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Another School District Blocks Gay Speakers


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Another School District Blocks Gay Speakers

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

March 31, 2006 - 12:01 am ET, Updated March 31, 11:00 am ET

(Somers, New York) It was to have been a speech on diversity but the head of the national Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) cancelled after a group of parents claimed it was nothing more than "propaganda for the gay agenda" and the principal attempted to make what GLSEN calls "unnecessary and serious modifications" to the speech.

Members of Somers High School's Human Rights Club invited Kevin Jennings, GLSEN's executive director to speak after several students heard him deliver an address at a school in Westchester.

A group of parents organized Concerned Citizens and demanded the school cancel the invitation.

"Our issue is whether or not their personal choice of private sexual behavior should be publicly promoted as an equally valid option for our children," Judy Birdsall, the mother of a ninth-grader told the Journal News.

"We do not believe this should be sanctioned by the school in a daytime school assembly."

As the pressure mounted, GLSEN and Principal Linda Horisk met numerous times with Horisk to discuss the speech.

GLSEN says that Horisk wanted to make attendance at the assembly optional, something the organization says would have sent a wrong message to students.

Horisk also wanted to make changes to the speech, which Jennings said would have "gutted" the speech and he was not prepared to do. He said she also refused to administer GLSEN's standard school climate survey, "which seeks to understand levels of homophobic, racist, and other biased name-calling that occurs at schools".

Jennings then decided to cancel his engagement at the school, saying the changes would have made the speech ineffective.

Horisk and the Human Rights Club had been planning the event for more than a year.

"We aren't trying to promote anything, except making our school a comfortable community for all our students, regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation," said 16-year old Jacqueline Palumbo, the club's president.

Earlier this month the principal of a Vermont school cancelled an anti-bullying presentation by a local LGBT group after some parents objected. (story)

Outright Vermont co-executive director Kate Jerman and volunteer Connor McFadden, a gay Burlington High School student, were turned away when they arrived to speak, despite having an invitation from the school.

Next Monday the Williston School Board will hold a special meeting to decide whether to reschedule the event.

Administrators at Williston Central School are recommending that Outright Vermont be invited back to the public school despite the parental objections.

©365Gay.com 2006


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