AFA Deceives Parents About Mix It Up Day

On October 30, The Southern Poverty Law Center will partner with over two thousand schools to sponsor an event called Mix It Up day. From the Mix It Up website, the event is

national campaign launched by Teaching Tolerance a decade ago, Mix It Up at Lunch Day encourages students to identify, question and cross social boundaries.

In our surveys, students have identified the cafeteria as the place where divisions are most clearly drawn. So on one day – October 30 this school year – we ask students to move out of their comfort zones and connect with someone new over lunch. It’s a simple act with profound implications. Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away.

There is good that can come from this. Many teachers and schools encourage this kind of activity without being a part of the SPLC event. As a part of the anti-bullying initiative at my son’s elementary school last year, such lunch time mixing was encouraged. While I am not sure how much it helped in the long run, it seemed well intended.

However, where there is a anti-bullying program/idea, you can expect the American Family Association to be there complaining about it. And that is the case with the MIU Day. In a Time magazine story out yesterday, an AFA press release is mentioned and has this to say about the SPLC event:

“Mix It Up” day is an entry-level “diversity” program designed specifically by SPCL (sic) to establish the acceptance of homosexuality into public schools, including elementary and junior high schools.

The AFA is calling for parents to keep their kids home on that day.

If possible, this is a new low for the AFA. There is just no truth in what the AFA is telling parents.

There are real consequences to the AFA’s actions. Some schools apparently have been intimidated by the AFA tactics and backed out of the event. I know first hand that some Christians become defensive when misinformed about anti-bullying initiatives.

Thanks to the AFA and Focus on the Family, self-styled pro-family groups are becoming associated with resistance to anti-bullying efforts. What is particularly disturbing in this case is the blatant dishonestly of the AFA in mischaracterizing the MIU Day.

I urge parents to send their kids to school on Oct 30 and go so far as to ask their schools to consider participating in MIU Day. While we have no megaphone akin to the AFA, I will encourage all associated with the Golden Rule Pledge to support any efforts to reduce stigma, stereotyping and bullying in schools.

 

 

Golden Rule Pledge listed on StopBullying.gov; How about a Walk-In?

I noticed last week that the Golden Rule Pledge is now listed on the federal government’s StopBullying.gov website.

This government resource is managed by DHHS and contains a wealth of information for schools, parents and students to help curb bullying.

I like it.

Regarding the Golden Rule Pledge and the Days of Dialogue and Silence, I only know of one district where they may be observed together. All around, this year seems more quiet than any previous year.

Of course, some religious right groups want students to walk out on the Day of Silence saying that the DOS keeps students from learning. I don’t understand the logic. Some kids being silent for parts of a day interferes with learning, but skipping school is educationally sound?

Instead of a walk-out, I advise a walk-in. Kids, walk in school and promise to treat others the way you want to be treated. Not only is that educationally sound, it sounds like a pretty good moral philosophy.

 

Mike Huckabee endorses Bully

Color me surprised, but pleasantly so.

Mike Huckabee, former GOP Presidential candidate and now FOX News host has endorsed the movie Bully.

From the Huckabee’s column in the Daily Beast:

Bully is compelling. It’s not a pretty or pleasant story, but needs to be told.  The message is not a “horizontal” message of left vs. right; liberal vs. conservative; Democrat vs. Republican. It’s a “vertical” message that says we’ll either get better, or God forbid, we won’t learn from this and it will get worse.Surely this nation, so divided by almost everything, could unite behind the notion that the youngest among us should be treated with dignity and respect. Bully helps achieve that goal. Keeping kids from seeing it does not.

 

Anoka-Hennepin School District Ends Silence Policy Toward Sexual Orientation

UPDATE – 2/14/12: The school board placed this information on their website about the change (scroll down to see the approved policy):

The Anoka-Hennepin School District has a new policy designed to promote a respectful learning environment in which teachers facilitate student discussions of contentious topics in a balanced and impartial manner that encourages development of critical thinking and decision-making skills.

“I believe this policy is the best thing for Anoka-Hennepin and for all students,” said Board Chair Tom Heidemann, who went on to say it “takes away some of the confusion that existed in the previous policy.”

The School Board approved the Respectful Learning Environment – Curriculum Policy Feb. 13 following more than two months of discussion and hours of public input regarding replacement of the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy (SOCP). Some teachers felt that the SOCP was confusing. Board members asked the administration to bring forward a new policy that would eliminate the confusion.

The board sought a policy that would address any issues that may be contentious instead of focusing on specific topics. (The new policy replaces the Religious Activities Policy as well as the SOCP.) They also wanted to ensure that staff would not attempt to persuade students to adopt a particular viewpoint, and to clarify that the board-adopted curriculum is the basis for education in district schools.

After rejecting an earlier proposal in December when public input revealed little support for it, staff developed the Respectful Learning Environment-Curriculum Policy and presented it to the board Jan. 23. According to Paul Cady, district general counsel, the new policy meets the intent of the board, responds to public input, and reflects academic research on how to best deal with issues of public controversy that may arise in the classroom.

“It’s not the district’s role to take a position on these issues and it’s not acceptable for professional staff to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint,” said Chair Heidemann. This was one of several elements he felt were missing in the previous policy.

He also stressed that the district’s curriculum will not change as the result of adopting the Respectful Learning Environment – Curriculum Policy. “Curriculum changes only if there are four votes on this School Board,” Heidemann said.

Board member John Hoffman noted that the district has a transparent process for adopting curriculum and community members have the right to participate in that process.

Board members also stressed that the new policy emphasizes a safe and respectful learning environment for all students. “It gets to the intent of our founding fathers of this great state and ensures all are welcome to participate in this wonderful experience of free, public education,” said Hoffman

Board member Scott Wenzel stressed that by adopting the Respectful Learning Environment-Curriculum Policy the board removes a policy that singles out one minority group and establishes the dignity and self-worth of all students. “I believe our teachers always have the best interests of students at heart. [This policy] provides the reassurance that our teachers will continue to do that.”

The proposed policy opens with a commitment to a safe and respectful learning environment for all students and an education that respects all students and their families. It stresses that teachers must follow the board-adopted curriculum, which is based on state standards, and it acknowledges that political, religious, social or economic issues may be contentious in a learning environment “in which conflicting views are held by a broad segment of people in our schools, our community and our nation.”

The policy states that the district does not take positions on these issues and that staff shall not attempt to “persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint with respect to these issues.” When contentious issues are discussed in classrooms, it states that the discussions must be appropriate for the developmental level of students, related to the course content, and presented in a balanced manner with varying points of view. They should be designed to help students “think critically and develop decision-making skills and techniques for examining and understanding differing opinions.”

It closes by stating that in these discussions, staff “shall affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students.”

………

Earlier tonight, various news sources reported that the Anoka-Hennepin School Board was considering a replacement for their gag policy on teacher discussions of sexual orientation. The old policy forbid teachers from discussing with students aspects of sexual orientation as a reality.

(Read policy after the break)

Continue reading “Anoka-Hennepin School District Ends Silence Policy Toward Sexual Orientation”

Anoka-Hennepin featured in Rolling Stone expose on anti-gay bullying

I wrote about this district last year.

Rolling Stone has a powerful article in their February 16, 2012 issue that is online here. Go read it. Now.

The Parent’s Action League (PAL) continues to be at the center of the problem, vilifying gays while they want the school to be silent on the subject. On their website, they write:

Bullying of any kind, for any reason, towards any child must NOT be tolerated.”

Note: Respectfully disagreeing with a point of view or behavior is not bullying per the First Amendment.

How do you respectfully say gays are caused by child molestation and that they are not normal? These are just two “loving truths” that the PAL people want the freedom to force on students in the Anoka-Hennipin School District. I doubt the PAL people would believe such sharing with their children would demonstrate respect if the message was aimed toward evangelicals.

 

 

Alan Chambers on It Gets Better: Life Comes First

In a blog post today on the Exodus International site, Exodus President Alan Chambers walked back from earlier criticism of the “It Gets Better” campaign a bit. Chambers writes:

A few months ago I went on record criticizing the “It Gets Better” campaign that has gone viral with an anti-bullying message for LGBT teens.  My criticism was over the use of “Woody,” the fictional star from the box office smash Toy Story trilogy.  I reacted because I hate when iconic children’s heroes are used to further what I perceive to be adult causes.  With further reflection and thought, though, I have to admit that I was wrong to question their marketing strategy without expressing my full support for what is the heart of their campaign – encouraging LGBT teens to choose life.
I know I am going to get a barrage of emails, calls and letters about this from those who think that I am caving to pressure.  Truth be told I am pressured daily by both pro-gay and pro-Church groups (and everyone in between).  I don’t listen to all of the “advice” or “criticism” that is offered, but I do review most it.  And, I pray about it. It keeps me up at night as I weigh the impact my opinions and words have on others globally. I don’t want to ever be guilty of towing a “party” line, whether that party is political, social or religious, just because that’s what’s expected or because it garners a donation.  I want to live out my biblical beliefs in a way that draws people to Christ.  When it comes to kids killing themselves, I can’t justify criticizing a campaign that, at its deepest core, is most about saving the lives of LGBT kids.  I care MORE about a kid choosing life than whether or not he or she embraces a gay identity. Life comes first.  Living out our biblical convictions means fighting for the lives of young people at all cost.  Can any of us actually say we’d rather our teens, neighbors, friends or complete strangers kill themselves than be gay?  I certainly can’t.  Regardless of where someone falls on the debate over sexuality, I hope we can all agree to move the issue of bullying and suicide, especially where kids are concerned, to a non-polarized, non-politicized and non-divisive issue.

I appreciate Alan’s statement here. I think this needs to be made known to folks in the Anoka-Hennepin School District who are resisting bullying prevention programs.
Alan goes on to describe his experience as a child who was bullied. He has an experiential perspective that many social conservatives ignore. A middle school kid who is being harassed with anti-gay slurs and threatened with violence because of a perceived orientation doesn’t care about your religious beliefs. He just wants help to make it stop. In Anoka-Hennepin, for instance, the Parents Action League puts ideology before kids, in my opinion. Alan’s statement is something that I hope they see.
UPDATE: The Christian Post just published an article about Chamber’s statement prominently on their front page.

Golden Rule Pledge Partners with Pacer Center's National Bullying Prevention Month

The Golden Rule Pledge has again partnered with the Pacer Center and National Bullying Prevention Month for October’s effort to reduce school bullying. The GRP works to mobilize churches and youth groups to take a stand against bullying in school.
I started the GRP in 2008 in response to a call from some Christian groups  urging parents to keep their kids home on the Day of Silence. I also wanted to respond to the Day of Truth (now called Day of Dialogue) which in my view is not a constructive way to address the very real problem of bullying and anti-gay harassment in schools.
Students in high schools and colleges around the country have carried GRP pledge cards to school. Some have made clear statements to GLBT peers that they stand with them against bullying and harassment. Some churches (I have no way of knowing the number since the materials are free on the website) have used the bullying prevention materials designed for church youth groups. The Los Angeles School District has the GRP on the calendar for April of 2012.
I am always on the alert for volunteers nationally who desire to focus on ending bullying. If interested, email me.

Golden Rule Pledge on Facebook

The Golden Rule Pledge group on Facebook is slated to be archived soon as Facebook makes changes to how groups work.
In response, I created a GRP Fan Page on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/goldenrulepledge
Please click the link and click the Like button while there. I hope you will also invite your Facebook friends to join. This is an effort primarily involving evangelicals at present but I appreciate the support of any like-minded people who join constructively.

The Golden Rule Pledge (click link for updated website) promotes civility and the application of the Golden Rule in schools among Christian youth, especially in relations with GLBT students and teachers.

Anoka-Hennepin School District's Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy

Currently, the Anoka-Hennepin School District (AHSD) in MN is under fire in relationship to eight suicides in the district over the last two years. Critics say they have not done enough to prevent the anti-gay bullying and harassment that often precedes despair and depression for kids who are same-sex attracted and those who are perceived to be.
The AHSD added a page on GLBT issues to their website recently. The district neutrality policy is at the center of the controversy with some parents wanting to allow teachers to discuss sexual orientation and others wanting to keep the policy as is. For our consideration, here is the policy in full:

604.11
SEXUAL ORIENTATION CURRICULUM POLICY
It is the primary mission of the Anoka-Hennepin School District to effectively educate each of our students for success.  District policies shall comply with state and federal law as well as reflect community standards.  As set forth in the Equal Education Opportunity Policy, it is the School District’s policy to provide equal educational opportunity and to prohibit harassment of all students.  The Board is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment and to provide an education that respects the beliefs of all students and families.    
The School District employs a diverse and talented staff committed to serving students and families from diverse backgrounds.  The School District acknowledges that one aspect of that diversity regards sexual orientation.  Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations.   Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.  If and when staff address sexual orientation, it is important that staff do so in a respectful manner that is age-appropriate, factual, and pertinent to the relevant curriculum.  Staff are encouraged to take into consideration individual student needs and refer students to the appropriate social worker or licensed school counselor.
Anoka-Hennepin District No. 11
Coon Rapids, MN 55433
Adopted February 9, 2009

What does neutral mean in the context of this policy? Can teachers supply information about false and stereotypical claims?
If a student says, all Christians are haters; or unscientific. A teacher, no matter what his or her feelings about Christianity could point out the overgeneralization and ask, “What about Mother Teresa?” or “What about Francis Collins?” One could safely point to examples which address the error in logic without giving the impression that the school favors Christianity over other religions.
However, if a student says in class that gays are mentally ill, or choose their orientation or are all miserable people who should change in order to be happy (Parents Action League talking points), what could a teacher say in response? I think the ambiguity of the policy would make teachers worry that they are going to violate the policy just by responding factually.
It appears that the AHSD is making some strides to providing staff training as indicated by this staff training outline. However, if teachers are unable to correct fact errors or stereotypes directly, how will this training benefit students?
I have some of the sharpest readers around, so I am wondering what you think of the policy and what would you recommend to the AHSD?

Primer on Anoka-Hennepin Suicides Controversy

ON Tuesday, I linked to a NYT article about the controversy over teen suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. In that post, I noted that a parents’ group in the Minnesota district — the Parent’s Action League — used books and articles from NARTH and Exodus to make the claim that gays can and should change their orientation. (I should have also noted the involvement of Mission America and the American College of Pediatricians as well since materials from both groups are used by the PAL.)
On point, today Andy Birkey has a summary of events relating to the eight suicides and the controversy in the community about how to handle sexual orientation in the schools. I recommend reading it as a place to start in understanding the situation there.