Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ramona schools stopped 12-year-old Natalie's presentation about gay SF councilman Harvey Milk

Is it possible that Ramona School District doesn't know that kids talk to each other all the time about sexual issues? Officials seem to have gone too far in their efforts to help some parents keep their children ignorant about sex.

Certainly the school district is responsible for the presentations that teachers give to students, but a presentation by a student is another matter. The district has singled out a student and forbidden her to present to her class a well-written presentation simply because the subject is Harvey Milk, an advocate of gay rights.

See all ACLU posts.
See all David Blair-Loy posts.

School curbs girl's report on gay rights activist Milk
By Greg Moran
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
May 21, 2009

...Natalie, 12, is a student at Mount Woodson Elementary School and did the report last month as part of an independent research project class at the school. Students in the class are required to do PowerPoint projects on a subject of their choosing.

Natalie picked Milk, who became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States when he was elected in 1977 to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. After serving 11 months, Milk was assassinated in a City Hall shooting in November 1978 by Dan White, who had resigned as a supervisor but wanted his job back. White also killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone in the rampage.

The slain supervisor's life was the subject last year of the Academy Award-winning film “Milk,” starring Sean Penn.

[Maura Larkins: It's pretty hard to keep kids in the dark about an Academy Award-winning subject. I would urge parents to discuss the issue with their children rather than trying to hide it.]

The day before Natalie was to present the report in April, she was told by Principal Theresa Grace that she would not be allowed to show her project in class the way other students had done...

Superintendent Robert Graeff and Grace cited the board policy dealing with sex-education matters. The policy states that parents will be notified in writing about any teaching on the subjects of sex or “family life, human sexuality, AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases.”

[Maura Larkins' note: This wasn't "teaching." This was a student presentation.]

...The school rescheduled Natalie's presentation for May 8, at a lunch recess, Blair-Loy wrote. In the meantime, school officials sent home a letter to all parents in the class that included the permission slip...

Natalie gave the presentation to about half the class, Blair-Loy said. The ACLU wants the district to apologize to Natalie, send letters “reflecting such apology” to parents who received the school district permission request, let Natalie give the presentation to the whole class and clarify that the board policy applies only to course content for sex-education instruction. The group also wants the district to say situations like this won't happen again...

RAMONA: ACLU claims school violated student's free speech

North County Times
May 20, 2009

RAMONA ---- The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening a lawsuit against the Ramona Unified School District after an elementary school student was told she could not give a class presentation about Harvey Milk, an openly gay San Francisco supervisor assassinated in 1978.

The ACLU on Wednesday sent a letter to the school district asking for an apology to the student, Natalie Jones, a sixth-grader at Mt. Woodson Elementary School.

David Blair-Loy, legal director of the ACLU for San Diego and Imperial counties, said Jones received 49 out of 50 points for her written presentation, which she prepared for an assignment in her Independent Research Project Class. On April 22, the day before she was scheduled to give her presentation to the class, Blair-Loy said Jones was called to the principal's office and told her subject was too sensitive to give to her class.

The district did offer Jones an opportunity to give her presentation to students whose parents signed permission slips, Blair-Loy said.

School district officials cited a board policy requiring written parental notification before students can hear presentations about sex education, Blair-Loy said.

The ACLU provided an April 28 letter, signed by Mt. Woodson Principal Theresa Grace, notifying parents of students in Jones' class that their children could see the presentation during the lunch recess May 8 if they signed permission slips. Blair-Loy said the district based its decision on a policy requiring signed permission slips for students to see presentations regarding sex-education.

"That's discrimination against protected speech," Blair-Loy said about the request for permission slips. "You cannot single out a specific speech and treat it differently just because you think it's a sensitive subject."

Besides an apology to Jones, the ACLU also is asking the school district to allow her to give the presentation to all members of her class and to clarify in writing the parental notification and permission portion of its "Family Life/Sex Education" policy.

The ACLU has posted Jones' Power Point presentation online.
It can be viewed...[HERE].

Harvey Milk’s legacy honored at local event
Young activist wins essay contest award
By Joseph Peña, SDNN
May 22, 2009

Megan Hogan – like the late, gay activist Harvey Milk, who was honored in San Diego at a diversity breakfast Friday – knows the value of building strong coalitions and inspiring others.

Despite taunts from classmates and objections from parents, the 18-year-old high school senior started the Diversity Club and Gay-Straight Alliance in January at Del Mar’s Winston School, a college-prep school for students with learning disabilities. The goal: to unite students from different backgrounds to underscore the importance of embracing one another’s differences.

“We can learn from each other and understand more about different cultures when we come together,” Hogan said. “We need our allies. We can make each other stronger and get more accomplished.”

Hogan said she relied on allies – her friends and family – to embrace her own differences: she is deaf and gay. Hogan first identified herself as a lesbian in seventh grade. She slowly confided in others, despite facing rejection from some. She’s opened up more, though, she said, and has made good friends who respect her for who she is...

No comments: