Parent Bullies: Homophobic Parents Protest Making Schools Safe for ‘Gay’ Kids

The Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District 11, located just north of Minneapolis, changed its policy of neutrality regarding questions of sexual orientation in favour of active affirmation of the dignity of all students regardless of their race, disability, or sexual orientation.  The New York Times reports:

 In response to conflicting pressures, Anoka-Hennepin officials had devised an unusual policy, directing teachers to remain neutral on any questions involving sexual orientation. But some teachers said that this hampered their ability to support gay students and that the overall climate was still hostile.  Last month, the district rescinded the neutrality policy in favor of a requirement to “affirm the dignity and self-worth of students” regardless of race, sexual orientation, disabilities or other factors. In addition, according to the new agreement, the district will strengthen measures to prevent, detect and punish bullying based on gender or sexual orientation, hire a full-time “harassment-prevention” official, bolster mental health counseling and identify harassment “hot spots” on the campuses of middle and high schools.

However, the Anoka-Hennepin Parents Action League (see their website here) complained that  “[m]aking schools safe for ‘gay’ kids means indoctrinating impressionable, young minds with homosexual propaganda” (see The New York Times).  The Parents Action League website states that

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.

Two things are quite striking here and both are examples of narrow-minded groups making students worse off by making themselves vocal.  First, and most obviously, the reported statement that “[m]aking schools safe for ‘gay’ kids means indoctrinating impressionable, young minds with homosexual propaganda” is outrageous in itself especially since it implies that what I take to mean the majority (that is, the heterosexual kids) are better served if ‘gay’ kids are not protected from bullying.  I am not sure whether the parents who agreed on such a formulation in their e-mail were appealing to some seriously misguided utilitarian calculation or whether they were just expressing their support for bullying based on sexual orientation?  Either way, the statement represents an unusually ugly thought!

Second, the statement on the Parents Action League website is a further testament to the dangers of giving narrow minded and aggressively fearful groups power over the education of future generations.  Statements like: “[t]eaching 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” is reminiscent of burning the “Satanic” Harry Potter Books (see the 2001 BBC News Story).  All such practices will do (practices of withdrawing educational content from the curriculum and relegating it to the home), and I imagine that this is the hope of the Parents Action League, is to perpetuate discrimination based on sexual orientation precisely because homophobic parents seem to want to shield their children from any statements that confer dignity and self-worth upon homosexual students.

Parents should certainly play a greater supportive role in their children’s education.  Having had teaching experience at the secondary education level, I have seen my share of too much resentment toward teachers for the low achievement of their child and too little active participation in the child’s education.  Of course, this is not descriptive of all, or even most, parents.  However, participation in a child’s education should not come in the form of lobbying to truncate the educational experience of students.  If schools are to teach only the core subjects (math, social, science, and english), and remain silent (since being neutral in this context just means staying silent) on all other issues, then the quality of citizens leaving the school system will be poor indeed.

Fortunately, the Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District 11 went ahead with its new policy.  Perhaps once they eradicate bullying based on sexual orientation in their hallways, they will start to fight the source of bullying, namely the opinions and beliefs of homophobic parents!

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Dr. Diekema’s latest paper is AAP statement on withdrawing nutrition from children

Forgoing Medically Provided Nutrition and Hydration in Children

 Douglas S. Diekema, MD MPH, Jeffrey R. Botkin, MD, MPH Committee on Bioethics

PEDIATRICS Vol. 124 No.2 August 2009, pp. 813-822

 

An excerpt from the abstract:

The American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that the withdrawal of medically administered fluids and nutrition for pediatric patients is ethically acceptable in limited circumstances. Ethics consultation is strongly recommended when particularly difficult or controversial decisions are being considered.

The Med Page Today has detailed information on this statement here. It says,

The AAP’s bioethics committee, headed by Douglas S. Diekema, MD, MPH, and Jeffrey R. Botkin, MD, developed a position statement outlining limited circumstances under which clinicians can ethically halt feeding and hydration in pediatric patients. “Medically provided fluids and nutrition may be withdrawn from a child who permanently lacks awareness and the ability to interact with the environment,” according to a statement published in the August issue of Pediatrics, the official AAP journal.

Dr. Diekema, the ethicist in charge of the Ashley case who has been trying very hard to make growth attenuation therapy into general practice,  is chair of the AAP committee on Bioethics now.

Saving the World with Viral Eugenics

Randall Gordon, a character from Paul Chadwick's Concrete series, points his finger at the audience a la Uncle Sam with the following speech bubble "I'm completely serious, and I repeat my appeal. You, out there. Somewhere. Sexually transmitted; no undue harm; infertility. Go save the world.

Randall Gordon, a character from Paul Chadwick's Concrete series, points his finger at YOU, a la Uncle Sam, with the following speech bubble: "I'm completely serious, and I repeat my appeal. You, out there. Somewhere. Sexually transmitted; no undue harm; infertility. Go save the world."

And so a tale already fraught with controversy unleashes an ethical bombshell… Continue reading

My doctor, my child: The response of the medical community to a mother who chooses to have a child who might be born with a disability

[This is the second post in a series highlighting a public dialogue heald at the University of Alberta on October 23rd, 2008, titled The Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection: Defining Who is Worthy of Life. The dialogue was sponsored by the What Sorts Network, in conjunction with the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Alberta Association for Community Living. This series will bring forward the videos made of this event twice a week, roughly every Wednesday and Saturday. For further context, please see the introductory post in the series, which can be found here.]

The story you are about to hear you may find surprising in a number of ways; I know that I certainly did when I heard it on the night it was recorded. The contrast between the adversity faced by Wendy MacDonald and her family from the medical community upon making the decision to keep her baby early in the pregnancy and the support they received once it was finally time for Kyle to be delivered struck me as a very unfortunate demonstration of the power of linguistic framing. The shift in language from “miscarriage” to “premature birth” is a small one (the addition of one word, one syllable, and three letters), but it made all the difference for this family and the ability of the medical personnel involved to support them. I also found the adamant stance of her family doctor a bit perplexing, the sort of chilling paternalism that so often arises out of a misplaced belief that we alone have access to the knowledge of what is best for others. Perhaps even more than this I was surprised that this story had, and continues to have, a happy ending. For every Wendy MacDonald I am sure that there are many, many women who would be mothers and men who would be fathers that are bullied into conforming with the system because the system “knows best.”

Perhaps this video will make you a little angry, but it should also give you a little hope. Enjoy. Transcript of the clip beneath the fold. Continue reading

Dani, a feral child

The idea of a child who has grown largely without human contact or care is of interest to academics for a variety of reasons, whether the interest stems from questions about child development, or the nature/nurture problem. But I agree with jj in this post from Feminist Philosophers that the reality of “the feral child” is far from being the distant object of theoretical curiosity that it is often speculated as in classroom discussion.

Dani with her new family

Dani with her new family

This journalistic report on the story on Dani, a child who went largely without human contact until she was seven, does a remarkably good job of treating her as a person, rather than an object of medical intrigue. Dani was diagnosed with a kind of environmental autism due to this neglect. Included is an audio version of the story and a slide show, as well as links to other stories on Dani and a place for feedback.

Wii Fit: what videogames can teach us

Feminist Philosophers today features a post on Wii Fit, a game that incorporates weight loss goals in the family-friendly format of a Nintendo game. It uses a BMI to tell you how far away from normal you are, an then has you set goals to get back in to the normal range. This game is marketed to the whole family, including children. See, for example, the game demo website, where we see a man, woman, girl and boy who each demonstrate for us what different types of activities we can perform with Wii Fit. Note the correlation between the  exercise being modeled and the person used to model it. Mom does yoga, dad does strength training, boy does balance games, ten year old girl does aerobics. Yes, aerobics. Why does a little girl need to do aerobics? Click on her and she tells you (big smile on her face)  “If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is running a little high,  you may want to go for a session of Aerobics… to help tone your body.”  Of course, BMI’s don’t work on children, and although there’s a very faint disclaimer to this effect, the game producers clearly expect little girls to track and strive to change their BMI- this is, after all, the point of the game. Even better, the game lets you chart your progress against your friends and family, so it turns into a veritable weight loss competition!

<insert face-palm here>