California Homosexual School Program Stirs Controversy

July 7, 2008 - 7:03 PM

( - Recommendations on ways to address a California state law created to prevent discrimination against homosexual students is stirring controversy.

Assembly Bill 537, the California Student Safety Prevention Act of 2000 is aimed at providing a safe environment for all students.

"We cannot expect students to achieve to their fullest potential if they are constantly worried about their safety, or because they are discriminated against as a result of who they are or are perceived to be," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin.

Mike Marshall, co-chair of the task force, said the recommendations are not about promoting homosexuality as some critics suggest.

"What we've heard out there is this real concern that we're trying to sell homosexuality," he said. "It has nothing to do with that."

Marshall added that the mandates are intended to make homosexual students feel more comfortable in school and make schools safer.

"What it has to do with is trying to create an environment in which gay and lesbian kids are provided with the same safe, nurturing, supportive environment as the other kids in the classroom, and this about creating safer schools," he said. "It's about creating better-educated kids. It's about creating better citizens. And it's not about cramming anything down anybody's throat."

However, Brad Dacus, an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties, said that the state mandates "virtually shut the coffin on the rights of parents with children in all California public schools."

According to a news release by the California Department of Education, the recommendations include the following:

Ensure that all school personnel are informed of the provisions of AB 537 and that all district and site personnel are trained in the law's requirements;

Develop and provide guidance for students about their rights and responsibilities related to AB 537;

Support student participation in preventing harassment, violence, and discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity;

Seek resources to develop a public information campaign to promote AB 537 awareness and educate school board members, district administrators, certificated and classified staff members, parents/guardians, community members, students, and businesses regarding the purpose, protections, and benefits of AB 537.

The task force also recommended that schools find "culturally sensitive" books that address sexual orientation issues and mention "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender historical figures, events, concepts and issues."

The books, according to Dacus, will be given to students from elementary to high school "to orient the children at a very young age to have a positive attitude and perspective of it as an alternative lifestyle."

"Looking at who's in control of the California Department of Education and the California Board of Governors, the Legislature and the governorship," Dacus said. "It's probably going to be just as outrageous and propagandized as these regulation recommendation requirements."

Marshall said the recommendations don't mandate that schools change the curriculum before the next school year.

It's part of "the regular cycle of reviewing the curriculum," Marshall said, "to reflect the full diversity of California" so that the students who have homosexual parents or who are homosexuals themselves "will begin to feel like they're part of the overall structure."

"The religious right would like to make this out as an extremely radical suggestion, and in fact it's one that is steeped in a real tradition in America to continually be leveling the playing field," Marshall added.

For example, Marshall said, a history book for an 11th grader in California would include the struggle for "gay and lesbian equal rights."

Dacus said the schools will be required to personally question children regarding homosexuality and transsexuals.

The board will implement it through the Healthy Kids program, Dacus said, "which really was intended, of course to deal with health issues of kids. But instead of addressing the health aspects, or the health concerns of children engaging in such lifestyles, they're going to use it as a vehicle to conduct surveys in order to ensure the proper attitudes and perspectives of homosexuality and transsexuality in public school."

"Using state taxpayer dollars, they intend to subsidize and establish gay/straight alliance clubs on all school campuses," Dacus added. "I believe it's all high school and junior high campuses."

It will be the only club, Dacus said, that he was aware of that is state-funded. It will also work closely with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

"It's a very extreme, loose organization promoting homosexuality and other alternative sexual deviances, other forms of sexual lifestyles," he said.

Dacus said the state will also require every teacher and staff member to be trained on how to implement the regulations.

"They will literally be taking over education in the state of California. No teacher will be left untrained. No stone left unturned," he said.

Dacus said his organization provides parents with an "opt out form" to exclude their children from taking part in homosexual curriculum, and they provide parents with free legal representation to fight the mandates.