Saturday, April 05, 2008

More Horrors of School Diversity

The next piercing wail you hear may be that of a fifth panicked Lexington resident. Another lonely sentry walking the anti-gay and anti-marriage equality ramparts has peered over at diversity and equality. They seem to scare Shawn Landon.

We figured we had gone as far as possible humoring the two couples who sued the Lexington schools over diversity teaching. Last year and this, they lost soundly in two levels of federal court. They now hold the absurd fantasy that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal. I don't like gambling but that's something I could bet a lot against.

As the original Mad Dad case, Landon's personal panic comes from his not being able to control when and whether his child gets the same diversity programs the rest of the school system does. In a demand letter (email) to Superintendent Paul B. Ash, he tries to mandate notification prior to any such lesson so that he can remove his child and prevent exposure "to this horribly offensive material."

He fired the same dud shell that the other four parents did in their suit. He alludes to the commonwealth's parental-notification law, Chapter 71: Section 32A. Sex education; policy regarding notice to parents, exception.

Unfortunately to the five panicked residents, the federal courts as well as the schools have made it plain the law doesn't cover what the quintet want. It does require a school policy for curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues. What the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First District decided and affirmed is that clothes-on reality is not sex. Particularly in a state that has legal same-sex marriage, saying there are homosexuals, that some of them are partnered, some of them are married and some of them have children is not sexuality.

On the plus side, all the screaming, letter writing and litigation have produced only five folk in town (2000 census of 8,432 families) who don't or won't get it. Moreover, a town with a long history of working for racial and cultural diversity also hosts Lexington C.A.R.E.S. that is far more representative of the community.

Yet, this small group insists that teachers cannot and may not mention families that at not exactly like their ideal ones. Indeed, they seem to be the very clearest examples of how diversity training can be useful. If you are ignorant of others and dislike whole sets of people for who they are, hearing that there are differences among us can only be helpful. Also, there is a deep irony in some who oppose diversity education, including the Mad Dad, claiming that teaching diversity is anti-family and anti-marriage. Of course, most of us see clearly that it is they who are those things. They would, were it in their power, limit families and marriages to only their definitions of them.

You can see this for yourself. Start with the public announcement from Dr. Ash. He seemingly thought that if he let parents know the diversity curriculum was in place and expanding that they would be prepared to take it in stride. That may have been true for all but these few.

Landon's exchanges with school officials were apparently produced for publication. They appear in their entirety at the MassResistance site.

MR Warning: A fair notice to those new to MassResistance. This is a drama queen site. Everything the pair who produces it doesn't agree with is horrific or terrifying or some other hyperbolic term. For their own reasons or rather feelings, they are strongly anti-GLBT. Wander around the larger site at your peril.

Dr. Ash's initial letter explains fully and plainly the advantages to students, parents, and the larger community of diversity education. Landon's email to his child's elementary-school principal uses the Mad Dad-style controlling lingo — "I will absolutely require prior notification to any discussion, education, training, reading or anything at all related (even remotely) to homosexuality."

Rather than point out he was blowing smoke and had no legal basis for such an outrageous demand, the principal forwarded it to Dr. Ash's office and told Landon she was doing so. In turn, Dr. Ash responded graciously by explaining the court decisions and offering to let Landon familiarize himself with the curriculum in a visit to the school. "(Y)ou will then know what will be taught and will be able to talk to your son or daughter about the topics at home."

Landon may look over the curriculum. However, he maintained the control posture in his reply email, which included, "Your complete rejection of my basic rights as a parent is nothing less than outrageous and discriminatory. It is entirely unacceptable."

This posture of asserting imaginary rights has failed for several years in this town on this very issue. It has met total defeat in courts through federal appeals. Yet, these realities do not deter this tiny sect of the disgruntled. Of course, they also don't seem to be bothered by covering their and their children's eyes and ears to the realities of the families all around them.

Within a short time, the U.S. Supreme Court will certainly refuse to hear any appeal on the original case. After the losses at the federal level, their effort with Landon to take the same rejected stance seems, at best, futile. Yet, the faint wailing continues.

In theory, the original Mad Dad can try a Massachusetts court assault on these tepid diversity programs. I can't imagine that the four or five of them can find a single judge to agree that saying there are gay people and married homosexual couples is teaching sex. If so, that would be the same judge who'd agree that saying man and woman is sex too — they come equipped with genitalia and who knows what they might do with them?

Related Posts: Use the box at the top and search for Mad Dad for more background on this. There is also a series on self-identified parents-rights types starting here.

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