Several parents of students at Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Illinois are angered that their children are discussing homosexuality as part of student panel intended to help freshman adjust to high school.
Parents objected to the inclusion of students from the Gay and Straight Alliance Club (GSA) in Freshman Advisory, a monthly immersion class that covers topics facing freshmen including hazing, bullying, studying skills, alleviating stress, social and self-awareness, and planning for the four years in high school.1
The GSA presentation is part of the social and self-awareness unit of Freshman Advisory, which takes place during the second half of the school year. Other groups represented in that unit include Minority Report, a group for minority students, and the student-with-disabilities panel.2
The concerned parents argued that Deerfield High School’s inclusion of the GSA is tantamount to pushing a controversial political agenda in the classroom. On March 1, North Shore Student Advocacy, a group that opposes the inclusion of the GSA, took out a full-page ad opposing the curriculum in the Deerfield Review, the local newspaper. Addressed to school officials, the ad read: “We believe these students are being used to further the causes of gay activists…Rei[g]n in your staff who are using the school to promote their personal views.”3 A parent who is a member of the group echoed this sentiment, “There are teachers in this class who have their own agenda and use this class to promote it,” said one parent.4
The assistant superintendent for Township High School District 113, which includes Deerfield High School, responded by explaining that the curriculum is intended to promote tolerance and respect.
“The whole point of the presentation is to help students understand how they—maybe even flippantly, intending to communicate with others—can be perceived or misperceived by others,” she said. “We have a great deal of pride in the program and don't feel we are overstepping any boundaries that [most] parents would feel are inappropriate.”5
She also pointed out that while the classes are mandatory, parents can choose to remove their children from the days when gay-straight relations are covered.6
Several students agreed with the superintendent, asserting that the curriculum, which was instated five years ago, has had a positive tangible effect on the student body. One senior said that he believes that the climate toward homosexual and transgender students at the school has improved since the panel began.7
“What is important is that we learn to respect each other as peers,” the student said. "That's really the heart of what we talk about.”8
- Julie Murphy, “Freshman Advisory Stirs Debate,” Deerfield Review, 8 March 2007, accessed 8 March 2007,
- Lisa Black, “Gay awareness panel roils school,” Chicago Tribune, 8 March 2007, accessed 8 March 2007, <www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-