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Anti-gay comments condemned

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Anti-gay comments condemned

Tuesday's board meeting attracted dozens of supporters of the We Are Family DVD, but the cartoon's future in classrooms remains uncertain.

BY HANNAH SAMPSON

hsampson@herald.com

Barney and Big Bird didn't make much progress toward appearing in Broward public schools at a School Board meeting Tuesday.

But many who support the diversity DVD starring those beloved children's characters left the meeting with a sense of victory anyway.

The reason: School Board members condemned anti-gay comments made by some diversity committee members, who are appointed by the board.

''There were unfortunate things said at the meeting. I repudiate those,'' said School Board member Marty Rubinstein. ``Any attack on the gay community I liken to the Nazi attack on Jews during World War II.''

School Board member Robin Bartleman said she was concerned by statements made by diversity committee members and intended to bring forward a resolution next month reaffirming the board's commitment to diversity, tolerance and respect.

And School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Kraft said the comments did not reflect the ''message that the district or board has ever set forth,'' pointing to the district's code of conduct, anti-bullying efforts, character-education program and nondiscrimination policy.

During the diversity committee's discussion, Steve Kane, a radio talk show host and member of the committee, said, 'Even in the liberal group, they understand that these people are trying to mess with our kids' minds and introduce all kinds of activities in the name of tolerance.''

The diversity committee voted 10-7 against the video in May.

Stratton Pollitzer, South Florida director of Equality Florida, Tuesday called the School Board members' statements ``encouraging.''

''We needed an acknowledgment that the ugliness of this debate does not reflect the school district,'' Pollitzer said.

Pollitzer, Anti-Defamation League Florida Regional Board Chairman Dennis Kainen and five others spoke in support of the DVD Tuesday.

''We're not one side of an argument,'' Pollitzer said. ``We're a community under attack.''

The debate over the We Are Family DVD and accompanying teaching materials, sponsored in part by the ADL, was sparked when Focus on the Family founder James Dobson wrote that children's entertainment figures were ``apparently being hijacked to promote an agenda that involves teaching homosexual propaganda to children.''

While the diversity committee voted against recommending the DVD for use in Broward schools, it was a curriculum screening committee's recommendation against using it that carried weight.

The screening committee said the DVD didn't meet FCAT preparation or Sunshine State standards.

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