The Blog

GAY-ED FOR TOTS

12:00 AM, Aug 19, 1996 • By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS
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THE SAN FRANCISCO Unified School District has a lesson plan for teaching kindergartners and first-graders about homosexuality. It is called "My Family" and is disseminated through the district's Support Services for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth Department.


Karen Hart, who works for the department, explained that "My Family" is about "validating all kinds of families that are within the school district." She added, "All children have a right to be validated within their existence."


The lesson provides definitions that are politically correct -- and downright confusing to adults, never mind kids. Homosexuals are "people of the same sex who have feelings for one another in a romantic way." A family is "a unit of two or more persons, related either by birth or choice, who may or may not live together, who try to meet each other's needs and share common goals and interests." Sounds like a caucus to me.


The lesson includes class exercises designed to reinforce the notion that all families should be validated -- presumably including families with no dad, three dads, or a 14-year-old mom.


This year the Buena Vista Alternative School went beyond "My Family." As it had done in past years, the school invited gay parents into classrooms to talk to elementary students. In a first-grade class, a gay man read to the children the district-approved book Gloria Goes to Gay Pride. But this year, students also worked on a rainbow banner for the gay pride parade, and they did so during class time.


As a school missive explained, kindergartners "designed" the red strip, first graders the yellow, and so on up to fifth grade. The rainbow banner, the message boasted, "reflects the creativity, love and appreciation for diversity as expressed by the children of Buena Vista."


Missing from this diversity-appreciation equation, however, are parents who dissent, parents like Rose Cassidy, who did not believe the lesson was age- appropriate for her seven-year-old son. Cassidy had received school notices (" noticias," since the school is bilingual) reporting that the very active Gay/Lesbian Parents' Group was working on a gay pride banner, but she assumed that the work would occur after school. She was surprised when her son came home and told her about the gay man who had addressed his class and read Gloria Goes to Gay Pride. "Had I been given a choice," she said, "I would have pulled my son out."


Cassidy believes the school district should notify parents before such sessions, but Hart argued that as long as the gay or lesbian lecturer does not discuss sex, there is no need for parental notification. Buena Vista PTA vice president Julio Apont put an inclusive spin on the issue: He agreed that parents should be notified before their children work on banners, but he did " not want to single out the gay and lesbian banner to be the only one they have to be notified for."


Lynn Levin, of the Gay/Lesbian Parents' Group, said the school sent out a notice at the beginning of the year that informed parents there would be lessons about "different kinds of families" and provided parents with the opportunity to opt their children out. Cassidy said she never received it. " They so much want to inform children," Cassidy lamented. "Why not inform parents?"


Those who support pressing young children into making the gay banner have insisted there is nothing political about it or the city's gay pride parade. Instead, they have equated the gay pride parade with Martin Luther King Day. That Buena Vista's proselytizing, forced on kids who aren't old enough to think critically, might be the liberal equivalent of public school prayer doesn't compute with them. School prayer is different, Levin insists, because it's religious. But there are parents who believe homosexuality is a sin. Activists who respect diversity and value tolerance ought to recognize that " My Family" infringes on those parents' rights.


Nor do true believers seem to understand the invasive nature of "My Family" exercises, which instruct children to discuss their families in public.


And where is their common sense? Why inform children about sexual issues at an age when they are pre-sexual? According to Levin, sessions do not involve sexual discussion -- and don't need to when speakers define homosexuals as people who have special feelings for members of their own sex.