by Warren Throckmorton, PhD
Posted: May 18, 2005
Students are approaching the final days of this educational year but increasingly parents are heading back to school. While many students will soon be thinking of summer jobs, administrators, teachers and parents will not be getting a break. Controversies involving schools and social issues will be keeping the adults busy for the foreseeable future.
Weekly it seems a new situation comes into the public consciousness where schools are the centers of controversy over what to teach regarding sexuality and sexual orientation. Here is a sampling of the most recent situations:
- Two parent groups in Montgomery County, Maryland, sued the school board over a proposed health education curriculum partially based on resources provided by homosexual advocacy groups. The curriculum and accompanying resources were so biased that a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt the implementation of the changes. The order was recently continued until December 2005.
- One of the groups involved in the Montgomery County, Maryland, lawsuit was recently rejected in its bid to exhibit its literature at the national convention of the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) is crying foul because a comparable group, the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), was allowed to exhibit at no cost last year and is back again this year. At least one of the state PTA associations is not happy. The Mississippi chapter of the PTA is supporting the right of PFOX to be at the national convention.
- The Iowa State Board of Education will soon determine if the Pleasant Valley (IA) School Board was correct to limit a pro-gay children's book to the middle school. After a father complained, the school board voted 4-3 to remove The Misfits by James Howe from the elementary school as a read-aloud book. The author of the book has said publicly that he wanted to write The Misfits with a gay character in order to change beliefs concerning homosexuality.
- In Massachusetts, a father was arrested because he refused to leave his son's elementary school until the principal agreed to follow Massachusetts parental notification law concerning sexual content in instruction. The father, David Parker, wanted to introduce the subject of homosexuality to his 6-year-old rather than the school taking that role. Schools officials declined to notify the father as required by law and provided books to kindergarten students that portrayed gay couples alongside heterosexual couples.
- At this year's annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Convention will be considering a resolution proposing that churches investigate whether the schools in their town promote homosexual advocacy. If schools do and will not listen, parents will be encouraged to find other educational options.
What are we to make of these eruptions of controversy?
The educational establishment, as represented by the National Education Association, would have us believe these parents are closed minded or maybe even uncaring. When asked about the Southern Baptist resolution, Melinda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the NEA, huffed: "It really baffles me how a caring parent could find fault with public schools for trying to teach children to be respectful of others."
What baffles me is how groups like the NEA and PTA can miss the significance of these parental uprisings. In states blue and red, mainstream parents are becoming organized in unprecedented ways to express frustration over how homosexuality is being taught to children from kindergarten to high school. The mantra recited by the educational establishment comes off sounding like a feeble attempt at a Jedi mind trick -- 'what we teach about homosexuality is none of your concern; you want safe schools don't you?' Waving the club of tolerance, the educational establishment smugly proceeds to denigrate one set of beliefs regarding homosexuality in order to promote another.
Parents such as those who brought suit in Montgomery County are offended by the continual specter of unsafe schools raised by the educational establishment. Are schools unsafe because of traditional beliefs concerning homosexuality? Where is the research to that effect? The school system has produced no evidence.
Mainstream parents appear to be fed up with being told that their values and beliefs are intolerant, homophobic and even worse, responsible for the bullying of children. Read again the NEA statement concerning the Southern Baptist resolution. Ms. Anderson suggests that all the public schools are trying to do is teach respect; parents would like a little of that respect.
If the educational establishment does not make some moves to insure moral neutrality in instruction, I predict we will see lawsuits such as Montgomery County's case replicated throughout the land.
In short, more parents will be coming back to school.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton is Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of College Counseling at Grove City (PA) College. His academic work has been published by journals of the American Psychological Association and he is the producer of the documentary, I Do Exist about sexual orientation change. He has appeared on the O'Reilly Factor and numerous other TV and radio talk shows. His columns have been published by over 60 newspapers nationwide.
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