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Parents to school board: Stop, you'll give our kids the gay!

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Ellis Redding, Mar 8, 2007.

  1. School accused of promoting homosexuality

    By Lisa Black
    Tribune staff reporter


    Some parents have accused Deerfield High School of promoting a homosexual agenda by allowing gay students to speak before freshman classes about their personal experiences, cite research and invite questions.

    Taking place in classrooms this week, the panel sessions are scheduled during a class called freshman advisory, which seeks to help students adjust to high school. The class is mandatory, but parents can choose to remove their child on days the lessons concern them, school officials said.

    But Deerfield resident and parent Lora Sue Hauser, who heads a group called North Shore Student Advocacy, wants to see the panel discontinued, saying it delves into complex issues of sexuality that are better addressed by parents and trained counselors. She said the panel is one of several ways that Deerfield High and other schools treat homosexuality as morally acceptable without presenting the viewpoints of those who disagree.

    "The school makes heterosexuality and homosexuality equivalent, and our country is deeply divided on that," said Hauser, who said dozens of parents belong to the advocacy group but fear they will be labeled as haters or religious fanatics if they speak out.

    "You can't dump that on a 14-year-old," Hauser said. "These are really difficult waters to navigate."

    School officials say the parents are picking out one portion of a unit that helps students make the transition into high school, forge friendships and create a climate of acceptance. The class begins in fall by familiarizing freshmen with the school, its resources and lessons on improving study skills. Teachers move into touchier topics during the second half of the school year.

    Suzan Hebson, assistant superintendent for human resources for Township High School District 113, said she believes only a few parents oppose the freshman advisory class.

    "We have a great deal of pride in the program and don't feel we are overstepping any boundaries that [most] parents would feel are inappropriate," Hebson said.

    But Ellen Waltz, a Deerfield mother of eight, said the climate has changed so much that students who believe that homosexuality is immoral and violates their religious beliefs are now the ones being bullied.

    She said other students called her daughter anti-gay and anti-Semitic when she spoke out during the panel four years ago. One of the panel members was Jewish.

    "My daughter was devastated when she came home. She said, 'Everyone hates me,'" said Waltz, adding that she plans to pull her son out of class for the day this year.

    The advocacy group, led by eight board members who live in North Shore communities, published a full-page advertisement March 1 in a local newspaper, the Deerfield Review. The ad states: "We believe these students are being used to further the causes of gay activists," and demands that Deerfield High officials "rein in your staff who are using the school to promote their personal views."

    Hauser said grassroots groups are forming around the nation to voice their objections to school practices, performances or material they find morally questionable. She is also a school-issues adviser for the Illinois Family Institute, which describes itself as being "dedicated to upholding and re-affirming marriage, family, life and liberty in Illinois."

    During the panel sessions, students who belong to a club called the Straight and Gay Alliance talk about personal experiences, such as what it feels like to be bullied or to be a straight friend of a gay classmate. On a separate day, members of a racially diverse club called the Minority Report speak.

    "The whole point of the presentation is to help students understand how they—maybe even flippantly, intending to communicate with others—can be perceived or misperceived by others," Hebson said.

    Erin Kaplan, 17, a senior, who describes himself as the only transgender student at Deerfield, said he believes that the climate at school has improved since the panel discussions began five years ago. He said the student alliance began the practice "after a really big wave of homophobic comments, targets for being gay."

    Kaplan, a panelist for the last three years, tells students that he was born a boy—his parents gave him the name "Evan"—but that he has always felt like he should have been a girl. He wears feminine clothing at times but has a man's narrow hips and husky voice.

    The panel this year consists of seven students. Four students identify themselves as gay, bisexual or transgender, and three are heterosexual, he said.

    "What is important is that we learn to respect each other as peers," Kaplan said. "That's really the heart of what we talk about."

    Kevin Jennings, executive director of the New York-based Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, commends the Deerfield program.
     
  2. Continued ...

    "We're not trying to tell people what to believe but how to behave," said Jennings, who described the Illinois Family Institute as one of several organizations trying to intimidate school districts.

    "A program that helps kids deal with bullying and harassment helps kids learn," he said. "Politics and religion should be set aside in the school."

    Waltz said she asked school officials if she could sit in on the class. They declined, saying her presence would detract from the learning experience and instead offered to videotape the class and give her a copy.

    Laurie Higgins, a teacher's aide at Deerfield, said she, too, has complained to school administrators about the panel and her requests to have an opposing viewpoint presented have been denied.

    "My goal is not to generate controversy," said Higgins, a Deerfield parent. "I don't think they should be treating [homosexuality] in the same way they treat conditions that are immutable and carry no behavioral implications, like race, sex, ethnicity and disability."

    Hauser said the topic belongs in schools only when presented neutrally in an academic forum. She opposes the Day of Silence held every spring as part of a national event. On April 18 students attempt to remain quiet to bring attention to harassment of gays and their desire for a safe environment at school.

    In response, other students—in Deerfield and elsewhere—participate in a Day of Truth, held a day later, which opposes acceptance of homosexuality.

    "Neither day at Deerfield High School has been disruptive in nature, educationally," Hebson said. "Unfortunately, there have been some hurt feelings on those two days because it's pretty evident that people choose sides."

    Waltz said her children tell her the only time there is tension at the school is during the week the panel discussions take place, culminating with the Day of Silence and Day of Truth.

    "There really isn't a problem at our school," Waltz said. "It's like they're throwing more logs in the fire. ... All our kids are great kids, whether they're gay or straight."
     
  3. FWIW, There's a poll accompanying the story which asks:

    "Should a high school allow gay students to speak before freshman classes about their personal experiences, cite research and invite questions?"

    Results are:
    64.0% Yes (308 responses)

    36.0% No (173 responses)

    481 total responses
     
  4. This is the least of Deerfield's problems. They've had students involved in several fatal car accidents over the past couple of years with parents being arrested after they knowing allowed their kids to have alcohol at parties that were related to the accidents. They ought to focus on that issue first.
     
  5. Oz

    Oz Active Member

    What Deerfield is this? I'm guessing not Kansas based on the byline.
     
  6. That problem's not unique to Deerfield. It happens all over the North Shore and northern suburbs (albeit, not all instances end with fatal car wrecks). Too much money + parents who can't say no = fucked-up kids.

    EDIT: It's Deerfield, Ill., Oz.
     
  7. Also, I find it very amusing that the Deerfield Review, a Pioneer Press paper, would run an ad from the complaining parents.

    Of course, this is the same chain that has done some very questionable prep coverage (or lack of it, in some instances). Anything to avoid pissing off the rich folks, I suppose.
     
  8. DisembodiedOwlHead

    DisembodiedOwlHead Active Member

    I'm all for equal time. As long as the bullies also get to show how they beat up the fags, let 'em talk.
     
  9. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Yawn has no idea why he just ejaculated.
     
  10. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

    Neither does idiotsnetwork.
     
  11. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    Usually, neither does BYH. And DOH, again representing for West Virginia.
     
  12. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I think once people see and get to know people who are different in some way it's the first step toward acknowledging our sameness and accepting differences.

    What are parents afraid of? That the speaker might be really cute and tempt their young lad or lass?
     
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