Children’s Education is Battleground for Marriage

Whether state’s vote to protect marriage next week, or to endorse an alternative, that question will actually be fleshed out and fought out in private and public education. Children will be the object of an alternative lifestyle education.

Though there is no mention of education, schools or curriculum in any of the ballot initiatives in California, Florida, Arizona, or Connecticut, student education will be the first area where citizens will see a difference in whether marriage is respected, or altered.

As a general rule, there is nothing in most state’s education code that requires schools to teach anything about marriage. Even the decision about whether to offer comprehensive sex education is left up to individual school districts in California, for example. What state law does require in most jurisdictions and districts is that in schools which do offer sex education, they also must teach respect for marriage and other types of committed relationships.

Districts have taken different approaches, as you will see in the three articles below. The first is a California current perspective; the second a new lawsuit filed in Vancouver, BC alleging a human rights complaint that the curriculum discriminated against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students; the third about what’s already resulting from the Massachusetts judiciary deciding for marriage alternatives. In that state, residents have not been given an opportunity to have their voices heard on marriage, and likely will not.

As a parent, your vote next week on marriage could protect the best interests of your child when you send him or her off to school.

Articles below reprinted from:
email: joshua@imapp.org
web: http://www.marriagedebate.com


Prop 8 Battle Rages Over Whether Gay Marriage Would Be Taught in Schools
Los Angeles Times
Jessica Garrison
October 18, 2008

It was supposed to be a 90-minute excursion, a noontime field trip for a group of San Francisco charter school students and their parents to see the kids' lesbian teacher marry her partner in a wedding performed by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

But after the event was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle and picked up by cable television and the Internet, the first-graders at Creative Arts Charter School found themselves at the center of the hottest battle in the campaign over gay marriage: the question of whether failure to pass Proposition 8 would result in widespread classroom discussions of same-sex unions.

Supporters of the constitutional amendment, under which marriage would be defined as only between a man and a woman, contend that if Proposition 8 does not pass, gay marriage will be taught in public schools. "We are already seeing that happen," said Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Yes on 8.

The opposing side insists that this is fear-mongering and notes that there is no mention of schools or curriculum in the language of the proposition.

"They just made something up in order to scare people and change the subject," said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

To buttress their case, Proposition 8 supporters point to a legal decision out of Massachusetts, where same- sex couples have been able to wed since 2004. After a second-grade teacher in Lexington read a book to her students that included two princes marrying, the parents of a child in the class sued the school district.

The parents, devout Christians who oppose gay marriage, contended that the teacher had read the book to her class "for the express purpose of indoctrinating them into the concept that homosexuality and marriage between same-sex partners is moral." This, they said, intruded on their "right to direct the moral upbringing of their own children."

A federal court dismissed the case, finding it without merit, and earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the dismissal, letting the lower court's ruling stand.

The child's parents will be featured in a new Proposition 8 ad that will begin airing this week.

School districts and the California Department of Education, meanwhile, are getting a steady stream of calls from the media and parents wanting to know whether gay marriage will be taught in schools if Proposition 8 is defeated.

The answer, it turns out, is slightly more complicated than can be captured in the 30-second television advertisements put out by both sides.

There is nothing in the state education code that requires schools to teach anything about marriage. Even the decision about whether to offer comprehensive sex education is left up to individual school districts.

What state law does require is that districts that offer sex education "teach respect for marriage and committed relationships."

Districts have taken different approaches.

The Los Angeles Unified School District offers ninth- graders a "Life Skills" class that deals with a variety of issues, including personal identity and relationships. A district spokeswoman said marriage is not a specific part of that curriculum but could come up as part of classroom discussion.

In Fresno , meanwhile, district policy is that teachers do not address the subject of gay marriage in the classroom; students who ask about it are told to raise the issue with their families, according to district officials.

Hilary McLean, spokeswoman for Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, said she was unaware of any district that had changed its curriculum as a result of the California Supreme Court's May ruling allowing same-sex marriage.

Still, recognizing how politically potent the issue is, the Yes on 8 campaign has made it the center of its television advertising campaign.

"Mom, guess what I learned in school today?" a little girl says in one spot. "I learned how a prince married a prince."

As the girl's mother makes a horrified face, a voice says: "Think it can't happen? It's already happened. . . . Teaching about gay marriage will happen unless we pass Proposition 8."

In response, the No on 8 side put out an ad called "Proponents of Proposition 8 Are Using Lies to Scare You."

As television screens flicker Big Brother-like in the background, a voice says: "Prop. 8 will not affect teaching in schools."

To counter that, the Yes on 8 side issued a blast e- mail last week titled, "Who Is Really Lying," which accused the No on 8 side of wanting gay marriage to be taught "at the youngest possible age."

In San Francisco, Newsom said he didn't know the schoolchildren would be attending their teacher's wedding, and a spokesman for the mayor said he does not endorse the idea of children leaving school to go to weddings -- no matter who is getting married."

First-graders should be in class during the day," said Nathan Ballard, communications director for Newsom.

BC Gay Couple Files Human Rights Complaint Against School Board
Vancouver Sun
Janet Steffenhagen
October 18, 2008

The two men responsible for the creation of a new social justice course for B.C. high school students have filed a human-rights complaint against the Abbotsford school district for its decision not to offer the course this year.

Murray and Peter Corren say the district discriminated against students at W. J. Mouat secondary when it cancelled Social Justice 12 despite more than 90 students wanting to take it. They've asked the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to intervene.

Social Justice 12, an elective for senior students, was created as a result of a contract the province signed with the Correns in 2006 to end a long-standing human rights complaint that the curriculum discriminated against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students.

Abbotsford officials say they're reviewing the course because of parental concerns, and the board has not yet decided whether it will be offered in future. The Correns say the parents who have complained are objecting to content dealing with sexual orientation, gender identity, homophobia and heterosexism because of their religion, but B.C. schools are required to be secular.

Abbotsford school superintendent Julie MacRae refused to comment on the case, saying only that she is confident of a fair hearing.

Earlier, Education Minister Shirley Bond said boards have a choice about whether or not to offer elective classes, but Murray Corren said the Abbotsford situation is different because the course was offered and then pulled. "It would have been an entirely different matter if the course had never (been) offered," Murray Corren added.

If Gay Marriage Is Allowed, Will Schools Promote It?
National Public Radio
Alex Cohen
October 23, 2008

In California, how voting on one ballot question would impact education is being hotly debated.

Next month, Californians will vote on Proposition 8. If passed, the ballot measure would ensure that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid.

For the past two weeks, supporters of Proposition 8 have been running an ad featuring a young girl who brings home a book called King & King.

"Mom, guess what I learned in school today," she says in the ad. "I learned how a prince married a prince, and I can marry a princess!"

The ad was based on the real-life story of Robin and Robb Wirthlin, a Mormon couple living in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. Two years ago, their son's second-grade teacher read King & King to the class.

"It was very confusing to him," the Wirthlins say. "We had to sit him down and explain that as a family, we value a different way of thinking about marriage."

The Wirthlins complained to the school and eventually sued.

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that "public schools are not obliged to shield students from ideas which are potentially offensive to their parents." Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the Wirthlins' case.

Around that same time, a group of public school first- graders in San Francisco took a field trip to City Hall where their teacher, Erin Carder, got married to another woman.

When Carder emerged from City Hall, she says, she was surprised to find her students there, tossing rose petals.

"They know I was out of school for a week to take my honeymoon," she told a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle. "I just can't believe that they came today! I feel really blessed!"

The trip was optional and was organized by parents, not by the school. But supporters of Proposition 8 cite this story and the Wirthlins' case as proof that the gay marriage initiative could affect California 's schools.

Opponents of Proposition 8 liken the tactics of their opponents to the ones used to defeat former presidential candidate John Kerry. "There is no other way to describe what's happening here except that the 'No on 8' side is being swift-boated," says Kate Kendell of the "No on 8" campaign.

She argues that Proposition 8's defeat will have no affect on education -- a message that's been echoed by Jack O'Connell, California 's superintendent of schools.

"The 'Yes on Proposition 8' ads that I have seen are misleading, inaccurate and they are really irrelevant," he says.

O'Connell says if Proposition 8 is defeated, that will have no bearing on the state's education code. "There is no requirement, no mandate for any school in the state of California to have this [gay marriage] required as a course."

Recently, the "No on 8" campaign has been touting O'Connell's endorsement in radio and TV ads of their own.

Kendell says she's saddened to see kids dragged into this political battle. But, she adds, it's easy to see why that's happened.

"There's probably no more protective part of human nature," she says, "than when a parent feels like they need to protect children."

Proposition 8 is one of 12 initiatives Californians will vote.

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