Friday, September 30, 2005

Extry, Extry, Nuts Twist Facts, Get Upset Over Nothing

The anti-gay nuts are going crazy over this new twist in the "mad dad" story in Lexington, Massachusetts. And, I'm glad to say, the schools are holding the line.

You'll remember, a guy flipped out because his kid's kindergarten class had a book that had something about a family with two mommies. He staged, essentially, a one-man sit-in at the school, and, just like Cindy Sheehan, he was taken to jail. Now he's a celebrity for the Radically Righteous.

And then now, there's a big deal because the schools are not planning to notify parents every time anything "diverse" (and that means ... not white? not straight? not Christian?) is mentioned in class.

We'll start with the wacky WorldNet Daily version of the story, so you can see how they're playing it, and then shift back toward reality:
While the trial of a Massachusetts parent arrested while attempting to secure a promise from school officials to notify parents before teaching about homosexuality in his son's kindergarten class has been postponed until next month, the school district is taking a hard line against such notification.

Paul Ash, the superintendent of schools in Lexington, has announced his instructions to all teachers in the district to give no notice to parents of efforts to teach "diversity" lessons about "alternative lifestyles" - even in primary grades. No notice to parents in 'diversity' classes: District takes hard line after arresting concerned father

I don't know why I read this stuff. You can almost smell the sourness coming off your computer screen.

The WND story is based on this article in the Lexington Minuteman, the local paper. The school superintendent, Paul Ash, published a piece on September 22nd, which coolly and thoroughly discusses the dimensions of the school district's legal responsibilities regarding parental notification. Here's his piece in its entirety:
Over the summer, I have received a number of questions about implementation of Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 71, Section 32A ("Section 32A"). These questions relate to the following provision:

Every city, town, regional school district or vocational school district implementing or maintaining curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexual issues shall adopt a policy ensuring parental/guardian notification. Such policy shall afford parents or guardians the flexibility to exempt their children from any portion of said curriculum through written notification to the school principal.

In Lexington, curriculum identified by the statute generally begins at the fifth-grade level. LPS has, of course, adopted a policy implementing Section 32A, and school staff routinely provide parents with notice and the flexibility to "opt out" of this curriculum.

Recently, questions have been raised as to whether school staff also has an obligation to notify parents and allow "opt out" of other school-based activities, particularly in the elementary grades. For example, some parents have requested they be notified whenever their child has access to any material, conversation, or activity that acknowledges differences in sexual orientation, including any reference to families with same-gender parents.

Since elementary curriculum often elicits discussion of family experiences, such references certainly may occur. In addition, our schools routinely provide students with access to materials, activities, and discussions that recognize diversity. This access is designed to assist us in our goal of maintaining an appropriate and respectful educational environment for all students. As required by law and LPS policy, this environment must be free of discrimination based on race, gender, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin and disability.

The Massachusetts Department of Education, which is responsible for administering Section 32A, has explained that activities and materials designed to promote tolerance and respect for individuals, including recognition of differences in sexual orientation "without further instruction on the physical and sexual implications" do not trigger the notice and opt out provisions of Section 32A. Under this standard, staff has no obligation to notify parents of discussions, activities, or materials that simply reference same-gender parents or that otherwise recognize the existence of differences in sexual orientation. Accordingly, I expect teachers to continue to allow children access to such activities and materials to the extent appropriate to children's ages, to district goals of respecting diversity, and to the curriculum.

As this new school year begins, I look forward to working with the Lexington community to provide a positive educational environment for all students.

So, listen, this guy sounds pretty smart. The law sounds clear enough. You have to notify parents in some situations, not in others. He's just doing what he's supposed to do.

WorldNetDaily is tricky here, this is good. This is like having a headline that says, "Man Refuses to Cross Busy Street on 'Wait' Sign." This principal has read the law, and he's following it.

And let me point out something interesting they do. You gotta learn to watch for this stuff. They said:
Paul Ash, the superintendent of schools in Lexington, has announced his instructions to all teachers in the district to give no notice to parents of efforts to teach "diversity" lessons about "alternative lifestyles" - even in primary grades.

Now -- notice those quotation marks. You would think, wouldn't you, that the quotation marks indicate that some words are quoted. But in this case, it is just the opposite. They have put quotes around words that they themselves made up, the marks really mean "These are words we are putting in that guy's mouth." He didn't say anything about "diversity" lessons, and certainly nothing about any "alternative lifestyles." He says that sometimes classroom discussion in the elementary grades recognizes diversity, but nothing about any "diversity lessons."

There needs to be something like antiquotation marks.

Sometimes it is ... embarrassing, really ... to realize that we live in a country where we have to take people like this seriously. But if you don't stand up and oppose them, they'll take over and start running things.

Can you imagine getting a notice for everything your kid does in school? Come on, now. "Johnny will be learning to do long division tomorrow." "Your child's class will be studying the Civil War next week" (because, you know, there are people who would pull their kid out of class for that one). First of all, kids don't really show their parents half of that stuff, do they? Or is it just mine? And second, who really wants to be bothered with it? I figure, the kid's going to school, they're going to teach him some stuff. He'll get over it. We sure got a lot of stupid stuff when I was in school, and just look at me now. Uh, well, never mind.

In this case, the principal read the law, and it says, you have to notify parents when you're going to talk about sex in a class, but you don't have to notify them every time a teacher is going to say something nice about somebody that any parent might not like.

Seems clear enough to me. If they don't like it, they should change the law. And then get ready to sign a whole lot of papers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! That would be horrible if we don't stand up and keep these nuts from taking over! If we don't stand up to them, we'll wind up in a world where everyone thinks it's not normal to do gay things!

Oh, wait a minute. That's already the world we live in. Never mind.

September 30, 2005 2:13 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Hey Anon,

Get over it.

All this principal is doing is following the rules. The nuts are trying to paint it like he's pulling a fast one, but maybe he just doesn't want to live in a world where everybody needs a permission slip for every little thing. Let them change the policy, if that's what they want.


September 30, 2005 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well now I'm afraid you got the title wrong this time, JimK. The *nuts* are upset about something namely people who follow rules they don't like.

In Massachusetts, the *nuts* want every little mention of non-heterosexual orientation to be cleared by parents just like the parental permission required to take sex education, even though their state law says such permission is only needed for students who wish to receive instruction in human sexuality, not say literature.

In Maryland, the *nuts* think they shouldn't have to follow the same rules as everybody else. They want to select their own representative to sit on the new Citizens Advisory Committee instead of nominating one representative and two alternates so the Board may select the most qualified, and they want to nominate a person who has already served on the CAC and is therefore ineligible.

Aunt Bea

October 01, 2005 9:07 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Let me explain something. Only a small percentage of people in any population are gay. The rest of the peopple, the straight ones, have no way of knowing what that's like. In my mind, being uncomfortable about homosexuality, or even having misconceptions about it, does not make you a "nut."

None of us learned anything in school about it, after all.

Some people are obsessed with it. Some people think that if they're around it, they're going to "catch" it somehow, or their kids will. Some people are so afraid of it that they cannot think reasonably about it. Some people think if they oppose it strongly enough,it will go away. To me, this goes beyond mere discomfort, beyond naivete. This gets nutty.

But the issue here isn't even that. In the story I reported here, the "nuts" are people who think this principal is trying to trick them. They think he is going to sneak tolerance into the schools without permissions slips.

The principal is just doing what the rules say. But the nuts are begging for extra permission slips for everything.


October 01, 2005 10:56 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

What, teach tolerance???? What's next - equality and human rights for all? We are leading children down the slippery slope where they might not hate or fear people who are different. Parents need to have the right to prevent their children from being taught that all people are created equal.

I want MCPS to notify me before they teach anything about the Aztecs or nanotechnology. Makes no sense?- well, neither does the guy in Massachusetts.


October 01, 2005 9:11 PM  

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