Thursday, September 27, 2007

Five Steps Forward, One Back

A cold, bitter reality splash came at this week's local annual meeting. Bay Windows was there when a GLAD attorney provided examples of how the anti-gay/anti-same-sex-marriage folk in Lexington had achieved one of their objectives, while losing the battle.

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders' Nima Eshghi noted a profound chilling effect in some schools, where administrators and boards are frightened. She cited examples, including Watertown. There, lesbian moms asked that school return the early reader And Tango Makes Three.

This case was not the same as in Lexington, where diversity-friendly books were part of the curriculum. Rather, the schools had pulled the cutesy book on its own after some anti-gay parents complained, apparently to avoid lawsuits by wingers. When the moms said they wanted their daughter to have the choice, they were denied.

This can't surprise anyone. Neither volunteer school board members nor paid administrators and staff are known for courage. In the main, they are bureaucrats, in this case about the business of educating kids with all that entails. We may have had false confidence catalyzed by Lexington Superintendent Paul Ash. He showed very unusual courage and insight in standing firm against the Mad Dad forces, including the outside legal dogs.

As the BW article puts it:
"What these parents groups, who are really fueled by a larger right wing establishment, are trying to do is take very, very narrow opt-out and parent notification rules that exist at the middle school and high school level purely for sex education, and only to be used in certain narrow circumstances, and they are trying to take that, bring it down into the kindergarten, first and second grade level where kids are not talking about sex. They are talking about who’s in a family. … They’re not objecting to studying families. They’re objecting only to certain families. They want their children opted out of learning about certain families," said Eshghi.
She also cited a kind of weariness factor that religious fundamentalist can rely on. In this case, if the teachers and administrators are scared, they may start filtering books and other educational material for GLBT references and pull them prophylactically. Not everyone can be ethical and heroic, at least day to day.

On its part, GLAD is filing an amicus brief in the appeal that the Mad Dad crew is making of its loss in U.S. District Court. Eshghi said the intent is that schools "can have some language coming from our briefs that we hope will make it into this case so they can offensively say, you know what, it’s not just that we’re permitted to teach this material; it’s that we are mandated to teach this material. This is our mission, and this mission is actually rooted in larger constitutional principles about what the role of public schools is."

Hey, if a piece of paper can provide backbone, let it be so.

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