Project on Harvey Milk inappropriate for California sixth graders

by on May 25, 2009  •  In Uncategorized

UPDATE: The ACLU has announced that the school has apologized, allowed the presentation to be made to the class, and agreed to rectify its misinterpretation of California's policy on family life/sex education.

On the eve of the California Supreme Court's decision on the challenge to Prop 8, another example has emerged of the ease with which any gay-positive speech can become tainted as sexually inappropriate. In Ramona, CA, a school principal refused to allow a sixth grader to do the in-class presentation portion of a research project because her topic was the life of Harvey Milk.

According to the ACLU, which is representing the girl and her mother:

The assignment, part of an independent research project class, was originally to prepare a written report on any topic.  Natalie Jones, who was inspired to write about Harvey Milk after watching Sean Penn win an Academy Award for portraying him, got a score of 49 out of a possible 50 points on the written report.  Students were then told to make PowerPoint presentations about their reports, which they would show to other students in the class.  The day before Natalie was to give her 12-page presentation she was called into the principal’s office and told she couldn’t do so. 
When Bonnie Jones spoke with the superintendent about the presentation, he said Natalie couldn’t give her presentation because of a district board policy on “Family Life/Sex Education.”  A few days later, the school sent letters to parents of students in the class, explaining that her presentation would be held during a lunch recess on May 8, and that students could only attend if they had parental permission.

The principal's decision was based on the school district's policy on "family life/sex education," which provides:

“(P)arents/guardians shall be notified in writing about any instruction in which human reproductive organs and their functions, processes, or sexually transmitted diseases are described, illustrated, or discussed.  In addition, before any instruction on family life, human sexuality, AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases is given, the parent/guardian shall be provided with written notice explaining that the instruction will be given…”

So I guess the story of the early stages of a civil rights movement, as recounted by a 12-year-old girl, falls into the category of "human sexuality" if the movement in question is for lgbt rights. The principal's panicky reaction, absurd as it is, illustrates the fear that children will be "taught" homosexuality, a fear that drove the most effective Yes on 8 ads in last fall's campaign.

And the irony, of course, is that this school project had nothing to do with marriage, and the outcome of the Prop 8 decision tomorrow will have no bearing, either way, on the ACLU's challenge to it.


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