Skip to comments.Show and tell (MA) (Mega Barf ALert!)
Posted on 06/23/2006 1:35:12 PM PDT by DBeers
Educators say the pre-school set needs straight talk on gay issues
Despite the controversy that can arise when gay issues are talked about in elementary school classrooms, a group of educators are trying to give schools the tools they need to do just that. This year Wheelock College offered a new course for early childhood education workers on making schools and daycare settings welcoming for same-sex couples and their children. The course prompted the formation of the Massachusetts LGBT Early Childhood Education Initiative, a consortium of people in the field working to make classrooms around the state more inclusive of LGBT families.
The initiative is going to support the development of advising and supporting teachers that want to begin exploring the age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate ways of introducing these issues, said Emmy Howe, one of the main organizers of the initiative and the former LGBT family liaison for Cambridge Public Schools.
Their goal is not a new one. For years public schools like Lexingtons Estabrook Elementary School, where four conservative Christian parents have sued town officials for the inclusion of books with gay families in the classroom, and private schools like the Cambridge Friends School and the Lesley Ellis School in Arlington have created LGBT-inclusive environments. Yet unlike those efforts, the initiative is driven not by schools looking to change their own climate around LGBT issues, but by education professionals and parents.
Last week, the Mass. LGBT Early Childhood Initiative held its first public event at Cambridge City Hall. Addressing a crowd of about 40 people, a mixture of childhood educators, parents and their young children, former Family Pride Coalition executive director Aimee Gelnaw described her experience 15 years ago bringing her then 5-year-old son Zack to school. I remember going back the first day of the next year, walking up the steps with my partner and Zack, and the principal was standing on the steps and he said, Good morning, Zack. Im glad you brought your whole family with you today, said Gelnaw. And it was such a powerful moment, it still gives me goose bumps. Such a simple gesture, such a very simple gesture, but a very powerful and poignant gesture for Zack and for us.
Gelnaw, who is an advocate within the field of early childhood education, is working to make sure that other families with LGBT parents have a similar experience. This past spring at Wheelock College, Gelnaw, along with Lee Lesser, an early childhood education advocate from California, taught a course titled Making Room in the Circle." The course aims to help educators and others working with children up to age 6 learn how to create educational environments that welcome LGBT families.
The Mass. LGBT Early Childhood Education Initiative grew out of the course, which Wheelock offered in partnership with the Cambridge Community Partnerships for Children (CCPC). Howe said as CCPC sent out e-mails publicizing the course and encouraging people to enroll, she and other educators, daycare providers, academics and other people on the e-mail list began planning to meet to discuss not only the course but how they as a group could further the goal of LGBT inclusion in programs and schools across the state. The group first met in March, and it served as an advisory group for the Making Room in the Circle course. She said there are about 15 active members and about 50-60 people on the groups e-mail list.
For its first project, the initiative organized the Cambridge City Hall celebration June 14. The event featured photos from the traveling exhibit Love Makes a Family, which shows families in all their various constellations. Howe said one of the goals was to inform people in the early childhood field about the initiative and to get them thinking about the issues of LGBT families.
Teaching the teachers
Its a safe bet that if all schools adopted the methods laid out by Gelnaw in the course then the state would see even more lawsuits like the one brought against Lexington town officials. Lesser said schools should make forms for parents gender neutral, replacing slots for mother and father with parent 1 and parent 2. Teachers should sing songs to children that include different types of family structures, including two moms or two dads, and should make sure that there are LGBT-inclusive books in their classrooms. Lesser also recommended doing away with events that could make children of LGBT youth feel like outsiders, replacing Mothers Day and Fathers Day celebrations with a Person You Love Day.
While even well-meaning educators might bristle at the idea of eliminating all traditional references to mothers and fathers, Gelnaw emphasized that the goal of the course is to simply get educators and administrators to feel comfortable looking at ways to make children of LGBT parents and their families feel welcome. The nearly 30 students in the Wheelock course were a mix of straight and LGBT people that included teachers, teaching assistants, program directors, family workers for programs like Head Start and university early education professors, among others. Some were seasoned pros at dealing with LGBT issues in the class, but some were new to the topic, and Gelnaw said the course focused on giving everyone a chance to talk honestly about the issue and become more comfortable with it.
Its a step-by-step process, and change often happens one conversation at a time, said Gelnaw. Its about really integrating new ideas, new conversations, and trying to get people to take one step from the place where they are . and really figure out that were all in this together. We all want whats best for children.
Aren Stone, a daycare teacher for 27 years who works at the Oxford Street Childcare Cooperative in Cambridge, said that both as a teacher and a lesbian mom she went into the Wheelock course knowing how to create a welcoming classroom, but she learned how to do trainings on LGBT issues for other day care providers, and she plans to do trainings at other day care centers to help them create welcoming environments similar to her own classroom. She said it is crucial for children, especially in younger age groups, to see their families reflected in the classroom.
How kids identify themselves when theyre really young is through their families, and if theyre given the message that theres something wrong with their families they get the message that theres something wrong with them, said Stone.
Stone said in the current conservative political climate she believes it has become harder to create inclusive classrooms, and she said when her 18-year-old son was a child she could not imagine a parent demanding that his school censor its LGBT content, as David Parker did at Lexington, based on religious objections. She said two decades into the so-called gayby boom the idea of creating a welcoming classroom for their families should not be seen as revolutionary.
Twenty years ago when we were having our kids we were called pioneers, Stone said. And now going into the class people are calling this class pioneering, and Im thinking, Its time to get across the prairie already.
Making it work
If theres any indication of how far educators have to go before they get across the prairie it is the Estabrook controversy. Lexington School Superintendent Paul Ash and Estabrook principal Joni Jay did not return calls to comment for this story, but in past interviews and public statements they and other school officials have made clear that they have no intention of backing down from their commitment to making Lexington Public Schools a welcoming environment for the children of LGBT families. Howe said six years ago she was one of the LGBT diversity trainers Lexington brought in to help train teachers on LGBT issues, and she said the school system took the same stance that the Mass. LGBT Early Childhood Education Initiative advocates, that schools should be safe for all families, and worked to make it a reality in all of the towns schools.
They decided to have their teachers in incremental pieces work with people who could help them figure out how to make classrooms and playground and lunchrooms safe for all kids in a climate where LGBT slurs are the slurs of choice, said Howe, who taught anti-bullying and name-calling workshops for the towns middle school teachers.
She praised Lexingtons efforts at creating an inclusive classroom and said schools need to accept that whatever the feelings of individual parents, same-sex marriage is the law of the land.
Especially in Massachusetts I think a lot of parents want to control the materials that their kids are exposed to, but in Massachusetts we are a state where gay people are allowed to get married, so its not really a question of whether LGBT people exist or not . Its really important for kids to see themselves reflected in the curriculum and to be exposed to families that are unfamiliar to them, said Howe.
While making that goal a reality in a public school classroom can be a politically risky move, some independent schools have found that the freedom of setting their own expectations around LGBT inclusion has allowed them to put in place pro-LGBT policies that would be considered progressive by any standard. Deanne Benson, head of school for Arlingtons Lesley Ellis School, said that her school began discussing LGBT family issues as part of the facultys regular professional days since the early 1990s, and as the school began working on LGBT inclusion it held meetings for parents to discuss gay and lesbian issues.
Lesley Ellis School, a pre-K through fifth grade school, broadened its efforts two years ago by adopting a faculty-authored anti-bias curriculum that includes lessons to counter LGBT bias. The curriculum earned Lesley Ellis accolades from the National Association of Independent Schools, which honored the school as an Equity and Justice Leading Edge Program in 2005. Benson said having the curriculum not only allows the school to institutionalize its LGBT-diversity efforts, but it allows the school to defend those efforts when dealing with parents. She said the admissions director discusses the anti-bias curriculum with all prospective families and makes sure they understand that the school will feature LGBT-inclusive materials at all grade levels. The curriculum has helped parents understand that LGBT inclusion is one of the schools core values.
This has been controversial here at our school here. I got a faxed letter from a parent two, two-and-a-half years ago when the [Supreme Judicial Court] passed their decision on gay marriage. I got a letter from the parent of a third of fourth grader saying, I dont want this talked about today, said Benson. Since weve [added the anti-bias curriculum] that I dont think weve had a parent say, I dont like what youre doing . Because we have it in writing, I think Ive had to deal with much less parent angst over a topic being discussed or a particular book being discussed at a particular age level.
Nancy Alach, director of anti-homophobia education for the Cambridge Friends School, said that adding the schools commitment to anti-homophobia education into its mission statement and discussing its stance on LGBT inclusion during the admissions process has also helped reduce potential tensions with parents over that schools welcoming policies. The Friends School, a Quaker school, began working to make the school welcoming for LGBT parents and their children starting in 1989, when a gay parent told school officials he felt like his family was not represented at the school, said Alach. Since then the school has worked to make the school a welcoming place, including images and discussions of gay families in the curriculum, changing school forms to be gender neutral, and explaining to children in the younger grades what words like gay and lesbian mean. Four to five times a year the school holds rainbow lunches where students with LGBT parents eat lunch and work on art projects together.
Its a way for those children to see themselves as part of a community within the school and to know the other kids who have GLBT families and to feel connected to those kids, said Alach.
Can we kidnap Mitt Romney and then cut Massachussetts lose into the Atlantic on the back of a tug boat. I bet France would give us a $1.50 for MA. We might have to pay to get them to take Kennedy and Kerry though.
The sex positive agenda pushes on.
It isnt hard to explain to elementary school kids that homosexuals are sick individual;s that will take advantage of them if given the chance. To steer clear of them as though they have the plague, because many do. The AIDS plague. Any BS spouted to them about how they are people to, and how they just happen to enjoy playing with the wrong chute is just confusing and unnecessary.
Give them your child for a few years and they belong to the left for life.
They want birth control to be expanded from reproduction education to positions and sanitation because all of that "reproduction junk" doesn't mean squat to those who don't swing that way...
Lesser said schools should make forms for parents gender neutral, replacing slots for mother and father with parent 1 and parent 2. Teachers should sing songs to children that include different types of family structures, including two moms or two dads, and should make sure that there are LGBT-inclusive books in their classrooms. Lesser also recommended doing away with events that could make children of LGBT youth feel like outsiders, replacing Mothers Day and Fathers Day celebrations with a Person You Love Day.
My son is a soon to be second grade student in Arlington, MA. Another boy already told him that a boy can love a boy (its called gay), and I told him right then and there that that is sick, weird behavior. He had no problem accepting that as obvious. I am ready to do battle with these freaks the moment this comes up in class.
How about take your child out of public school day?
FYI for those following the David Parker story -what the article discusses is the taxpayer subsidized public school homosexual propaganda campaign that David Parker opposes and is up against -what his federal lawsuit filed on April 27, 2006 against the school and the administrators is all about.
WHEREFORE, plaintiffs, jointly and severally, respectfully request this honorable court:
1. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 5 2201, to declare and rule that there exists a justiciable controversy between the plaintiffs and the defendants;
2. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 5 2201, to issue a declaratory judgment declaring that each defendant has violated each of the plaintiffs' constitutional rights of due process as set forth above;
3. Order equitable and injunctive relief ordering that:
A. The plaintiff parents be expressly and clearly notified prior to any adult-directed or initiated classroom discussions of sexuality, gender identity, and marriage constructs, until such time as the children are in seventh grade. Such notification must be explicit about the content, given in a timely manner, and involve the written consent of parents to opt children into these presentations/discussions.
B. The plaintiff parents be presented with an opportunity to excuse the children from classroom presentations or discussions the intent of which is to have children accept the validity of, embrace, affirm, or celebrate views of human sexuality, gender identity, and marriage constructs.
C. The plaintiff parents be presented with an opportunity to excuse the children from classroom presentations or discussions when the intent is to have children accept the validity of, embrace, affirm or celebrate belief systems or religious perspectives.
D. The plaintiff parents be presented with an opportunity to attend, as silent observers, and record any school presentations or discussions of the aforementioned ideological/socialization perspectives.
E. That no materials graphically depicting homosexual physical contact be submitted to the students until the seventh grade, with the provisions of Sections 3A and 3C.
4. Order payment of compensatory damages to the extent allowed by law;
5. Order payment of special, exemplary, or punitive damages, to the fullest extent allowed by law;
6. Order payment of attorney's fees, expert fees, prejudgment interest, interest, costs and;
7. Provide such additional relief as the court deems just.
I am ready to do battle with these freaks the moment this comes up in class.
Does not sound like fun. Have you thought about exploring life in other places, like, er North Dakota or the wilds of Montana?
And bring some lobstahs, but other than that--let's leave the socialists and pervos to rot in their happy workers/people's paradise of nonjudgement, sexual license and all-inclusive tolerance.
I know, I know--we don't have snow, a sense of history, and a noticeable change of seasons, but we've got great beaches and great weather. I mean, what's a hurricane but a warm Nor'easter?
To think how many snide comments the Massachusetts crowd has made about people in other states marrying cousins, which was really a rare event. Now Ma folks are promoting homosexuals marrying, adopting/molesting children, and calling themselves enlightened. Please send a note to your local homophilic Ma congressman, ie, John Kerry, Ted hiccup and barney fag.
YES - a recent argument coming out from the left in regard to homosexual marriage is that Massachusetts has the loweest divorce rate. -- I say whoopeee -what is the birth rate there?
I would no more have a child in the MA public schools than I would allow Chester the Molester to babysit.
Please move to another state, or home school your wonderful child. I predict you will regret it if you don't. Your child only has one chance to get it right in this life, and deserves everything you can give him.
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