June 2007 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
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Proposal to Make Education More Inclusive Passed

Farmington Hills, MI

The Farmington School District has just overturned one of its long-held policies by passing a proposal that will allow teachers to answer students’ questions about homosexuality and “gay” issues.1  Many administrators endorsed the change, which was recommended by the district’s Sex Education Advisory Board, even though some parents remain hesitant.

Administrators believe that expanded education is the way to eliminate harassment based on sexual orientation and point out that they frequently hear comments such as, “That’s so gay.”  “We know that homosexual youth suffer from bullying and harassment when others are not understanding of the facts,” noted the superintendent.  She continued, “It is appropriate and helpful for our staff to be able to answer questions regarding all aspects of sexuality.”2

School districts in Michigan vary widely on how (or even if) they address homosexuality.  Prior to this decision, teachers in Farmington Hills were told not to provide any input on questions related to homosexuality and instead to tell young people to ask their parents.3

The new proposal allows for written questions from students in fourth grade and either written or verbal questions from those in or above fifth grade.  Teachers will be given a manual with standardized answers to typical questions students might ask and must provide those answers.  Parents who do not want their children to hear these answers may opt-out of the program if they chose to do so.4

In response to the change, some parents have accused the district of promoting a “gay lifestyle.”  One parent stated, “I’m very pro-education and I’m a physician, but I just feel there’s a pro-gay and lesbian agenda here.  I accept all people, but I think that goes against a lot of family morals.”5

Most community members, however, have been supportive of the proposal.  A principal in the district noted, “By the time students get to the sixth grade, they know a lot, but a lot of it is not factual.  What we want to do is answer the questions in a factual manner.” The superintendent explained that the new policy is “in the best interest of all students because it includes the efforts of parents, students, and educators.”6  And the school board president echoed support for the change, saying, “Our number one goal in curriculum, instruction and student achievement is to make sure our students feel physically, emotionally, and academically safe, secure, and accepted.  This new procedure supports that.”7

Many parents and students were also pleased with this new policy.  One mother explained that teachers are an important resource, “It’s a sticky situation because perhaps the teacher is the only outlet the student feels they may have.”8 And, a 14-year-old student in the district was idealistic in her assessment of the proposal: “The goal I set for my future generation is universal respect for everyone,” she said.  “If we teach only heterosexuality, we’re not including everyone, and everyone should be treated as equal.”9


The new policy will go into effect in September at the start of the 2007–08 school year.

References

  1. Shawn Lewis, “School: New sex ed will help keep kids safe,” The Detroit News, 20 June 2007, accessed 21 June 2007, <www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070620/METRO02/706200375/1003/METRO>. 
  2. Shawn Lewis, “Sex ed proposal stirs controversy,” Detroit News, 30 May 2007, accessed 19 June 2007, <http://detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070530/SCHOOLS/705300378/1026
  3. Lewis, “School: New sex ed will help keep kids safe.”
  4. Lewis, “Sex ed proposal stirs controversy.”
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Lewis, “School: New sex ed will help keep kids safe.”
  8. Ibid.
  9. Shawn Lewis, “Sex ed proposal stirs controversy.”