Saturday, December 12, 2009

CA schools phase out homosexual curriculum

Under the duress of a lawsuit and threats of recall, the Alameda Board of Education has voted to phase out an elementary school curriculum it adopted in May to prevent anti-gay bullying. The so-called Lesson 9, which had become an opposition centerpiece in a national anti-gay marriage campaign, will be replaced by a more generic anti-bullying message.

But the board's action Tuesday night did little to ease the tension between gay parents, who want their children protected, and parents who who think elementary school is too early to talk to students about gay people.

The new anti-bullying lessons approved by the board, at the recommendation of School Superintendent Kirsten Vital, will be supplemented by children's books that explicitly address six specific forms of bias, including against gays. "This has torn apart our community," said school trustee Trish Herrera Spencer, the board member most opposed to the gay curriculum and who opposed adding the supplemental books. She said the board's latest action did not take into consideration "the strong beliefs" of all in the community.

The 45-minute Lesson 9, which was to be taught once a year in each grade starting with kindergarten, sparked a lawsuit, accusations that religious families were being discriminated against and threats of a recall election against the three board members who approved it.

Vital said her recommendation was meant to counter complaints from parents opposed to the original lesson because it highlighted only one type of bullying. "There is not an off-the-shelf, perfect curriculum that is going to work for our community," Vital said, explaining that she wants to solicit book recommendations, bring them back to the school board for approval in a few months and then work with teachers to develop accompanying lesson plans in time for the 2010-11 academic year.

Several parents said they did not trust a teachers' committee to pick books that would both satisfy gay and lesbian parents and parents with religious views that do not condone homosexuality. "Freedom of religion is protected from harassment and discrimination from anyone. It may be of no consequence to some, but it is a very integral part of many traditional families and should be honored," said Kellie Wood, who has three children in Alameda schools and is part of a group circulating recall election petitions. "If we're all honest, the friction between two protected classes, in particular, will not go away."

Kathy Passmore, a lesbian mother of two, said she hears students using anti-gay language in her job as a sixth grade teacher in Alameda. She urged the school board to retain the spirit of Lesson 9. "The children of gay families exist and are attending ASUD schools every single day," she said. "They are here."

Alameda, an island city that foots Oakland and is home to a Coast Guard installation and a former Naval base that is being eyed for housing, is the latest community to be divided by its school district's desire to curb anti-gay bullying and the concerns of parents who do not want their children to hear about gay and lesbian issues in school.

During last year's campaign to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages in California, the measure's sponsors ran commercials featuring a Massachusetts couple who unsuccessfully sued their local district for the right to pull their child out of anti-bullying lessons that included references to gay households. A year later, the same public relations firm that developed that ad developed a new one for the campaign to outlaw gay marriage in Maine focusing on a second-grade picture book that was part of Alameda's Lesson 9. The book, "Who's In A Family," contains pictures of families headed by grandparents, single parents and gay parents, among others.

A dozen Alameda families sued the school district earlier this year over its contention that parents did not have to be notified in advance when teachers planned to give the lessons so they could keep their children from receiving them. Last week, an Alameda Superior Court judge sided with the school district, ruling that a state law allowing parents to have their "opt-out" of discussions about human sexuality did not apply to Lesson 9.

Kevin Snider, a lawyer with the conservative Pacific Justice Institute who represented the Alameda families, said before the school board's vote that his clients would not appeal the judge's ruling if the school board eliminated Lesson 9. He did not immediately return a call Wednesday for clarification on whether the board's action satisfied that condition.

SOURCE





Thomas the Sexist Tank Engine



The children's programme portrays a world blighted by a 'conservative political ideology' and is sexist, according to a female academic

If you thought the television tales about Thomas the Tank Engine were merely light-hearted fun, think again. In fact, they portray a world blighted by a 'conservative political ideology' and a rigid class system which stifles self-expression. And they are sexist. That, at least, is the view of a female academic who took the trouble to analyse 23 episodes of the programme inspired by the books of the Rev W V Awdry.

According to Professor Shauna Wilton, women are under-represented in the stories and what few female characters there are tend to have 'secondary' roles or be bossy. What's more, she has warned that such negative messages about society subconsciously gleaned from the show might even drive its young fans off the rails in later life.

The learned professor was inspired to carry out her study after watching Thomas videos with her three-year-old daughter. While the child was enthralled, her mother was dismayed. She was left feeling 'uncomfortable' by the way the colourful steam engines are punished if they show initiative or try to change their rank or role.

Her research also highlights the class divide, with Thomas and his fellow engines including Percy and James at the bottom of the social ladder and the Fat Controller, Sir Topham Hatt, at the top. Any attempt by the downtrodden workers to show initiative or dissent is met with punishment, she found. In one episode, for example, Thomas whistles impatiently at a police officer and is replaced with a different engine as a punishment for showing dissent.

Professor Wilton, from the department of political sciences at Alberta University, Canada, wants tighter controls on what is broadcast-to children. She said: 'We tend to think of children's TV shows as neutral and safe, but they still carry messages. 'Eventually these children will attain full political citizenship, and the opinions and world outlook they develop now, partially influenced by shows like Thomas, are part of that process.'

Laura Midgley, of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, described the research as 'unbelievable nonsense'. She said: 'I cannot believe anyone has the time and energy to do such a study. I'm surprised she hasn't singled out the Fat Controller as an example of fattism too. 'Children should just be left to enjoy the innocent fun of Thomas without the politically- correct brigade stoking the fires and ruining their enjoyment.'

SOURCE





Australia. Kid killed in busy school playground: Nobody charged

Police should have been able to take someone into custody same day

THE father of a teenager killed in a schoolyard brawl almost six months ago says it is "atrocious" no one has been charged. Steve Drummond, father of 15-year-old Jai Morcom, who died at Mullumbimby High School in northern NSW on August 29, slammed police yesterday after they issued a media release appealing for more witnesses. "It's pretty atrocious that this hasn't been sorted out by now," Mr Drummond told the Courier-Mail newspaper. "There were that many witnesses to it and there's no doubt there were a few (specific) kids involved."

Jai died after a playground fight over a lunch table. Students later staged a mass walkout and protest amid claims of a bullying problem at the school.

Mr Drummond has raised suggestions of "standover tactics" at Mullumbimby High, and NSW education officials have ordered a major review into student welfare at the school.

Tweed/Byron police crime manager Inspector Greg Carey appealed for patience, saying "every effort" was being made to solve the case. "We have conducted interviews with literally dozens of students, teachers and community members," he said. "We have been in constant contact with Jai's parents and the school community. "Investigators have also set up an email address which has been circulated throughout the school community, in the hope that additional information could be provided by that method."

Jai died from his injuries in the Gold Coast Hospital. Insp Carey said NSW police were still waiting the full autopsy report from Queensland authorities. "As Jai died in Queensland, the (NSW police) report will be submitted initially to the Queensland Coroner," Insp Carey said.

SOURCE

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