Precinct 333

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Dialogue Or Monologue On Homosexuality?

Should discussion of homosexuality in schools be a dialogue or a monologue? All too often, it is the latter, with only the pro-gay side being heard in school. Attempts to present a different view are labeled as intolerant hate speech which is implicitly and explicitly forbidden by school administrators. Attempts to get "the other side" presented are usually met with fierce opposition.

Which leads us to the case of Fairfax County School Board member Stephen M. Hunt.

In a Jan. 30 letter, Stephen M. Hunt (At Large) asked the principals to host speakers with an "ex-gay perspective" and offer students, teachers and counselors literature provided by the conservative group Concerned Women for America and other organizations.

"Children are being taught that homosexuality is normal and natural. It is neither," Hunt wrote. "To state that it is normal or natural is to promote the myth that accompanies the homosexual activist rhetoric."

Hunt's letter, which was not reviewed by other members of the 12-person board before it was sent, sparked sharp rebukes from some other board members and Superintendent Jack D. Dale.

Several board members said that although the letter was on private stationery, it was inappropriate because principals may have believed it was endorsed by the board. "By signing his name as a School Board member, it calls into question whether he is speaking on behalf of the board, and he is not," board member Jane K. Strauss (Dranesville) said.

Dale said he has written the principals to let them know Hunt's view is not sanctioned by the board or administration. "I very much regret that our principals received this letter, which is not representative of the School Board's views," Dale said in a prepared statement. "We want our schools to be seen as welcoming places for all individuals."

Really? You folks don't sound very welcoming of Mr. Hunt, an elected member of your board. You've chosen to condemn him and his point of view -- expressed in his capacity as a private citizen and taxpayer -- which certainly isn't a very welcoming way to behave. What message does this action send to a student who agrees with Mr. Hunt? Is it one of welcome, or one of condemnation and rejection? Especially given that such beliefs often have a religious component, can you say that your actions are welcoming for individuals whose faiths teach that homosexual behavior is immoral? And what does your response teach your students about their right to practice their faith, to speak about their faith, and to communicate their concerns about public matters with public officials and employees? Are they welcome to do such things, or are they and their beliefs, words, and concerns unwelcome?

Hunt claims he was trying to make sure that such students knew that they and their views are welcome, even as contrary views are presented. And he made it clear that his position was one of inclusion, not of exclusion.

Hunt said yesterday that he is concerned that students who do not support homosexuality may be afraid to speak up in school or labeled as intolerant. Hunt said he is not seeking to ban material or programs in place but believes that other information should be included.

Hunt said his letter specifically notes that students should respect the rights of gay peers. "If a person does choose a gay lifestyle, we should respect their freedom, their safety and their choice," he said.

But in the letter Hunt said students often are exposed to the "Will and Grace version of homosexuality." He contended in the letter that gays often suffer drug and alcohol abuse or physical abuse and that gay men don't live as long as heterosexual counterparts. "There are huge ramifications for people who may make a choice to go into that lifestyle, and we should make sure they are fully aware of the entire issue," Hunt said in an interview.

But probably the most troubling aspect of this situation is the comment from the head of the district PTA.

Lynn Terhar, president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs, said that she's satisfied with the way sexual orientation is handled in the schools and that she hasn't heard concerns from parents. "In my personal opinion, his comments strike me as those coming from a religious point of view," Terhar said. "I don't believe there is any place for that in the Fairfax County school system."

I guess that Ms. Terhar didn't get the memo. She certainly doesn't sound very welcoming of individuals with diverse religious values. Her message to Christians is "Sit down! Shut up! Pay your taxes, but don't you dare try to influence what goes on in the public schools where your children are educated. Be happy you get to ride in the back of the bus."

I wonder when the Board will condemn Ms. Terhar's message of intolerance. Or will it?


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