school children and discriminates against different viewpoints, including parents and students whose religious, moral and spiritual values differ from the LGBT sexual orientation curriculum that has been approved,” Cook wrote.

Cook had sought a delay in implementation of the lessons, which are slated to begin this fall in the district’s elementary schools. She wanted the district to set up a new committee that includes people with a range of viewpoints on what should be taught. The original committee had included a single parent who favors the lessons.

Jeff Knoth, the district’s student affairs and compliance officer, wrote Cook on June 25 saying that district staff didn’t find any areas where the curriculum violates the California Department of Education’s state health standards or the state education code, as alleged in the complaint. Cook appealed to the board, which took up the matter on Monday.

Peter Hagberg, an attorney working for Cook, alleged that district staff failed to properly investigate Cook’s complaint and that they refused to accept additional information that Hagberg said backs up her claims. Superintendent Kirsten Vital said the board was required only to hear the complaint that was originally presented.

“We can’t have a rolling complaint,” said Vital, who, with Assistant Superintendent Debbie Wong and Acting Assistant Superintendent Margie Sherratt, was named in the complaint.

Hagberg told the board that the curriculum it approved is not respectful of all beliefs, which he said violates the district’s policy. As an example, he mentioned a lesson that requires students to say whether they feel comfortable being an ally to a boy whose parents are lesbians.

“The curriculum is designed to move (students) from a religious belief to an LGBT belief,” he said.

School board trustee Tracy Jensen – who is one of three board members facing a recall campaign for her yes vote on the lessons – walked out of the room during Hagberg’s presentation, and again when Cook got up to comment. She said she was concerned the board was getting an appeal they hadn’t agreed to hear.

Trustee Trish Spencer cast the lone vote for hearing the appeal.

Cook and Hagberg said they were disappointed with the board’s decision.

“I was hoping that they would listen. I think it sends a strong message to parents that they’re not interested in what the majority expect out of the taxes they pay,” said Cook.

She and Hagberg would not comment on whether they intend to sue the district to stop the lessons.

Sean Cahill, the parent who sat on the committee that formulated the lessons, said he was glad the board decided to let the staff opinion on the complaint stand.

One Comment »

  • Richard Hausman says:

    Interesting that Cook's attorney, Peter Hagberg, in 2005/2006 contributed $1,000 to the Republican National Committee. This according to City-Data.com, which obtained the information from data made publicly available by the Federal Election Commission. While Mr. Hagberg is certainly entitled to make any political contribution he sees fit, I would submit he's inappropriately conflating his conservative political views with the State Election Code.

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