Parents Protest 'Homosexual Rights' in Virginia School District

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - A proposal to add "sexual orientation" to anti-discrimination statutes in local schools is causing dissension in Fairfax County, Va., where some parents claim the measure is unnecessary and could be used to undermine the religious convictions of students who believe that homosexual behavior is wrong.

Parents and pro-family groups also complain that Fairfax school libraries contain books that depict homosexuality only in a non-critical light and that the testimony of people who left the homosexual lifestyle is not allowed in school board debates on anti-discrimination.

"This is the work of gay activists in the school system," said Peter LaBarbera, a senior policy analyst with the Culture and Family Institute, a Washington pro-family group that opposes additional anti-discrimination language.

"These sexual orientation codes in the schools become Trojan horses for a much wider agenda, which includes pro-gay curricula, pro-gay diversity training for teachers, and gay-oriented books in the schools," he said.

On Thursday night, the Fairfax County School Board indefinitely postponed a vote on the "sexual orientation" proposal, until it receives guidance from the state attorney general on whether such a vote would be legal under state law.

Adding "sexual orientation" to the school system's anti-discrimination policy is redundant, because according to current policy, the school board is committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination in the school system, said Rita Thompson, one of three at-large members of the 12-member Fairfax County school board.

"So if it says all forms of discrimination, wouldn't that, if they believe they're being discriminated against, include them as well?" Thompson asked, referring to claims by homosexuals.

The current policy for students and teachers prohibits discrimination based on age, race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, and disability.

Robert Rigby, a special education teacher at Hayfield Secondary School and co-chairman of the local Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), said adding "sexual orientation" to the non-discrimination policy is necessary to protect people.

"I've experienced discrimination," he said. "I know other teachers who've experienced discrimination. I know students who've experienced discrimination. I don't know a lot of parents who have experienced discrimination, but I know parents who have expressed fear of discrimination."

Mychele Brickner, an at-large member of the Fairfax County school board, said she opposed adding "sexual orientation" to school policies. But she said students and staff should be more alert to possible cases of verbal and physical abuse in schools.

"I've had parents call me because they didn't feel the school was doing enough [to protect] their third grader from being picked on by other kids because he was little," she said. "I've had people call and complain that their child was harassed in high school for any number of reasons," she added.

"This happens and I'm sure it happens on the issue of perceived sexual orientation as well. I would never deny that it happens," she said.

But the solution, as Brickner sees it, is not for the board to add another category to the schools' anti-discrimination policy, but rather for teachers and staff to stop abuse whenever it happens.

"They already have that responsibility," she said. "And kids have the responsibility to make teachers or principals aware when it happens."

Board Rejects Inclusion of 'Ex-Gays'

A review of Fairfax County school libraries revealed there were 191 books on the shelves with homosexual themes, and a majority of the titles were "pro-gay," LaBarbera said, citing information provided by Fairfax County officials. Apparently there were no books about coming out of homosexuality, he said.

Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gay and Gays, said she asked the school board to specifically include "ex-gays" in their sexual orientation amendment. However, the board denied the request under pressure from GLSEN, Griggs said.

"It is evident that the school board intends to use its proposed sexual orientation amendment to protect some groups - gays, bisexuals and transgenders - while discriminating against others - ex-gays," Griggs said in a statement.

E-mail a news tip to Lawrence Morahan.

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