Sunday, April 15, 2007

Conflicts over Sexual Orientation in Public Schools: How to find Common Ground


I attended this session on Saturday afternoon and NSBA Attorney Tom Hutton introduced the participants Finn Lawson from the Christian Educators Association International, Eliza Byard from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network (GLSEN) and the moderator was Charles Haynes from the First Amendment Center. My initial thoughts after viewing the organizations these people were representing as this is going to be a doozey of a debate. However I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to learn that although their core belief systems were vastly different, they had been able to find “common ground” without relinquishing those core beliefs.

The handout was a brochure recently printed by a collaboration of the following organizations. (I’ve tried to provide links where possible)
American Association of School Administrators (AASA)
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
Bridge BuildersChristian Educators Association International
First Amendment Center
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

The brochure, "Public Schools and Sexual Orientation”, gives a gentle reminder on the core mission of public schools, “to prepare young people for citizenship in a democratic society” and it is our job, as board members, to “maintain a school environment that respects the rights of students to free speech and free exercise of religion while simultaneously ensuring that student speech does not degenerate into name-calling, bullying, or attempts to silence other views.”

The brochure provided us with

  • The three R’s: Rights, Responsibilities, and Respect.
  • Principles and practices of successful school and community leaders
  • Tips for school officials
  • Tips for parents and students

Overall, a very informative session.

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