Sunday, February 25, 2007

It's OK For Schools To Teach K-12 Students About Gay Relationships

I posted a few weeks ago about the parents of a kindergartner and 2nd grader and their lawsuit challenging their children's school from teaching about homosexual relationships. I'd recommend reading that post before moving on here, as it contains the necessary background information--including the fact that such relationships are legal in Massachusetts.

Well, the judge has ruled.

A federal judge yesterday dismissed a suit by two couples who contended that the Lexington public school system violated their constitutional rights by teaching their young children about same-sex couples, but the ruling is unlikely to end a controversy that has roiled the district for nearly two years.

Of course the parents are going to appeal. I'm still torn on this issue--and said as much in the post to which I referred in the first paragraph above--but how could they not appeal when the judge says something as stupid as this:

In his 38-page decision, Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf of US District Court said that under the US Constitution, public schools are "entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy."

Really? I can find nothing in the Constitution that says that. I can't even find anything in the Constitution that implies that.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call judicial activism. It's not good no matter who does it, whether you agree with the ruling or not. It breeds contempt for the law and for the judiciary as a whole.

But wait, it gets worse.

"Diversity is a hallmark of our nation," he said.

You've got to be kidding me. Freedom and liberty are hallmarks of our nation. Equal justice before the law is a hallmark of our nation. The first and second amendments are hallmarks of our nation. Diversity? Not even in the same ballpark.

The judge is correct when he says the following:

Wolf said that the couples, David and Tonia Parker and Robert and Robin Wirthlin, have the option to send their children to private schools or home-school them. He also said they can work to elect a School Committee that might change the curriculum, but that they have no right to dictate what the school district teaches.

That makes sense. But the earlier quotes above show him to be an idiot, one not deserving to wear the robe.

Wolf, in the decision, said he based his ruling on a 1995 decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals on a sex-education assembly at Chelmsford High School.

The appellate court ruled that the constitutional right of parents to raise their children did not include the right to restrict what a public school can teach, even if the teachings contradict a parents' religious beliefs.

Wolf said Lexington educators could exempt some children from a lesson concerning homosexuality if they chose, but he did not define how to do that. But he said an exodus from the classroom would probably undercut efforts to foster tolerance and would deprive pupils of learning from each other.

Again, he's both right and wrong here--but very, very wrong, at least in his implication.

I do agree that we can't have individual parents dictating what the schools teach. That would be unworkable. But we also can't allow the government, via the schools, to run roughshod over the parents, especially in the area of controversial issues. Abortion and homosexuality are still controversial issues, and while students (at appropriate ages) should know about them, to promote them would be wrong. In contrast, slavery isn't controversial anymore--vast majorities of people think it's wrong, and it's ok to teach that it's wrong. It might not have been ok to require such teaching in 1875, but it's ok now.

Parents should have the opportunity to exempt their children from subjects they find offensive. Parents who find too much of the curriculum offensive, though--and we'd need to identify how much is too much--should probably recognize that public schools aren't the right place for their children. But not allowing the parents to remove their children from controversial subject matter that they find personally offensive? As a parent I find that offensive.

So where's he wrong? On the tolerance issue. Here he goes again, shimmering in the mantle of tolerance and diversity. Is the judge implying that exemptions from such instruction, which "would probably undercut efforts to foster tolerance and would deprive pupils of learning from each other", should not occur? Is he contradicting himself? Does he think the school's ability (or even right) to teach some approved curriculum is more important than the actual right of parents to raise their children with the values that they see fit? Here's the real issue: should parents be allowed to raise their children with values that are not politically correct? Should the school be allowed, or required, to attempt to correct those values?

Do we really want government to have that kind of power over our children? That is the problem with this ruling, not the gay issue.

Hat tip to NewsAlert (see blogroll at left).

Update: Do not for a moment take my disdain for the judge's reasoning above to mean that I support homophobia. While I'm not a fan of hate crimes legislation, neither do I think that any person should suffer unjustly at the hands of another. When it comes to the values our schools should teach, I side with teaching tolerance as opposed to acceptance. This is certainly consistent with what I wrote above.

Stories like this, though, sicken me.

Guy Fischer and his partner, Richard Carrillo, say their 13-year-old son, who attended Harper Junior High School, has been the victim of ongoing harassment because he has same-sex parents.

What started as occasional muttered slurs, they contend, escalated into vicious name-calling, shoving and public ridicule. Fischer and Carrillo say the school district has not done enough to ensure their son's safety.

Yes, junior high students can be lord-of-the-flies cruel; that explains, but doesn't justify, their behavior in this circumstance. The school absolutely should ensure the safety of all its students, and students must learn the difference between disapproving of something and harming a fellow student.

Tolerance, not acceptance. Why is this such a difficult concept for some?

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