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Anger Over Gay Bullying Speech At Vermont School


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Anger Over Gay Bullying Speech At Vermont School

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

April 19, 2006 - 8:00 pm ET

(Burlington, Vermont) Several parents are blasting the Burlington, Vermont school board for inviting a state-wide LGBT advocacy group to make a presentation on gay bullying at a local middle school this week.

A teenage member of Outright Vermont told the sixth graders about the bullying he faced and the difficulty he had in coping. The presentation at Lyman Hunt Middle School was part of Wellness Week". Other presentations covered topics such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs abuse, eating disorders, suicide prevention and violence against women and girls.

Parent Kristy DeGuise said parents should have been notified in advance that a gay person would be speaking.

"School is a place to learn. I don't personally believe that learning about not bashing gays is going to get them a better job in life," she told the Burlington Free Press.

Mary Rouille, a parent who said she is Catholic but enrolls her children in the public system said the speech should never have been allowed.

"If we can't bring our religion into the school, they shouldn't bring their beliefs in," she said.

Burlington Schools Superintendent Jeanne Collins defended the decision to invite the group.

"We're not promoting any agenda," Collins told the paper. "We're giving a real-life experience and creating an awareness for students around one aspect of our harassment policy."

Vermont passed a law in 2004 requiring schools to develop anti-bullying programs.

Last month a school in Williston, Vermont cancelled an anti-bullying presentation by Outright Vermont after some parents complained. (story)

Earlier this month the board decided to invite the group back but allow parents to pull their students out of the assembly if they objected.

Outright Vermont spokesperson Kate Jerman said she wasn't sure her organization would participate if it was subject to different conditions than other presenters. (story)

Opposition to LGBT presentations on bullying in schools is increasing nationwide.

Last month in Somers, New York, Kevin Jennings the executive director of the national Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network pulled out of speaking engagement at a school because of past minute restrictions imposed by the principal when some parents objected to the address. (story)

Jennings said principal Linda Horisk wanted to make attendance at the assembly optional, something Jennings felt 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 which he was not prepared to do.

Last month a Wisconsin school cancelled Diversity Day after an "ex-gay" group complained about a gay speaker. (story)

©365Gay.com 2006

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