Peter introduced Rita Thompson, a member of the school board. She said she did not believe the issue would come to a vote that night because she brought the Dillon Rule (another perspective on the Dillon Rule) to the board's attention. She explained that earlier this year the Virginia AG, Jerry Kilgore, prevented another school district within the state from instituting similiar changes to their discrimination policy using the Dillon Rule.
Peter then introduced Robert Knight, formerly of the Family Research Council and now Director of the Culture and Family Institute and recipient of Bryant
GBumbel's infamous "F***ing Idiot" remark. He spoke eloquently about why it is foolish to teach children that it is okay to be gay. He explained the deleterious consequences that result from homosexual behavior. He also used some clever analogies such as (I'm paraphrasing) "If you thought your children were going to smoke you wouldn't teach them to use filters. If you thought your children were going to do drugs you wouldn't teach them how to use a syringe.".
While Robert was speaking the opposition crowd began entering the auditorium. Robert warned us that the auditorium was beginning to fill up so most of us left and entered the auditorium to find it packed with people holding signs reading "YES!", "Gays Rock", etc. It was standing room only for an auditorium that holds 500 people.
Bharni and I took seats in the middle of the back row. Ligeia found us then Jimmy Valentine's Brother and another friend of mine, Randy, arrived. The board started us off with the Pledge. When we said the Pledge our side of course accentuated the words "under God" while the other side accentuated the words "and justice for all". But the collective weak "and justice for all" pailed to Randy's "under God". He got EVERYONE's attention.
We may need to meet again in several weeks. If so I'm sure the opposition will work on increasing their numbers. We need to do the same. Be prepared!
How some parents have fought against the queer agenda:
Also, there is some useful information for parents posted in the thread:
Yes! I was there. I arrived about 7 p.m. and could immediately tell it was not your average School Board meeting. Two police cruisers were blocking the front drive, about a half-doze[n] uniformed officers were on hand, and about 100 people were assembled for a rally sponsored by Peter LaBarb[e]ra. He had a table full of information and a sound system set up for speeches.In Bill Wheaton's column yesterday, posted here, he claims the public sentiment is running 10 to 1 against the change. As I mentioned Thursday night, one cannot drive one mile on a major thoroughfare in the county without passing a church. If the churches were doing their job, a school board would not even consider enacting what they've done.
They started off with the Pledge of Allegiance, someone led the group in "God Bless America" followed by a prayer. Robert Knight spoke, then Rita Thompson, one of the school board members on our side. Rita had wonderful news: the Agenda item for the vote was being withdrawn!
There were other speakers, I think a woman from Concerned Women for America and a school board candidate from Springfield; but I headed on in to the auditorium so I didn't hear what they had to say.
I caught up with BufordP and two of his very nice friends from work. We sat on the back row where we could keep an eye out for you and anyone else we knew. Jimmy Valentine's Brother arrived with a sign he'd made. We tried to behave, but it was difficult at times.
Frye, the School Board At-Large member who offered the Agenda Action Item did break down and cry, recalling his own struggle with discrimination as a young man. Not taking anything away from his own personal pain, many of us didn't agree that homosexuality equates with being a member of an earlier-persecuted group in this country since homosexuality involves behaviors, not race.
I stayed to hear Rita Thompson and Mychele Brickner, two other Republicans on the Board. Mychele had asked for a list of pro-homosexual title in the school libraries and had received a list of almost 200 titles totaling over 1,000 books! She said we will be addressing the issue in the future. We all left after we felt confident the Agenda item had indeed been pulled and they weren't up to some shenanigans and would vote after we left. We headed next door to Sweetwater Saloon for lots of laughs and conversation.
We won this battle, but it's not over. They are taking the issue to Richmond and to the Commonwealth Attorney, Jerry Kilgore for advice. Virginia is what is called a Dillon Rule state, meaning there are some issues localities cannot decide on their own. Someone said that Kilgore had already told another school district downstate in April they could not add 'sexual orientation' to their policy, so I am optimistic.
We now need to contact the Attorney General and encourage him to side with us. If he does, indeed plan on running for governor, my guess is he'll rule in our favor.
I'm sorry we missed you. All in all, it was a great night and I am much relieved. I want to thank everyone who took time to email, call, and attend. The chairman said he'd received 500 emails and calls on this issue, more than any other, including heated school boundary fights.
Thanks again for getting us organized and thanks to Rita Thompson and Mychele Brickner for standing up to a very powerful lobby.
Board Delays Vote, Seeks Legal Opinion
By JENNIFER LESINSKI
Jennifer Lesinski/The Connection
Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, based in Washington D.C., staged a rally Thursday before the Fairfax County School Board meeting opposing the proposal to add sexual orientation to the school system's nondiscrimination policy.
Jennifer Lesinski/The Connection
Supporters of the proposed change to add sexual orientation to the school system's nondiscrimination policy hold signs encouraging the School Board to vote yes.
July 31, 2002
The fate of the amendment to the Fairfax County Public Schools' nondiscrimination policy will rest in the opinion of one man instead of 12 elected School Board officials.
The School Board was bombarded with hundreds of e-mails over the past two weeks both for and against adding sexual orientation to the school system's nondiscrimination policy, which protects employees, students and applicants from discrimination on the grounds of such things as race, sex, age or religion. At the request of At-large School Board member Rita Thompson, chairman Stuart Gibson (Hunter Mill) pulled the proposed amendment off the table Thursday, July 25, to seek an opinion from Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R).
"About two weeks ago, questions were raised as to whether the board had the authority to enact this rule," Gibson said, citing the Dillon rule, which limits local jurisdictions' ability to enact legislation without prior approval of the General Assembly.
Gibson said there was only two ways the board could seek a legal opinion from Kilgore, the first was to go through the Commonwealth Attorney and the other was at the request of a General Assembly member. Del. Vincent Callahan (R-34) has agreed to make the request on behalf of the School Board, Gibson said.
Prior to deciding to seek Kilgore's opinion, the School Board sought and received an opinion from its own legal counsel. Gibson, citing confidentiality, declined to say what the board's attorney had concluded regarding the amendment.
THE MOVE TO PULL the amendment was met with little resistance from the other board members. Only At-large member Robert Frye, the originator of the proposal, criticized Gibson's decision.
"I object to the removal of the proposal. This was not a decision made by the board. It was a decision of the chair," Frye said. "This proposal is very basic. It is one about treating everyone fairly."
Frye said his experiences with racial discrimination have confirmed his commitment to eliminating all forms of discrimination.
"I remember as little boy, as a second-class citizen, visiting a separate-but-equal Washington D.C. and visiting the Jefferson Memorial. On the wall were the words, 'All men are created equal.' They are only a few little words, but they gave me hope," Frye said. "In making this proposal of just two words, we give hope to those in Fairfax County."
Kaye Kory (Mason), while not criticizing Gibson's decision, apologized to the audience, saying the board should have asked for the Attorney General's opinion beforehand.
Thompson and fellow at-large member Mychele Brickner said they supported Gibson in seeking the legal opinion.
"If it wasn't done now, it would have been done later by someone else," Thompson said.
THE FEAR OF A LAWSUIT prompted Gibson's decision.
"If we do something and we didn't have the power to do this and we get sued, what have we accomplished?" Gibson said. "Fact of the matter is, [the authority to enact the change] wasn't first raised until two weeks ago."
The amendment has recently generated reaction from the community even though supporters of the measure have been requesting the change for nearly a year.
Thursday night, more than 350 people packed the auditorium at Luther Jackson Middle School, where the School Board holds its meetings.
Beforehand, the Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, based in Washington D.C., staged a rally in front of the school building opposing the amendment. Supporters of the amendment moved inside the auditorium when the rally began. Several officers were dispatched because of the size of the crowd; there were no reported incidents.
Inside, the board heard from people, including teachers and parents, on both sides of the issue.
"Why would a School Board adopt a policy that opens the door to destructive influences on vulnerable, impressionable children? Because that's what adding sexual orientation will do," said Julia Flanagan, a Springfield resident who said she was ex-gay.
"It will open the door wide to adults, who will mislead children into thinking that the profound needs they feel for acceptance and nurturing are really a sexual identity they were born with, making it even harder for children to find the truth," Flanagan said.
Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), and mother of a gay son, said PFOX opposes the amendment because it opens the door for the harassment of ex-gays. She said studies show people are not born gay and no one is telling the children the truth about how they can change. PFOX also objects to the fact that the school system permits books in the libraries that she says promote what she called the gay lifestyle, but will not allow ex-gay materials.
"They say they want all people to be protected, but to the exclusion of ex-gays. They don't even want us to have a voice," Griggs, a resident of Mount Vernon, said. "All children should be free and protected. Sexuality is not a part of who you are. It's who you are attracted to. It's demeaning to gay people."
OTHERS SEE IT differently. Sandburg Middle School teacher Vincent Worthington told the School Board the policy change is needed.
"For whatever reason several students, mostly in my seventh-grade Spanish immersion course, came to the conclusion that I was gay and by early spring had begun a systematic personal attack upon me in the classroom, finding opportunities to say or write words such as queer, fag, homo, openly questioning my sexuality and making vulgar references to sexual acts," Worthington said.
Worthington said he tried sending the students to "time-out," but the attacks continued and became worse as more students joined in.
"I consulted with my department chair and began to write-up referrals instead of or in addition to time outs. Though administrators were aware of these problems, I felt like nothing was being done to alleviate this toxic atmosphere that was increasingly taking over my fifth period," Worthington said. "Needless to say, this situation caused me much stress, concern, frustration and rage. I do not ever want to be in a similar situation again and I do not think any teacher, staff member or student should have to function in such a hateful environment."
Robert Rigby, a Hayfield Secondary special education teacher and co-chair of the local Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network chapter, is confident the Attorney General will rule the School Board does have the power to enact the policy change.
"Given the research I did, I expect the Attorney General will say the School Board does have the authority to do this," Rigby said. "The School Board has the right to pass personnel policy."
Locally, the school boards for the City of Alexandria and Arlington County have already added sexual orientation to their policies and have yet to face a legal challenge nor did either jurisdiction seek authority from the General Assembly. The City of Alexandria changed its nondiscrimination policy in 2000 and recently amended it anti-harassment policy, said Rosemarie Webb, clerk of its school board. The Fairfax County School Board added sexual orientation to the anti-harassment policy, spelled out in the Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, last year.
Adrienne Carver, spokeswoman for Arlington County Public Schools, said the school board there added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy in 1995.
In addition, Fairfax County added sexual orientation to its Standards of Conduct in 2000, said Merni Fitzgerald, the county's public affairs director.
They sure did crop the picture to make sure no one saw anyone but supporters of the change. The photo in the print version is much larger and is a more accurate depiction of the crowd.