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: School Stakeholders Speak on the Issue of Teaching Homosexuality in Public Elementary Schools
by Virginia B. Bautista
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Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
“Whoever captures the kids owns the future.” -Patricia Nell Warren, author
Background of the Study Gay individuals have been known as those persons who, clinically speaking, are attracted to people of the same sex (Hogan and Hudson, 1999; qtd. in Mueler, 2004). In the early years of the American history, according to Dynes, Johansson and Percy (1990), gay individuals never showed their real identities in public. They, in fact, were known to have been living in the “closet,” which means that they were trying to conceal their lifestyle and even disguised themselves as straight men in public (qtd. in Mueler, 2004). However, Reverend Steven Kindle of the Clergy United said that “Closets are a place of death. So many gay people are forced to live in two different realities – the world where they are pretending and then the closet where they have all these fears and feelings of guilt, and anger and shame.”
Mueler (2004) explained that the act of concealing the gay m en’s real identities was perhaps partly due to the lack of acceptance of homosexuals in the society (p. 8).
As years went by, homosexuality and the issues surrounding it became more prominent in the American culture (Carpenter II, 2008). Americans are now paying attention to the issue of homosexuality. This is happening because the gay activists are now asserting their so-called rights while conservative groups continuously exert pressure on the legislators, and now, even on educators.
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In San Francisco, for instance, a statue of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay supervisor in a major city in the US, has been unveiled at the city hall on May 22, 2008 (“Harvey Milk’” 2008). This event, according to a resident of San Jose, as shown in the news video clip, can actually inspire gay activists to become more active in asserting their right for respect from the society. As the interviewee in the news clip, David Rigo, puts it, “It helps me in continuing my activism” (“Harvey Milk’” 2008). Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco also proposed a bill declaring May 22 as “Harvey Milk Day” in honor of Milk himself who was assassinated in 1978 by a fellow supervisor (“Day to Honor Harvey Milk,” 2008). Reports say that Milk, together with another supervisor, George Moscone, was murdered in San Francisco on November 27 – thirty years ago – by their former colleague who was known to be a homophobic (“Assemblyman Leno’s,” 2008). This proposed bill, which was sponsored by Leno, aims to honor a gay icon every year on his birthday. This bill passed the senate, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed this bill saying that Milk's "contributions should continue to be recognized at the local level by those who were most impacted by his contributions” (“Schwarzenegger Vetoes,” 2008). Since gay activists couldn’t make a governor agree that a “Gay Day” should be declared, they are also finding other ways to assert their being gay through the media. On December 10, 2008, gay individuals were invited to participate in a nationwide protest against people who voted for the Proposition 8 which bans the law on same-sex marriage in California. In reaction to this move, gay individuals were encouraged to call in “gay” and do community service or charitable works instead (“Gay Rights,” 2008). This activity called “Day Without a Gay,” got different reactions from the public.
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These incidents show how the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered community try to penetrate the American society through various strategies – from exerting pressure on the legislators to penetrating the public through media like the television or the Internet. The clash between the LGBT community and the conservative groups does not end on streets. The LGBT’s latest attempt to influence the society into thinking that “Gay is okay” is now happening, not on streets, not on the senate, but in educational institutions. As Ed Vitagliano, news editor for the American Family Association, said, “The most sought-after trophies of the homosexual movement are not found in corporate boardrooms, state legislatures, or even Hollywood. The ultimate prizes are the hearts and minds of children” (Vitagliano, 1999). Carpenter (2008) argues that the once-confined-in-California-and-Massachusetts issue is now hitting the whole country through the schools as entry points (p. 1). However, Carpenter mentioned that many stakeholders in school communities do not seem to be aware of this. Now, even the National Education Association, a union of teachers in the US, which boasts of 3.4 million members, openly challenges conservative groups by acknowledging homosexuality issues as among the most important issues that need to be focused on (“Safe Schools for Everyone,” 2008). This makes homosexuality issues rose from the “closet” to the classroom. In defense of this stand, NEA posted on its official web page some statistical figures from the 2005 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Among the statistics provided, it says, “Nearly one-fifth (17.6%) of students had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation” (“Safe Schools for Everyone”). Based on the statistics given, the
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National Education Association remains “committed to reversing these trends and addressing the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students” (“Safe Schools for Everyone”). For the conservative groups, the homosexual activists are simply pushing for their “homosexual agenda,” but for the LGBT community, these activities are necessary to change the society’s attitude toward homosexuals who deserve the same respect that heterosexuals demand from the society. An article published on The Economics on 2008 clearly states that “evidence suggests that homosexual behaviour is partly genetic” (“Science and Technology”). Brendan Zietsch of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, together with his team, concluded in their research that “genes explain 27% of an individual's gender identity” (“Science and Technology,” 2008 ). Therefore, the documentary released in 2007 titled For the Bible Tells me so, must have been accurate when it says, “Sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed” (“For the Bible Tells me so,” 2007). Supporting this claim is a clinical/research psychologist from Harvard, Dr. Paula Caplan, who says that homosexuality is not something that can be easily changed because, “It’s inborn. It’s natural. And to call it reparative is a misnomer because there is nothing to repair” (“For the Bible Tells me so,” 2007).
Problem Statement The contradicting issues surrounding homosexuality continue to exert pressure on some schools which offer a curriculum addressing issues on homosexuality. Chasnoff and Cohen (1997) emphasize that, “To prevent prejudice and violence, we must begin to address this issue in elementary school, because if we wait until middle or high school, the
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task—if it’s done at all—becomes one of ‘unlearning’ prejudice, rather than preventing it.” (qtd. in Hoffman, 2001).
Research Questions This research aims to investigate on the four school stakeholders’ perception on the need to teach homosexuality in public elementary schools. The following questions shall be addressed using qualitative method of research:
Do the participants perceive homosexuality as inborn or as a choice?
What kind of lifestyle do homosexuals have, as perceived by the participants?
How do the participants view GLSEN founder’s principle on making schools safe for children?
Do the schools of the participants or of the participants’ children (for parents) have policies protecting students on the basis of their sexual orientation?
What are the participants’ reaction and comments on the video clips produced by the American Family Association in reaction to the documentary It’s Elementary?
What are the participants’ opinions on the Matthew Shepard’s case vis-à-vis teaching homosexuality in elementary schools?
Can teaching homosexuality in public elementary schools have impact on the level of tolerance, understanding and attitudes towards homosexuals?
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Purpose of the Study The main purpose of the study is to assess the perception of the four school stakeholders on the need to teach homosexuality in public elementary schools.
Specific Objectives: In order to achieve the purpose of the study, the following specific objectives will be accomplished: 1. To describe the participants’ perception of gay individuals and their lifestyles 2. To describe participants’ view regarding GLSEN founder’s statement on making schools safe for children 3. To assess participants’ reaction to video clippings which contradict the idea of teaching homosexuality in public elementary schools. 3. To assess participants’ opinion on the Matthew Shepard’s case in relation to the inclusion of curriculum on homosexuality in public elementary schools. 4. To assess the participants’ opinion on the statement of GLSEN founder regarding the reason for the need to teach homosexuality in schools. 5. To analyze the participants’ perception how teaching homosexuality in public elementary schools can have impact on the tolerance of and better understanding of homosexuals.
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Nature of the Study This research is qualitative, specifically using person triangulation. As such, the results can only speak for the participants, and cannot be generalized to the whole population. This nature of the study also becomes one of its limitations.
This research which aims to assess the perception of the four school stakeholders on the need to teach homosexuality in public elementary schools is anchored on the assumption that getting the views or opinions of as many stakeholders in school as possible will lead to better curriculum development. To find out if teaching homosexuality in public elementary schools can have impact on the attitude towards homosexuals, four stakeholders were involved in the study: administrators, teachers, parents and homosexuals. Considering all their opinions can give a more holistic view on the topic. The essential variables in the study are shown on the visual concept shown in Figure 1. Figure 1 shows four circles representing the four specific groups of stake holders in school: A1, A2, A3 referring to administrator-participants; T1,T2,T3 pertaining to teacher-participants; P1,P2,P3 referring to parent-participants; and H1,H2, H3 pertaining to the homosexual participants. The core of the diagram where the four circles overlap represents the holistic view of the four groups of stakeholders. This core, as assumed in this study, can best help in decision-making on whether teaching homosexuality in public elementary schools can have impact on the attitude of students towards homosexuals.
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It must be noted that each circle is represented only by the specific participants, and not of stakeholders in general. The nature of this research does not allow generalization of results.
Stakeholders’ Perception on the Need to Teach Homosexuality in Public Elementary Schools
Figure 1: Conceptual Framework for the Study
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Definition of Terms
Administrators: referring to the participants in this study who have directive or executive functions in schools (e.g. assistant dean or assistant superintendents). In this study, administrators are coded as A1, A2, and A3. A1 is from Georgia, A2 is a resident of California and A3 is from Texas.
Homosexuality: refers to attraction to individuals of the same sex (Hogan and
Hudson, 1999; qtd. in Mueler, 2004).
Homosexuals: participants who are either gay or lesbian. They are coded in the study as H1, H2 and H3. These participants are from Texas, Kentucky, and Michigan respectively.
Parents: participants with children studying in elementary schools. In this study, they are coded as P1, P2 and P3. P1 is a parent from Alabama while P2 and P3 are both from Georgia.
Stakeholders: a person or group that has an investment, share, or interest in something, as a business or industry (American Heritage Dictionary); In this study, stakeholders refer to the four groups of participants: administrators, teachers, parents and homosexuals.
Teachers: participants in this study who teach in elementary schools. They are coded as T1, and T2 who are both from Georgia; and T3 of Texas.
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Teaching homosexuality: this phrase, as used in the study refers to various strategies that teachers may employ in order to educate the children: (a) Promoting gayinclusive and anti-homophobia curricula; (b) encouraging homosexual teachers to be open about their sexual orientation in class, (c) using teachable moments (e.g., correcting a child who uses the word "gay" as a putdown) to guide young school kids into politically correct attitudes about homosexuality; (d) and holding classroom discussions about alternative "families," including those with homosexual parents (La Babera, 1999, p. 12).
Assumptions This research was conducted with the assumption that the participants were equally exposed to the videos and web site which the self-administered tool requested them to view and visit respectively. Being equally exposed to the videos means that all the participants watched the videos in its entirety. Variation in the exposure to these videos and site could alter the result.
Limitations The small size of the sample, and the sampling method used limited this study. This research’s nature, being qualitative, also became one of its limitations. Although four groups – administrators group, teachers group, parents group and homosexuals group – were represented in this research, the size of each group is relatively small. This is because of the low rate of questionnaires returned to the researcher. Based on a feedback from one participant, the questionnaire was too long—considering that it required them to watch three videos and to visit one web site. This, perhaps, is the reason many of the invited participants did not accomplish and return the questionnaires.
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This study was also limited by the sampling method used, which is convenience sampling. The participants, as a result, came from different backgrounds and locality. These limitations make it impossible for the researcher to generalize the results. The data gathered through the tool designed by the researcher can only speak about the perception of the participants involved in the study.
Significance of the Study A homosexual author, Patricia Nell Warren, once claimed, “Whoever captures the kids owns the future.” In this sense, whatever policy that includes the children and their welfare should be open to debate and consultation, and grounded on valid and strong research studies that can be used as bases for policy-making. The results of this research can provide well-rounded and in-depth insights on the beliefs and perception of the four school stakeholders involved in the issue of teaching homosexuality in elementary schools. The perception of the four stakeholders is also of paramount importance to people who would like to persuade the school stakeholders into their communication agenda. Conservative groups, for example, may use the result of this study to outline communication strategies that they must use in order to persuade the four stakeholders to change or strengthen their already existing views. According to Sherif (1961), a persuader can cause attitude change by first knowing the perception of the target communication receivers (“Social Judgment Theory,” 2008).
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Summary and Transition Homosexuality in America has a long history which is characterized by defeat, struggle and even victory. Defeat happens when homosexuals are killed just for being gay or lesbian. Struggle is always present knowing that the religious leaders “do not sleep.” They seem to monitor every step that homosexual activists do. Victory is attained every time the GLBT community feels a sense of acceptance and tolerance in the society. These days, the battle field where homosexual activists and religious groups try to outdo each other is found in educational institutions, particularly in elementary school classrooms. By this time, the many concerned Americans await the decision of president-elect Barack Obama on the proposed Matthew Shepard Act, a bill that proposes for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity expression on the hate crime laws in the country (“Matthew Shepard Act Press Conference,” 2007). This study assessed the perception of the four school stakeholders on the need to teach homosexuality in public elementary schools. A comprehensive review of literature and studies showed that the rich resources on the topic seem to offer contradicting results and data. This review was presented in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 explained the methodology used by the researcher including the sampling method, participants, instrumentation and the detailed research procedures. The results of the study were all presented in detail in Chapter 4. The researcher concluded and offered recommendation to future researchers on the final chapter.
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Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
Homosexuality and Science Being gay or lesbian is not a choice that individuals do make (Daniel, 2007, p. 75; “For the Bible Tells me so,” 2007; “Science and Technology,” 2008). Recent research findings from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, and Karolinka Institutet in Stockholm reveal that “genetics and environmental factors are important determinants of homosexual behaviour” (“Queen Mary, University of London,” 2008). Among the nonshared environmental factors that determine sexual behaviour is the hormone exposure in the womb that impacts fetal development (“Queen Mary, University of London,” 2008). Over thirty years ago, homosexuality was among the conditions which psychiatrists see as a disorder. Therefore, being gay or lesbian then meant that the individual is sick and thereby needs to undergo reparative therapy in order to change. Then in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association announced that homosexuality is being removed from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (Bull, 2003, p. 20; DeBold, 2007, p. 1). Mark Pope, the first openly gay individual who was elected in 2003 as president of the American Counseling Association, admitted that no legitimate studies supported the label being given to homosexuality as a disorder. Pope said that the labeling was based mainly on religious and political biases of the members (Bull, 2003, p. 20). As if Science is not enough to explain the issue, Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, insisted on using his radio show and his book to broadcast that “Homosexuality is a preventable disorder” (“For the Bible Tells Me So,” 2007) when
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in fact, science made it clear, as uttered by Dr. Paula Caplan, a clinical/research psychologist from Harvard, that “The idea that homosexuality is a preventable disorder is completely misguided. There’s no scientific research to back it up. It is not a disorder” (“For the Bible Tells Me So,” 2007).
Homosexuality and Clergy Despite scientific findings which are based on long-term experiments, various conservative groups insist that homosexuality is considered by the bible as an abomination or as a sin (“For the Bible Tells me so,” 2007). This is the reason the church views homosexuality as a violation of the will of God and of the natural law (“Catholic Bishops,” 2006). Despite this popular religious belief, however, the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, was elected in 2003 at New Hampshire (Gledhill, 2008). Robinson is known as “the most controversial Christian in the world” (Celizic, 2008). As such, Robinson wears bulletproof vest during his consecration. Making him more controversial in the face of the church is the fact that he admitted that he would be marrying Mark Andrew who has been his partner for more or less 20 years (Celizic, 2008). As far as Robinson is concerned, the people who condemn homosexuals are only those who don’t really understand what the bible says. Robinson explains, “For a man to lie with another man as with a woman, is abomination.” However, in his book titled In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God, Robinson reiterates that “it is an abomination to eat pork or shellfish, to wear clothing made of two different fibers, or to sow two different types of seed in the same field” (Celizic, 2008). This implies that the bible is not to be taken literally or should not be interpreted using today’s context, but based on the context when the scripture was written. Reverend Steven Kindle of Clergy
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United believes that reading the bible literally makes the reader disregard significant things (“For the Bible Tells me so,” 2007). As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, says, “The bible is the word of God through the words of human beings” (“For the Bible Tells me so,” 2007). Contextualized reading and interpretation of the bible were also emphasized by Reverend Laurence Keen of the Disciples of Christ. He says:
When someone says to me, this is what the bible says, my response to them is no, that’s what the bible reads. It is the struggle to understand context, and language and culture and custom that helps us to understand the meaning or what it says (“For the Bible Tells me so,” 2007).
On the other hand, Robert Gagnon, an assistant professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary stressed in his book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, that the bible considers same-sex intercourse as sin and “there are no valid hermeneutical arguments for overriding the Bible's authority in this matter” (Harrington, 2002, p. 24).
What Various Organizations Say About Homosexuality
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) This organization, founded in 1990, believes that all students in schools need to be respected regardless of sexual orientation. The members of this organization also believe that respect for all increases self-esteem of students, thereby contributing to students’ personal growth and educational achievement (“GLSEN,” 2008). GLSEN organizes a yearly event called No Name-calling Week which allows the members to spearhead
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educational activities that aim to stop name-calling in schools by providing them with tools and venue for creating ongoing dialogue on eliminating bullying in school communities. The latest No Name-calling Week is going to happen from January 26 to 30, 2009. (“GLSEN,” 2008). GLSEN also conducts biennial National School Climate Survey. For the year 2007, GLSEN conducted survey among 6,209 LGBT students whose age ranges from 13 to 21 from 50 states and the District of Columbia. Their key findings are the following: Table 1. National School Climate Survey Key Findings
86.2% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 44.1% reported being physically harassed and 22.1% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation. 73.6% heard derogatory remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently or often at school. More than half (60.8%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (38.4%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression. 31.7% of LGBT students missed a class and 32.7% missed a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe, compared to only 5.5% and 4.5%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students. The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.8 versus 2.4).
2007 National School Climate Survey: Nearly 9 out of 10 Students Harassed, GLSEN, 2008
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Despite these alarming results, GLSEN also reported positive intervention and support happening in some schools. First it was found out that fewer homophobic remarks, less harassment and assault due to sexual orientation and gender expression were experienced by homosexuals in schools with a gay-straight alliance. Second, it was reported that supportive staff can positively affect academic achievement of homosexual students. Third, it was found out that schools with a safe school policy that protect students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression can cause homosexual students to hear fewer homophobic remarks and to report harassment incidents to school staff (‘GLSEN,” 2008). These findings imply that interventions in schools can effectively change the environment in school and behaviour of students toward homosexual students. However, GLSEN also reported that very few schools in the US have these interventions that allow homosexual to study in a free-from-bullying environment. For example, in the survey, only 36.3 % of the student-respondents have gay-straight alliance in school and the same percentage have supportive educators while only 18.7% study in schools with safe school policy protecting students on the basis of their sexual orientation/gender expression (‘GLSEN, 2008”). To date, only 11 states in the US and the District of Columbia have policies protecting students from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and only seven states plus DC have policies protecting students based on their gender identity/expression. (“GLSEN, 2008”).
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AFA (American Family Association) AFA, according to its official web site, is a non-profit organization which Don Wildmon has founded in 1977. AFA “represents and stands for traditional family values, focusing primarily on the influence of television and other media” (“AFA,”2008). In a video clip posted on Youtube, AFA, through the host in the video clip, Ed Vitagliano, the research director of AFA, asserts that they believe that discussing homosexuality issues should be the job of the parents of the children, and not of the teachers or of any education bureaucrats (“Homosexual Agenda,” 2008).
NEA (National Education Association) The NEA of National Education Association is the largest teachers union in the US (Glanzer & Pardo, 2001; qtd. in Carpenter, 2008). In its official web page, the organization boasts of 3.2 million members (“NEA,” 2008). NEA believes that public schools must provide safe environment for all. Schools must be “free from intimidation and harassment, and safe for all students, including those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered” (“NEA,” 2008). For NEA, it is not enough for schools to educate students but they also have to create a safe place where students can maximize their full potential. Reg Weaver, NEA President says in its web site: We must do more to close the achievement gap. We must ensure that every child is learning and succeeding in school, regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation (“NEA,” 2008).
Being aware of the bullying and harassment towards the LGBT students, NEA came up with two methods on how to address these issues. First, NEA provides a manual for all the education staff and employees. This manual is titled Strengthening the
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Learning Environment: A School Employees Guide to GLBT Issues. Aside from this, NEA also sponsors a series of workshops that aim to train teachers on how to create a safe environment in school while dealing with the GLBT issues (“Focus on,” 2006).
Indoctrination or Education: The Need to Teach Homosexuality in Public Elementary Schools
Some published articles call the inclusion of homosexuality in the curriculum education. Some clearly state that this kind of education is not education, but simply indoctrination. The key findings in the 2007 National School Climate Survey reveal that the LGBT group is being verbally and physically harassed, being called as “faggots” or “dykes,” have been skipping classes due to the feeling of being unsafe in the campus, and have been getting lower grades due to frequent harassment in school (“GLSEN,” 2008). To protect the LGBT group from these incidents, Daniel (2007) believes that it is necessary to encourage teachers to establish safe environment in schools by doing something about homophobic remarks (p. 75). For Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN, addressing homophobic remarks could be as simple as not ignoring remarks like “That’s so gay!” Ignoring such kind of remarks, according to Jennings will teach the students that there is nothing wrong with talking that way (Long, 2008). Moreover, Daniel (2007) sees acceptance of discrimination as life-threatening (p. 75). Jennings reiterated that “If school isn’t a safe place for all students, and some are harassed and bullied for being different, academic achievement suffers tremendously. It’s not about how you feel about gay people, it’s about making sure all of our students achieve” (Long, 2008).
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In her article, Daniel (2007) suggested three main avenues on how teachers, English teachers in particular, may include the homosexuals in the campus. These three main avenues are inclusion inside the classroom, outside the classroom, and through literature (p. 76). Table 2. Ways to Promote Inclusion in the Classroom
Do Not Tolerate Name-Calling Challenge Homophobic Remarks Say the Words Gay and Lesbian in Context Use Inclusive Language Recognize That Students May Have Gay and/or Lesbian Parents Decorate Your Classroom with Gay-Friendly Materials Wear Jewelry and Ties That Express Your Acceptance
Daniel, P (May 2007). Invitation to all: Welcoming gays and lesbians into my classroom and curriculum. English Journal. 96 (5) pp. 75-80.
Do Not Tolerate Name-Calling. Daniel suggests that teachers should not ignore nor laugh when the words "faggot," "queer," "dyke," or "homo” were used by students to address a homosexual peer. Even a simple remark, “That’s so gay” should be challenged by the teacher (p. 76). Challenge Homophobic Remarks. Daniel believes that it is the teachers’ duty to provide safe learning environment for the students so any homophobic remark should not have a place in the classroom (p. 76).
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Say the Words Gay and Lesbian in Context. Using these words in context, according to Daniel, can alleviate the stigma experienced by gays or lesbians in the community (p. 77). Use Inclusive Language. Gone are the days when only husband and wife exists. This time, teachers have to be careful with the use of language, making sure that the language to be used will be inclusive of all people, regardless of sexual orientation (p. 77). Recognize That Students May Have Gay and/or Lesbian Parents. Daniels says that teachers must make their students feel that their gay or lesbian parents or relatives are included or are part of the society (p. 77). Decorate Your Classroom with Gay-Friendly Materials. The use of gayfriendly materials can actually make the teachers appear open-minded as these materials manifest their acceptance of the homosexuals as normal part of the society (p. 77). Wear Jewelry and Ties That Express Your Acceptance. Daniel suggests that teachers may “wear rainbow jewelry and accessories to promote diversity and social justice” (p. 77). Table 3. Ways to Promote Inclusion though Literature
Acknowledge the Contributions of Gays and Lesbians throughout the Curriculum Order Gay and Lesbian Literature for the Library
Daniel, P (May 2007). Invitation to all: Welcoming gays and lesbians into my classroom and curriculum. English Journal. 96 (5) pp. 75-80.
Acknowledge the Contributions of Gays and Lesbians throughout the Curriculum. Daniel (2007) suggests studying authors like Willa Gather, Langston
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Hughes, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf. Daniel reiterates that introducing these authors in class will make the students think and feel that homosexual individuals can also make good contribution in the society (p. 78). Order Gay and Lesbian Literature for the Library. Having more books depicting gays and lesbians or written by gays or lesbians in the library can enhance acceptance of the homosexuals in the environment (p. 78). Table 4. Ways to Promote Inclusion Outside the Classroom
Ask for Teacher in service to Address Issues Affecting Gay and Lesbian Students Sponsor a Straight And Gay Alliance Establish Yourself as a Visible Ally
Daniel, P (May 2007). Invitation to all: Welcoming gays and lesbians into my classroom and curriculum. English Journal. 96 (5) pp. 75-80.
Ask for Teacher Inservice to Address Issues Affecting Gay and Lesbian Students. Daniel (2007) suggests that teachers may attend training programs, like those offered by GLSEN, in order to make themselves more aware of how gay and lesbian issues should be addressed (p. 78). Sponsor a Straight And Gay Alliance. Teachers may actually make themselves part of the straight and gay alliance. This kind of organization, according to Daniel (2007), will make gays and lesbians feel that “they have allies” (p. 78). Establish Yourself as a Visible Ally. Daniel explains that teachers should consider it a compliment when homosexuals “come out” to them because gays and lesbians know exactly who to trust in school. Daniel also explains that listening to them does not necessarily mean that teachers should promote their sexual activity. Instead,
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listening to them would send the message to the homosexuals that they are being accepted for who they are (p. 79). Daniel ended her article by emphasizing that:
A teacher's influence might be the difference between Ignorance and tolerance, disgust and respect, isolation and acceptance. For students who are gay or lesbian, for students who have relatives who are gay or lesbian, and for students who are allies of gays and lesbians, taking these steps may be the most relevant acts students encounter in the classroom that they can readily apply to their lives (p. 79).
The Role of Educators Teachers play a critical role in the implementation of the curricula in schools and universities (Carpenter II, 2008). Some teachers might be comfortable in talking about homosexuality in the classroom; however, some teachers still feel uncertain about discussing gay issues in the classroom (Hoffman, 2001, p. 28). In her study, Hoffman (2001) found out that almost half of her respondents believe that there is no need to include gay issues in the curriculum although 39 % of them see a need to discuss diversity and respect for all in classroom (p. 29). For teachers who find discomfort in displaying support for a gay-friendly school environment, something else could happen. For instance, five teachers were reported to have refused to display a rainbow-flag poster designed by the high school’s gay-straight alliance. The poster which contained the statement, "This is a safe place to be who you are," had violated the religious beliefs of the five teachers, according to Amy Furtado, the school principal (“Is it Legal?” 2006, p. 84). However, the district officials claimed that the poster was created in order to comply with the state laws requiring schools “to ensure safety and curb discrimination” (“Is it Legal? 2006, p. 84). Superintendent Christine Lim,
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the person who initiated the poster policy said, "This is not about religion, sex or a belief system. This is about educators making sure our schools are safe for our children, regardless of their sexual orientation" (“Is it Legal?” 2006, p. 85). San Leandro High School is among the schools in California which strictly require teachers to promote zero tolerance on harassment among gay students. This envisioned zero-tolerance environment can only be possible through the support of all stakeholders in schools. Among them are teachers, and of course the administrators/principals. Furtado is confident that teachers will soon be able to comply with such state policy (“Is it Legal?” 2006, p. 85). Aside from the initiative of administrators or principals, Hermann-Wilmarth (2007) acknowledges the importance of utilizing books and other forms of literature to introduce the concept of homosexuality to children, the same way that teachers use books to teach students about the other “-isms” (i.e. racism, sexism) in the society (p. 347). As a teacher teaching teachers, Hermann-Wilmarth (2007) realized that “there is much to be done to ensure that those from single-gender headed families, as well as those who identify as gay or lesbian, will find themselves included in the curriculum” (p. 347). While Miller (2008) argues that “It doesn’t take mental gymnastics to figure out that LGBT concerns are school issues”(p. 7), the American Family Association asserts otherwise, as already mentioned on previous pages. Including the LGBT concerns in the curriculum does not only begin and end in the classroom. If administrators and teachers have the responsibilities, the librarians are also expected to embrace issues on diversity, including issues on sexual orientation of students. Schrader and Wells (2007) emphasize in their book that both teachers and librarians have responsibilities to "create an environment where diversity is embraced as our greatest strength, rather than feared as our worst enemy" (qtd. in Kehler, 2008, p. 268). Schrader
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and Wells (2007) believe that being heard and being understood should not be a privilege but a right of all youth (qtd. in Kehler, 2008, p. 268). In a country like the US which boasts of diversity as its strength, classrooms and public libraries should reflect this diversity among the youth (Schrader and Wells, 2007; qtd. in Kehler, 2008, p. 269).
Is Parent Notification Necessary? Parents of students exposed to materials on homosexuality are reacting and they are serious about bringing the matter to the court. Teaching their children about homosexuality is objectionable for many parents who deeply believe that homosexuality is a sin. Many parents claim that pro-gay materials in schools violate their rights to practice religion. Aside from this, parents feel that their parental rights are being ignored by the schools which allow their children to be taught about homosexuality (Simpson, 2006, p. 21). In 2002, a group of parents sues a California district for allowing pro-gay skits be shown to elementary school children at Novato Unified School District without informing parents. The president and chief counsel of the Pacific Justice Institute, Brad W. Dacus, filed the suit on behalf of the parents who asserted that teaching their children about homosexuality is a matter of parental right and that schools should notify them when their children are exposed to pro-homosexual materials (Sack, 2002, p. 10). A San Francisco-based group called Fringe Benefits performed the controversial skits titled Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations against Bigotry. These skits, according to District officials are part of the school’s effort to make sure that all students, regardless
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of sexual orientation, are protected from harassment and discrimination, as the district law requires (Sack, 2002, p. 11). On the question on whether parents need to be notified before exposing students to such materials on homosexuality, the court has an answer. On February 23, 2007, Justice Mark L. Wolf ruled, as a response to David Parker’s civil rights lawsuit against the Lexington, MA school board, that: It is reasonable for public educators to teach elementary school students about individuals with different sexual orientations and about various forms of families, including those with same-sex parents, in an effort to eradicate the effects of past discrimination, to reduce the risk of future discrimination and, in the process, to reaffirm our nation's constitutional commitment to promoting mutual respect among members of our diverse society (Jalsevac, 2007).
Wolf stressed that parents, indeed, have the primary obligation to educate their children; however, sending their kids to public school means that they have to abide the by district law. Unfortunately for them, “The Constitution does not permit them to prescribe what those children will be taught” (Jalsevac, 2007). Instead, Wolf suggested three ways that would solve this problem. According to him, parents who do not wish for their children to be exposed to such materials could (a) remove their children from the public school system; (b) educate their children at home; and (c) elect a school board that will support their beliefs (Jalsevac, 2007). This issue didn’t end in Judge Wolf’s decision. David Parker even brought the case all the way to the Supreme Court. However, to his dismay, the decision never changed (Gilbert, 2008). Even the Supreme Court insists that parents’ consent is not necessary before exposing students to pro-homosexual materials since it is done for a good reason, which is to ensure safety of all students, regardless of their sexual orientation.
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Simply said, the court maintains its decision that the parents have “no fundamental rights” to dictate what the curriculum should contain (Simpson, 2006, p. 22).
Hate Crimes Based on Sexual Orientation USA Today reported that crimes based on sexual orientation have been increasing since 2005. The FBI had recorded 1,265 anti-gay crimes in 2007. These figures are higher by 6% compared with the statistics in 2006 (Bello, 2008). Over ten years ago, the US was confronted with the death caused by brutal attack of a 21-year-old openly gay student from the University of Wyoming. Matthew Shepard died on October 12 at a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. Shepard was left to die on a cold night after being brutally beaten by two men. Eighteen hours later, Shepard was found by a bicyclist who mistook him for a scarecrow (“Matthew’s Story.” 2007). Shepard’s death has been a wake up call for the Americans who became more concerned about hate crimes caused by sexual orientation (Clinton, 2000, p. 2448). When Matthew Shepard was killed, 23 states already have hate crime laws that include the protection of the LGBT population. Hate crimes legislations have been seen in different states after this devastating incident. However, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, said that since Shepard’s death, only 8 states had included sexual orientation in their hate crime laws. These eight states include Texas, Tennessee, New York, New Mexico, Missouri, Maryland, Hawaii and Colorado. Including these eight states, at present, there are only 31 states and D.C. which have hate crime laws protecting gays and lesbians (“Matthew Shepard’s Brutal Death,” 2008).
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Despite most states’ laws on hate crimes involving gay individuals, another incident, similar to the Matthew Shepard case, happened in Oxnard, California on February 12, 2008. Another prominent gay crime hit the country as Lawrence, also known as “Larry” King was reported to have been shot to death by his classmate in a computer laboratory at E.O. Green Junior High School. King is an eight-grader who was not afraid to express his sexual identity. (Cathcart, 2008). The gunman was identified as 14-year-old Brandon McInerney who was King’s classmate. McInerney was charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime (Setoodeh, 2008). Responding to reports that King was probably killed because of his “coming out,” Reis (2008) explained that with or without any adult encouraging King to come out, it is not really the cause of his death. Reis believed that McInerney’s easy access to a gun might have been a more reason for King’s death. Reis also reiterated that perhaps, McInerney “learned nothing about homophobia in elementary or middle school” (Reis, 2009, p. 17). All the reported killings caused by hatred due to sexual orientation suggest that “no matter how many strides LGBT youths (and adults) have made, we still live in a profoundly homophobic culture” (Yoshino, 2008, p. 103). Aside from Lawrence King, several other incidents were widely reported: Ashley Sweeney of Detroit, Michigan and Simmie Williams Jr. of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, were shot to death in February 2008; and Angie Zapata of Greeley, Colorado was beaten to death using a fire extinguisher in July 2008 (Carey, 2008; qtd. in “Matthew Shepard’s Brutal Death,” 2008).
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Videos Discussing Issues involved in Teaching Homosexuality in Schools: A Review
It’s Elementary: Talking about Gay Issues in Schools This documentary was produced in 1996 by lesbian couple Debra Chasnoff and Helen Cohen. It’s Elementary demonstrates how the issue of homosexuality can be tackled in elementary schools with the initiative of teachers. It also shows how children perceive homosexuality issues (Hackman, 2002, p. 58). The documentary was shot in different elementary and middle schools in San Francisco, New York City, Madison, and Cambridge. Two important things were addressed in the documentary: (a) it illustrates various ways on how teachers can discuss homosexuality by “addressing stereotypes, listing what students know, reading stories and facilitating discussions” ; (b) it shows various points of view by inserting interviews and dialogues with teachers, administrators, and family members (Hackman, 2002, p. 58). Eliza Byard, interim executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Foundation, said that thousands of schools in the US were using It’s Elementary and has then served as a “tremendous catalyst for the discussion of LGBT issues in elementary-age education” (Murphy, 2007, p. 27). Byard added that the documentary is somehow also responsible for the passage in 10 states and the District of Columbia of safe-schools laws which deal with bullying caused by differences in sexual orientation (Murphy, 2007, p. 27). The film comes in two versions: one runs for 78 minutes, and the other one has an airtime of 37 minutes (Murphy, 2007, p. 27).
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Suffer the Children by the American Family Association This documentary is posted on the YouTube with a post titled Homosexual Agenda in Public Schools. This video, which is posted on an account name Servantof JesusC and hosted by the Director of Research of the American Family Association, comes in three parts. The main premise that the video addressed is its answer to the question, “Should public schools teach children about homosexuality?” This video has been produced in reaction to the documentary being used in several public schools in the US titled It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School. Using interviews, provocative questions, and carefully selected video clips from It’s Elementary, this video imparts AFA’s views on the issue. Here are the basic information on the post:
YouTube Statistics for Part 1: Airtime: Views:
10 minutes and 18 seconds 5, 372 (as of the time when this research was being conducted)
Comments: URL: YouTube Statistics for Part 2: Airtime: Views:
9 minutes and 16 seconds 1, 604 (as of the time when this research was being conducted)
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YouTube Statistics for Part 3: Airtime: Views: 9 minutes and 50 seconds 1, 046 (as of the time when this research was being conducted) Comments: URL: 53
The first part contains the main assertion of the video saying that the American Family Association believes “that elementary school children are not naturally curious about homosexuality” and “that they should not be indoctrinated to believe that the lifestyle of the homosexual is right.” AFA strongly advocates the idea that “the discussion of such issue falls on the job description of parents and not of teachers or education bureaucrats” (“Homosexual Agenda” 2008). According to the AFA video, the producers of It’s Elementary, Debra Chasnoff and Helen Cohen, went to six schools which were already teaching young children that “Gay is okay.” These schools include P.S. 87, a public school in New York City; Hawthorne Elementary, a public school in Madison, Wisconsin; Manhattan Country School, an independent school from New York City; Peabody Elementary in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Luther Burbank Middle School in San Francisco, California; and Cambridge Friends School, also in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One specific argument raised by the AFA in the video is that It’s Elementary named bigotry of adults, which include the children’s parents, as the reason homophobia exists. AFA accused It’s Elementary for providing homosexual concepts that kids might have acquired or learned from their homes. These terms include sex, together, pervert, couple, baby, kissing, partners, bad, night, AIDS, serious, fun, man, weird, shy, naked, TV, etc.
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More importantly, AFA stresses the point that the real target of It’s Elementary is not the parents, but the Christians. The lesson, which It’s Elementary wants teachers to teach is that “if the person believes that homosexuality is immoral or unnatural lifestyle, then that person is portrayed as an ignorant, prejudiced and bigot” (“Homosexual Agenda” 2008). Part two of the video shows the AFA’s reaction to the appearance of gays and lesbians in some schools as shown in It’s Elementary. AFA calls this “manipulation” for it seems like the gays and lesbians who visit schools are convincing students to change their minds about their already built-in notion of homosexuality (“Homosexual Agenda” 2008). Part three of the video shows the National Director of AFA, David Miller, directly explaining the organization’s stand on why teachers should not teach about homosexuality in schools. Miller said, “Schools should not be in the business of legitimizing homosexual conduct for any reason” (“Homosexual Agenda” 2008). The video ended with the AFA Director appealing to the viewers of the documentary: : Parents, grand parents, teachers, religious leaders, whoever you are watching this video, if you care about your children and grand children, if you care about the moral underpinnings of our society, do something to keep It’s Elementary out of our nation’s schools and children’s organizations. Contact your local school administrators or principals and find out if It’s Elementary is being used in your school or if the subject of homosexuality is being discussed in your school. If It’s Elementary is being used, contact your state’s elected official and express your concerns… Do something before it’s too late”(“Homosexual Agenda” 2008).
Ed Vitagliano, the host of the program, stresses in the video the need to put homosexuality out of the classrooms. However, in an interview with Tim Murphy of The Advocate in 2007, Vitagliano admitted that It’s Elementary is such a success. Murphy
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(2007) said that Vitagliano disclosed that “he feels the battle to keep basic LGBT education out of schools has more or less been lost and that groups like his are now more focused on stopping same-sex marriage” (p. 27). Vitagliano exclaimed, “My hat is off to Debra Chasnoff. They’ve had tremendous success with it” (Murphy, 2007, p. 27).
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Chapter 3 RESEARCH METHOD Research Method In order to achieve the objectives set, the researcher used qualitative method, specifically triangulation. Triangulation is a method that uses more than one research strategies in one study (Nedjat, N.D.; Sands, 2006). With the aim of looking at different perspectives in order to offer a “more complete” assessment on the issue of teaching homosexuality in public elementary schools, the researcher used person triangulation. It is a type of triangulation in which researchers collect data from different sources or respondents (Nedjat, N.D.). In this research’s case, the persons or respondents included were the four stakeholders in schools: administrators, teachers, parents and the homosexuals themselves. Instead of simply asking one group of people about the issue, the researcher sees more value in exploring perception of these four stakeholders in schools.
Instrumentation The researcher designed an open-ended questionnaire to assess the four school stakeholders’ perception on the issue of teaching homosexuality in public elementary schools. The questionnaire consists of seven questions which requested the participants to share their thoughts on the topic by writing their opinion, thoughts, and comments on the questionnaires. Two questions on the instrument required the participants to view videos posted on the YouTube and to visit a web page respectively. The YouTube video, which came in three parts, was about the American Family Association’s video clips on its reaction to a
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documentary titled It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in Schools. The web page which the participants were asked to visit was the home page of Matthew Shepard, the young man who was killed because of his sexual orientation.
Participants The participants were grouped into four to represent the four main stakeholders in schools: administrators, teachers, parents, and the homosexuals themselves. These four school stakeholders were identified based on the documentary, It’s Elementary, a film produced in 1996. Chasnoff and Cohen (1996) identified and interviewed in their documentary selected administrators, teachers, and family members. The homosexuals, however, were included in the study to make the result more holistic. For each group, three participants were included. Using convenience sampling, the researcher contacted ten target participants for each group. They were contacted either personally or online. However, the number of questionnaires retrieved from each group varied. For the administrators group, only three were returned; for the teachers group, four were returned; for the parents group, six were returned; and only four from the homosexuals group was sent back to the researcher. Then, out of the six questionnaires retrieved from the parents, only three qualified because the three other parents left out some questions unanswered. Also, one participant from the homosexuals group did not qualify because of two questions left unanswered. For the teachers group, one teacher sent the questionnaire beyond the specified date so his/her participation was not acknowledged in this research.
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Research Procedures Initially, the researcher planned to conduct one-on-one interviews with the target participants. However, with time constraints on the part of the target participants, the researcher ended up reformatting the questions to convert them into self-administered open-ended questionnaires. The questions, however, remained to be constructed in a way that encourages participants to freely write their thoughts on the issue presented. This was deliberately done to ensure that the participants would reveal their inner thoughts on the issue. Distribution and retrieval of questionnaires were done through electronic mail since the instrument required the participants to use the Internet to visit a specific web site and to watch videos from the YouTube. Only those participants who sent the questionnaires back on the specified extended time were considered. Also, questionnaires with incomplete answers were discarded.
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Chapter 4 RESULTS
This research aims to investigate on the four school stakeholders’ perception on the need to teach homosexuality in public elementary schools. The four school stakeholders include administrators, teachers, parents, and the homosexuals themselves. This section presents the discussion, summary and the conclusion based on the findings. 1. Participants’ location Most of the participants are from Georgia, the researcher’s locale (see Figure 2). Although the researcher contacted other target participants from other states through email, most of the target participants who returned questionnaires are those who were contacted personally. For use in this study, the participants were assigned codes as follows: A1, A2, A3 for administrators group; T1, T2, T3 for teachers group; P1, P2, P3 for parents group, and H1, H2, H3 for homosexuals group.
Kentucky, 1 Alabama, 1
Michigan, 1 Georgia, 5
Figure 2: The Participants’ Locale
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Which of the two statements do you believe in? _____ Being gay or lesbian is inborn. It’s natural. As such, schools must help them cope with their struggles in the society through diversity education. ______Being gay or lesbian is a choice that individuals make. As such, the school can only teach respect for all, without having to teach what homosexuality is all about.
Kindly give your comments regarding your choice of statement. To answer this question, the participants were asked to choose between the two statements: After choosing a statement, the participants were requested to make their specific comments on their answers. This question is a good starting point to establish the participants’ concept of being gay or lesbian. It is anticipated that if participants believe that homosexuality is inborn, then they would see the need to help the homosexuals through diversity program in schools because the homosexuals won’t be able to change their sexual orientation, no matter what the society says about them. Also, believing that sexual orientation is a choice implies that homosexuality education in schools can lead to a possible “spread” of changes in some students’ sexual orientation as a consequence of exposure to homosexuals – either students or teachers – coming out in schools. For this study, nine participants believe that being gay or lesbian is inborn, and therefore there is a need for schools to help them cope with their struggles in the society by offering diversity education (see Figure 3). These nine participants include the three teachers, three homosexuals, two administrators, and one parent.
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Which of the two statements do yo believe in?
Being gay or lesbian is inborn. It's natural. As such, schools must help them cope with their struggles in the society through diversity education Being gay or lesbian is a choice that individuals make. As such, the schools can only teach respect for all, without having to teach what homosexuality is all about.
Figure 3: Participants Perception on the Nature of Homosexuality
Although A1 answered that being gay or lesbian is inborn, she stated her belief that “homosexual is both a part of a person’s biology as well as environment influences, just like every other single thing about a person.” A3, who also answered that being gay or lesbian is inborn emphasized that “schools can help them but we can only do so much.” One participant chose not to select between the two choices. Instead, this participant, who is an administrator (A2), opted to combine the two statements. She believes that being gay or lesbian is inborn or natural (from statement A) but she emphasizes that as such, schools can only teach respect for all, without having to teach what homosexuality is all about (from statement B). The two participants who believe that being gay or lesbian is a choice, and therefore schools can only teach respect for all, without having to teach what homosexuality is all about, are only two – both of them are parents. P1 felt that “this is a free country and you can be whatever you want to be” to explain her belief that sexual orientation is a choice that people make. P3 explained her viewpoint by saying that deciding to sleep with someone of the same sex is a choice. This implies that one can
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choose not to “act on the feeling” of wanting to sleep with someone of the same sex; therefore, homosexuality, for her, is a choice. P3 did not make any comment on whether schools should help homosexuality or not. The only parent who answered that being gay or lesbian is inborn wasn’t really sure of her answer. In her explanation, she said, “For some it’s inborn and for others it’s a lifestyle choice.” Because of this explanation, it may be concluded that the three parents perceive being gay or lesbian as more of a choice, than of a natural thing. All teacher-participants are sure of their belief that being gay or lesbian, indeed, is inborn. T1 mentioned in her explanation that being gay or lesbian is something that many are against with, and she believes that no one would want to choose to be someone who might be a target of discrimination and possible attacks. T2 explained her answer by dealing with the issue on respect for all. T2 dwelt more on the people who label and judge others, not on the homosexuals who are reported to being judged or labeled with different hurtful terms. T2 said that those people who label and judge others must reflect on their own issues to make sure that “they are living their lives in a moral and productive way.” T3 based her answer on her gay friends who, according to her, feel that it is inborn though they don’t discover it until puberty. All the three homosexual participants revealed that their being gay is inborn. H1 explained his answer with another question followed by a brief sentence, “How did you know that you are heterosexual? That’s how I found out I was gay.”
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As far as you know, what kinds of lifestyle do homosexuals have? Is it different
from or similar to heterosexuals’ lifestyles?
All the participants believe that homosexuals have the same lifestyle as the heterosexuals (see Table 5). Participants’ answers were mostly about relationship, hobbies, mental and emotional outlook, preferences and desire. Although all participants agree that there is no difference in terms of lifestyle between the homosexuals and the heterosexuals, two participants pointed out two distinct differences. First, P1 mentioned that the only difference she knows is that homosexuals get attracted to the same sex. This is exactly the clinical difference that makes gays and lesbians different from straight men. Table 5. Participants’ Description of Homosexual Lifestyle
Homosexual lifestyles which are similar to Heterosexual lifestyles, as described by the Participants 1. Some are monogamous, some are not. 2. Some have families, some don’t. 3. They can get “married” or “divorced” 4. They have normal lifestyle. 5. They also have wants, needs, desires, fears, and frustrations (e.g. personal safety, healthy children, rewarding career, financial wellness, time for vacation, hobbies, spiritual connection, etc.) 6. They have the same ambitions and goals. 7. They socialize, date, and desire companionship. 8. Some are professionals, some in the academics, some into art, while others are into rock-climbing. 9. They have their own likes and dislikes, own work schedules, own homes.
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Another noted difference was mentioned by T2. According to her, unlike the heterosexuals, the gay and lesbian population needs to consider a lot of factors in choosing where they would want to live. She explained that homosexuals would definitely be “more comfortable living in more tolerant places and perhaps in states with more acceptable rights for partnership or marriage.” She added that, “Heterosexuals don’t have to think as much about those things when they choose where to live.” T2 also emphasized that it is unfair to generalize in terms of homosexual lifestyle. She said one cannot characterize a lifestyle as being homosexual because lifestyle is diverse and not actually based on sexuality. The same question was answered by H2 by sharing her own lifestyle with her wife of two years. H2 disclosed that just like heterosexual couples, they “both work long hours, pay the bills, and we contribute to the society.” It is also worthy to note that H2 considered this question “funny” because she argued that her life “is so normal that it’s almost boring.”
Kevin Jennings, the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
(GLSEN), said, “If school isn’t a safe place for all students, and some are harassed and bullied for being different, academic achievement suffers tremendously. It’s not about how you feel about gay people, it’s about making sure all of our students achieve.” Instead of simply asking the participants if they believe that schools ought to be safe even for gay people, the researcher inquired about their views on what Kevin Jennings said about the issue. Jennings, the founder of Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), said, “If school isn’t a safe place for all students, and some are harassed and bullied for being different, academic achievement suffers tremendously.
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It’s not about how you feel about gay people, it’s about making sure all of our students achieve.”
Administrators While A1 said she “completely agree” and A2 said what Jennings said was “undeniably true,” A3 answered the question by focusing on the factors that may affect students’ academic achievement. A1 believed that administrators like her have the responsibility to make sure that no students are being bullied for whatever reason. A3 agreed but she noticed the specific mention of gay people in Jennings’ statement, which, according to her, is justifiable since Jennings represents the LGBT community. A3, on the other hand, stressed that “safety is a major factor; however, it is not the sole factor in supporting student achievement.” She mentioned that aside from safety, students also need to “have connections with adults at school and also have solid/rich learning experiences.”
Teachers Teachers are significant players in the academic community. In fact, teachers can actually turn students change their views, perception and treatment for other students in the campus. As Daniel (2007) said, “A teacher’s influence might be the difference between ignorance and tolerance, disgust and respect, isolation and acceptance” (p. 75). Also, Bower (2008) concluded in her research involving lesbian parents that “by welcoming children from all backgrounds, teachers also send parents and guardian a message of safety and acceptance” (p. 181).
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For these reasons, it is essential to explore what teachers, who actually interact with the students in the classroom and in the campus, have to say about creating safe places in schools in order to make the campus a safe place for all, including the homosexuals. Jennings’ statement seemed to send the two teachers the same key words: safety and bullying. T1 believed that Jennings’ statement gives an “accurate” reason for schools to implement policies centered on acceptance of the differences among the students. Believing that bullying is a “big problem for lots of students,” T2 suggested teaching tolerance because “lots of students have a hard time being accepted in the middle and high school.” T2 argued that homosexuals now feel “somewhat more accepted and comfortable being themselves” though there’s still a long way to go before they get totally accepted in society. T3 also agreed with Jennings’ statement though she argued that “it should be taught in high school where hate crimes seem to take place.”
Parents “Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation” – this is one of the eight national education goals in the United States as stipulated in the National Education Goals Panel (1999) (qtd. in Fox, 2007, p. 277). In order to realize this goal, schools need to listen to the concerns of their children regardless of their children’s race, color, or sexual orientation. The parent-participants, as significant stakeholders of schools, expressed their concerns about ensuring safety in schools. P1 said that “I feel that Kevin Jennings is right!” while P2 similarly conveyed agreement by saying “I agree 100%.”
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P1 sends her children to school to get a good education. She believed that bullying and harassment can cause her children to lose concentration in their studies. For this ground, she stressed saying, “Schools should be a safe place for students!” P2 gave her comment on Jennings’ statement by referring to “inner city schools where gang violence is a problem.” She explained that generally, students in such schools have low performance in standardized tests and that these schools have high dropout rates. With this comment, she had just given a specific example of P1’s answer. They seem to have the same conclusion about the impact of the absence of safety in the campus. P3’s remarks on Jennings’ statement focused on the possible influence of the way other people treat the “different” ones. She said that it is a reality for students to “react to differences the only way that they have been taught or through observance of how others treat others they see as `different’.”
Homosexuals It is very clear that Jennings, being a homosexual activist and founder of GLSEN, advocates for equality between heterosexual and homosexual individuals by promoting concerns of homosexuals regarding their safety in whichever school they choose. The homosexual participants’ view is definitely significant in tackling safety issues in schools, especially with increasing reports on bullying caused by differences in sexual orientation. H1 stated that homosexuals will feel safer in schools if schools will be “teaching about gay people, gay history, and same-sex families, having programs and guest speakers on equal rights, and giving safe-space training lessons to educate people about gay people.”
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For H2, the school could be a place for some students who are “being taught hate at home” to realize that acceptance is the answer and that they don’t have to follow their parents’ paths in terms of how they treat gay people. H2 mentioned, “I salute teachers today who are open minded and honest with their students. They may be saving lives.” One way to make school safe for homosexuals, H3 suggested, is “by inviting every day gay people to speak to children.” She said it would be wonderful to learn about homosexuality in school because her own mother “would always hiss about what our lesbian neighbors were doing behind closed doors, so homosexuals were always secretive and taboo to me.”
Does your school have policies protecting students on the basis of their sexual
orientation/ gender expression? This question was asked to the participants in different contexts. For administrators and teachers, they were asked if the school they work for has policies protecting students based on their sexual orientation. For the parents, they were asked to answer this question using their children’s school as reference point. For the homosexuals, they were asked to use their previous schools as basis. Figure 4 shows that only one participant, A1, was sure that there is a policy protecting students based on their sexual orientation in his/her school. The other two administrators said their schools don’t have such policy.
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I don't know, 1
Unsure, 1 Yes, 1
Figure 4. Teachers and Administrators who Have Policies Protecting Students on the Basis on their Sexual Orientation/Gender Expression
It was noted that the administrators answered either yes or no only. All of them were sure of the existence or non-existence of such policy in their schools. This is unlike the answers of the teachers wherein only one of the three was sure that the school doesn’t have such policy. The other teacher doesn’t know and the other one is not sure if such a policy exists in the school she or he works for. The parents, on the other hand, gave negative answers to this question (see Figure 5). None of them claims that their children’s schools have such a policy.
Yes, 0 Unsure, 1 No, 1
I don't know, 1
Figure 5. Parents Whose Children’s Schools Have Policies Protecting Students on the Basis of their Sexual Orientation/Gender Expression
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The homosexuals knew that they had no such policy protecting students on the basis of their sexual orientation. Perhaps, all of them are aware of this because they are concerned about such policy- if there is any (see Figure 4).
Figure 6: Homosexuals Whose Previous Schools Have Policies Protecting Students on the Basis of their Sexual Orientation/Gender Expression
Please watch the videos with sites/links below, and then please state comments regarding the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6Ui5Gm5KBY&NR=1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CykE1X77_bk&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzG0fVPJbRE&feature=related
The participants’ comments on the video which they were asked to watch are significant in finding out they think about who should teach homosexuality to children. The video’s stand, as reflected in the principle of the American Family Association, is that parents, and not the teachers or any school bureaucrat, are the ones who are responsible for teaching homosexuality issues to young children.
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Administrators A1 commented on the video by emphasizing that religious beliefs should not have any place in school. However, A1 believes that all aspects of diversity should be addressed in schools, and that includes sexual orientation. What A1 is not sure is whether “schools should give students the opinion of what they should believe in.” A2, on the other hand, answered the question in a more detached way. She strictly focused on the video itself, and not on the issue being raised in the video produced by the AFA. A2 admitted that she had seen excerpts of It’s Elementary in the past and that she “expected those who are at odds with the film’s teaching to use the very film to argue against fair and equitable treatment of those who are gay or lesbian. If A2 saw the use of the documentary It’s Elementary as being used to propagate a contradicting point of view, A3 saw the role of the medium used in perpetuating another agenda. A3 emphasized, “YouTube is a place where anyone can just post anything.” Having said this, A3 explained that while the AFA calls It’s Elementary as a tool in pushing for homosexual agenda, their video itself, is nothing like It’s Elementary which perpetuates its own agenda. Talking about the issue, A3 said that diversity training needs no mention of homosexuality because “diversity encompasses all differences, not just sexual orientation.”
Teachers T1 thought the video actually “twisted” the actual message of It’s Elementary. She felt like the video was used to “spread fear to parents” as if the presentations on It’s Elementary intend to recruit students. T1 also said that the AFA video forgot to mention that It’s Elementary is just one of the types of presentations used by schools to talk about
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tolerance which deals mainly with non-discrimination against people who are very much different from each other in terms of gender, weight, race and orientation. Believing that parents “are going to determine what children understand and how they view sexuality,” T2 suggested “teaching of tolerance on a broad spectrum including racial, cultural, sexuality, religion.” T2 discussed her reactions on the video by giving specific examples. She said that it is important not to impose school’s belief to the children. For instance, T2 pointed out that “some students may not eat meat for religious reasons – we don’t tell them they have to eat meat. It’s just a choice. If you judge other’s choices, you are being prejudiced.” T2 reiterated that to teach that homosexuality means “lack of morals” is wrong. In fact, she believes this kind of belief should be changed. Admitting that the third part of the video was “angering and depressing, in the end, T2 commented on David Miller, the national director of AFA saying, “This guy thinks he can tell people that homosexuality is wrong. That shouldn’t be his choice.” T3 was no longer surprised with the message of the videos which is against the socalled pro-homosexual agenda. T3 said that homosexuality has its good and bad sides but the video dwell more on the bad side of homosexuality.
Parents Two of the parent-participants believe that the children in elementary school are too young to be taught about the issues on homosexuality. P1 emphasized that for children that age, it is the parents who should be teaching such topics to their kids, and not the teachers in schools. Instead of teaching what kids about being gay, P2 suggested that kids be taught to “accept people for who they are, not distinguishing just people that are gay, but all people.”
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P2’s point of view is much the same as P3’s. P2 suggested having an “encompassing course on tolerance and non-violence to younger children” because she believes that racism and other forms of bigotry are still learned from some parents at home.
Homosexuals H1 said he found the videos to be “extremely biased and hateful towards LGBT people.” He even noticed the background music used in the video, which he claimed to be “scary” which “insinuates that somehow teaching about gay families is a frightening thing.” H1 also said that it is necessary to teach diversity and tolerance to children. If H1 saw the video as a frightening thing, H2 felt that the video was trying to “continue the cycle of closeting homosexuals.” She mentioned that this closeting could again lead to “more suicides, depression cases and severe displacement issues as they feel they don’t fit in.” H2 expressed her gladness knowing that some schools, as shown in the video, are starting to teach children about homosexuality. She emphasized that children’s hatred towards homosexuals might have been learned from their homes, television or from comedians. H2 is a married lesbian and she mentioned that she was once invited to speak at a Christian school in Michigan. She said she was “shocked” to learn that teachers who are already adults were so ignorant of what it is to be gay. H2 said, “I felt like I was trying to teach kindergartners what it meant to be a lesbian.” H3 expressed her disgust at the way the AFA video was handled. She claimed that the video seemed to say that anyone who teaches children to respect all kinds of people from all walks of life is evil. H3 believes that there should be effort to make the kids appreciate everyone. She said, “I would have loved it if my own teachers had allowed a
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gay person to come and speak to us, because it definitely would have helped a lot of us who turned out to be gay, and a lot of those who didn’t understand what it was to be gay.”
Please visit this site (http://www.matthewsplace.org ) and please write your
comments on Matthew Shepard’s case, being one of the reasons some schools are encouraging educators to teach homosexuality in the classroom.
To answer this question, the participants were asked to visit Matthew Shepard’s web page called Matthew’s Place at http://www.matthewsplace.org/ . The site aims to “replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance” (“Matthew’s Place”).
For the administrators, in general, the case of Matthew Shepard can be used as a sample case in teaching diversity, acceptance, respect, safety and nonviolence. A1 stressed that there are other cases of violent acts that may be used in teaching tolerance. A2, however, mentioned that “while I believe in creating safe places for students of all backgrounds, I am not in favor of education programs.” A2 explained that she is not in favor of any move to teach students “what to think,” instead she is simply in support of awareness campaign. A2 emphasized that schools should let the students think for themselves by giving only information that could help them in making intelligent decisions. However, such strategy or program, A2 believes, could be introduced in the middle and high school.
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Teachers A teacher called the Matthew Shepard case a “tragic case” while T2 called it “horrible.” Despite these descriptions given by the teachers to the case as presented in the Matthew’s Place, the two teacher-participants did not say anything about Matthew Shepard as a young gay man who was killed due to homophobia. Instead, the two teacherparticipants commented on tolerance. T1 emphasized that “no matter what view one may have about homosexuality, all must be protected from such heinous crimes from reoccurring.” T2, on the other hand, pointed out that it is perhaps more useful to teach tolerance to students, rather than to teach about “homosexuality per se.” T3 simply commented that “hate crimes should not be tolerated.” This singlestatement response is also about tolerance, and not about the fate of Matthew Shepard in 1998.
Parents P1 understands that homosexuality is being taught in some schools primarily to educate the students regarding the significance of diversity, understanding, compassion, acceptance and respect. P3, on the other hand, opposed this view by saying that if the aim is to teach respect, then, she doesn’t think the lesson should be about gay. P3 mentioned that “there are many reasons why teenagers are picked-on or bullied in school.” Some of the reasons for bullying that she identified are being overweight, being a “nerd,” or being an ugly person. She stressed that teaching respect by singling out gay and leaving out these other reasons for bullying doesn’t make any sense. “Regardless of why kids are treated badly, it is travesty and needs to stop,’ P3 ended her comment.
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This, perhaps, is also the point of P3 when she said there is no need to single out gays in teaching tolerance in schools. Sexual orientation, according to P3, should not be the only reason children should respect other people. To teach children in school that “gay is okay” may actually be against the child’s or the child’s parents’ religious views. However, the lack of protection against discrimination for the gays and lesbians may clearly violate the LGBT community’s right to be safe in schools. For P2, violence caused by differences is wrong so she thought “the course should be focused on tolerance.”
Homosexuals It can be noted that the homosexual participants’ answers were focused mainly on Matthew Shepard, and then they tried to relate a part of Matthew’s life to theirs. For instance, H1 believed that Matthew Shepard served as a “wake up call to the nation” because this heinous crime “woke the nation up to the horrors faced by gays and lesbians. It is vital we teach kids not to bully people because of sexual orientation or gender identity.” H3 described Matthew’s death as “horrible” and “wrongful” though he has no doubt that Matthew’s legacy gave hope to the other homosexuals who are experiencing discrimination and to the people who desire to teach the world about homosexuality. H3 ended his comment by saying that he was proud of Matthew Shepard. H2 dealt with the question in a more emotional manner. H2 revealed that Matthew’s Place actually brought back “some pretty harsh memories” for her. According to her, it was during that time when she was still identifying herself as lesbian and that “it scared the hell out of me.” H2 mentioned how her heart broke for the family of Matthew
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Shepard and back then, she hoped that his fate would “change the GLBT society and start a revolution for equality.” H2 admitted that until now, she has not seen any changes in the way homosexuals are treated in the society. She thought it would be a very long and hard battle for the GLBT community because she said many of them are not loud enough in making their voices heard. H2 claimed that “we have not revolted, stood up for ourselves, or yelled loud enough.” This statement by H2 is a validation of how a lesbian teacher and author felt when she talked about the situation of gays and lesbians in schools.
Do you think including a study on homosexuality in a curriculum for elementary
students will foster tolerance and better understanding of homosexuals, thereby eliminating bullying of the homosexuals in school? Please explain your answer.
The responses given by the participants were all revealing. Instead of simply answering a “yes” or a “no” to the question asked, most of the participants gave their own different answers. Out of the 12 participants coming from different groups, three answered “yes” to the question (see Figure 7). These three participants who said “yes” are the three homosexual participants. Two of the participants, on the other hand, said “no” while two are “unsure.” A parent answered “yes and no” and three participants did not give any exact answer. Instead, these three participants gave suggestions on what can be done instead.
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I don't know, 1 Yes, 3 Unsure, 2
Yes and No, 1 No, 2 No specific answer, 3
Figure 7. Participants’ perception on whether teaching homosexuality to elementary school students will foster tolerance and better understanding towards homosexuals “Yes” As already stated, the three homosexual participants gave a resounding “yes” to the question. H1 said she believed that “education is key to reducing hate and misunderstanding against any group.” She stressed that even if others think homosexuality is wrong, it wouldn’t matter because she believed that the minority should also be served in schools. Besides, she argued, “people have been wrong many times in history” so it won’t really matter what others think of homosexuals. H2 remarked “Without a doubt!” while H3 disclosed, “Most certainly!” The exclamation point and the assurance in their answers revealed that they indeed see no reason why homosexuality should not be taught in elementary schools. H2 explained that schools should make an outlet for people like them. However, she/he said, “Don’t make it a place where only gays are welcome. Make it a place where everyone is welcome… We need to unite as one if we’re ever going to get equality.”
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It is not surprising that the homosexuals have “extreme position” on the question. This is because the issue is of high importance to them. According to social judgment theory developed by Muzafer Sherif, a psychologist from the University of Oklahoma, the importance of an issue is empirically related to position extremity (“Social Judgment Theory,” 2008). H3 explained that “for most part, children want to fit in and be accepted” so she thought that if kids learn acceptance and appreciation in school, they could willingly do their best to accept and appreciate everyone even if what they were taught by their parents and what they learned from their religion are different.
“No” A parent and a teacher believe that teaching homosexuality to elementary school students is not the solution to making the gays become more acceptable and respectable in the society. Needless to say, they don’t believe that the teaching of homosexuality can eliminate bullying of gay students. P1 argued that there are many reasons a child get bullied – not just because of their sexual orientation. For instance, admitting that she’s an African-American, she exclaimed, “Are the schools just going to have a class for African-American females just because they might get bullied because of their race? Come on now!” P1 made it clear that homosexuals don’t have to be singled out. She believed that to have such a class is to have “sex education” but she said the kids don’t need that. Instead, the children “need to be outside at the park playing on the monkey bars or swinging in swings!” T3 has the same opinion. She believed that the children in elementary schools are too young to talk about homosexuality in the classroom because “they really aren’t aware
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of it.” T3 suggested that “it should be done in high school as an elective course regarding gender sensitivity but not all about homosexuality.”
“Yes and No” “Children who bully other children have problems at home.” This is how P2 sees bullying as an act. She explained that education would help kids curb “some ignorance on the subject.”
“I don’t know” While some participants absolutely approved of the idea of teaching homosexuality in elementary schools, one teacher, T2, just “doesn’t know” if it is indeed appropriate to expose kids to such kind of teachings .
“Unsure” A parent, P3, and an administrator, A3, are unsure if teaching homosexuality in elementary schools will foster tolerance of the homosexual population. P3 is skeptic of this possibility. She sees a problem on bullying because of differences among students. However, she believed that “we are creatures of habit, influenced greatly by our cultural beliefs, family and friends.” A3, on the other hand, didn’t believe in labeling people as “gay” or “black.” With her experiences as an administrator, she explained, “Teaching about diversity can happen effectively without giving special attention to anyone. That’s why it’s called diversity education. It’s an admission that no one is special, or no one is a regular individual. All are and must be equal.”
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No specific answer Three participants chose not to give their answers directly. They didn’t say “yes” or “no.” They also decided not to admit that “they don’t know” or that they are “not sure.” These three participants are school “insiders” – two administrators, A1 and A2, and a teacher, T1. T1 wanted to become realistic in her point of view. She explained that a tolerance class includes all aspects: race, gender, weight, and homosexuality. To single out one aspect would, according to her, make the approach appear like it is a “recruitment ploy.” A1’s opinion is similar to T1 – diversity teaching is about “all differences in people.” A2, on the other hand, stresses that her answer to this question is what she already mentioned in other questions raised. She said she doesn’t believe in education programs. Instead, she preferred awareness program that can allow kids to make decisions based on the information given to them. This however, should be done not in elementary school, but in middle or high school.
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Chapter 5: DISCUSSION, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This study aims to assess the perception of the four school stakeholders on the need to teach homosexuality in public elementary schools. The researcher grouped the stakeholders into four: administrators group, teachers group, parents group and homosexuals group. Each group included three participants. Most of the participants are from Georgia, the locale of the researcher. Although the researcher sent open-ended questionnaires to other target participants, not all of them returned completely accomplished questionnaires. This chapter presents the summary and discussion of results, the conclusion and at the end, the researcher gave significant recommendations for future researchers.
DISCUSSION Is being gay inborn or a choice?
This research revealed that most participants believe that being gay or lesbian is inborn, and therefore there is a need for schools to help them cope with their struggles in the society by offering diversity education. In 2007, most Americans surveyed in CNN poll believe that sexuality is a choice – which means that individuals can actually choose to change their sexuality should they decide to do so. One of the prominent personalities who publicly announced her stand on this matter was vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin who believes that being gay or lesbian is a decision that individuals make (Swift, 2008).
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However, at the end of 2008, there has been an increase in the acceptance of some researchers’ findings which suggest that sexual orientation is innate, and not a choice (Swift, 2008), and therefore cannot be changed nor can’t be spread.
Homosexual Lifestyles, as Perceived by the Participants The answers of the participants in this question showed that regardless of the group where they belong – administrator, teacher, parent or homosexuals – all of them perceive gay and lesbian lifestyles as similar to heterosexuals’ lifestyles. Even the gay participants admit that their lifestyles are not at all different from any straight people’s lifestyle. One important statement revealed in the study was when, just like an ordinary heterosexual, a homosexual participant, H2, expresses her feelings for her partner openly. She explains, “We are monogamous, committed and loving. She is my soul mate and there is no one else out there better suited to be my partner in life.” Indeed, this homosexual participant sounded like a normal being – nothing different from the heterosexuals. Why then, would politicians like Oklahoma representative Sally Kern say that homosexuality is a big threat to the society – a threat, for that matter, that is bigger than terrorism? Kern said in a small gathering:
The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation, okay. It’s just a fact. Not everybody’s lifestyle is equal. Just like not all religions are equal. The very fact that I’m talking to you like this today puts me in jeopardy, okay. I’m not anti, I’m not gay-bashing, but according to God’s word that is not the right kind of lifestyle. It has deadly consequences for those people involved in it. It has more suicides. They’re more discouraged. There’s more illness. Their life spans are shorter. You know, it’s not a lifestyle that is good for this nation. It’s a matter of fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell for this country. I honestly think
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it’s the biggest threat, even in our nation. Even more so than terrorists, or Islam, okay. Cause, what’s happening now, they’re going after, err, in schools, two year olds! You know why they’re trying to get early childhood education? They want to get our young children into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them. I taught school for close to 20 years and we’re not teaching facts and knowledge anymore, folks, we’re teaching indoctrination, oka y. And they’re going after our young children, as young as 2 years of age, to try to teach them that the homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle. (“Sally Kern Transcript,” 2008) Kern’s statements, which she did not want to retract despite social pressure from the gay community, are obviously very far from the perception of the participants – whether they’re heterosexual or homosexual. H2’s relationship with her partner is so much like any other lesbian couples’ lives. For example, a lesbian couple named Toni and Kelly admitted that they’re “very normal and boring.” In fact, they claim that they live their lives that way their parents did. “We dream about big houses and some land. We play scrabble at night, watch TV…” explained Toni in an interview with a reporter from The Advocate (Rohrer, 2002, p. 104). As of 2008, the Americans are evenly divided over the morality of homosexual relations. This is based on the results of the Gallup’s 2008 Values and Beliefs poll. In the poll, 48% consider homosexual relations as morally accepted and 48% say it is morally wrong. However, despite this result, still, more than half (55%) of those surveyed believe that homosexual relations should be legal. Also, 57% believe that it should be accepted as an alternative lifestyle (Saad, 2008, p. 72).
Participants’ view on the GLSEN founder’s statement on making schools safe None of the participants directly or seemed to contradict the statement made my Kevin Jennings which said, ““If school isn’t a safe place for all students, and some are
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harassed and bullied for being different, academic achievement suffers tremendously. It’s not about how you feel about gay people, it’s about making sure all of our students achieve.” It is worth noting that an administrator, A1, pointed out that there are many predictors of student success in school and safety is a major factor. A1 specified connection with adults and rich learning experience as among the factors leading to student achievement. For the teachers, gays and lesbians are already accepted in the society though they admitted that “we’ve got a long way to go” before gays can be totally accepted. HermannWilmarth (2007) explained, although in a different perspective, that when she was teaching teachers, she realized that “there is much work to be done” to make sure that gays and lesbians “would find themselves in the curriculum” (p. 347). One parent emphasized the significance of having role models in school. P3 explained that kids usually pattern their behavior from what they see in their environment. This answer implies that adults in schools should serve as “role model” to kids in school because kids might just imitate the way adults treat people in the campus. With this implication in mind, it is necessary to consider the role of administrators, and teachers in ensuring a safe environment in schools. The responses from the homosexual participants seem to suggest that gays and lesbians might be looking at schools as a place where they could express who they are without any worry of being discriminated. This might be so because even in their own homes, just like what H3 said, they feel like their parents have a certain dislike or disapproval for homosexuals.
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The issue, however, of homosexuals “coming out” is a complicated issue because most of the time, teachers and even parents are uncomfortable in talking about sexual issues with young children (Setoodeh, 2008). On one hand, not “coming Out’ and remaining to be closeted can also pose danger among homosexuals. Reis (2009) said that “the closet can lead to depression and selfharm.” The question now is whether schools’ effort to make the campus safe for all, including gays and lesbians, can encourage gays to “come out” and if this act could better serve the homosexual population. In a news analysis published in Newsweek, it was mentioned that Lawrence King, the eight-grader who was shot to death in February at the computer laboratory by his classmate, was murdered primarily because of how he freely expressed himself by flaunting his sexuality (Setoodeh, 2008).
Policies protecting students on the basis of their sexual orientation/gender expression: Do they exist in the participants’ schools? Administrators in this research were all sure of the existence or non-existence of a policy that includes sexual orientation. The teachers, it appeared, were not as informed as the administrators in terms of the policy being asked. Reis (2009) disclosed that administrators should take having this policy in their schools because “the stakes are high” (p. 17). Reis (2009) explained that gays who are harassed in schools are “skipping school, dropping out of school, changing schools, attempting suicide, committing suicide, taking drugs, drinking” (p. 17). Reis (2009) made a suggestion to administrators who have no policy based on sexual orientation. Reis said:
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Bring it up in a staff meeting, saying you want this to be the year [antigay harassment] stops. Let staff know that you take it seriously and you expect them to take it seriously. And bring it up with students- at an assembly or in the school paper. Tell them, "I don't care whether it's religious harassment, gender harassment, disability harassment, sexual orientation harassment, gender expression harassment - it's wrong, and I don't want to live in the kind of school where it happens. And I don't think you do either” (Reis, 2007, p. 17). The homosexual participants, as the people involved in the policy, were very much aware of the absence of such policy. The parents, on the other hand, seemed not to know whether such policy exists or not. This implies two things: either the parents are not properly informed of the school rules, or there is really no such policy in their children’s schools.
Participants’ reaction to and comments on the documentary Suffer the Children which was produced by the American Family Association in Elementary The participants’ comments on the video varied. Some of them commented on the video itself – as being used to propagate the agenda of the American Family Association. Some reiterated the importance of teaching tolerance in school but in doing so, they argued that all aspects of differences should be covered. It is worth noting that one parent, P1, believed that it is not on the scope of teachers’ responsibility to educate their children about homosexuality which is rooted in the kids’ and the kids’ family’s religious beliefs. Just like P1, the parents at Kentucky didn’t want their children to be exposed to any pro-homosexual training on tolerance (“Kentucky Parents,” 2005, p. 8). According to response to It’s
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Joe Platt, attorney of the Alliance Defense Fund or ADF, compulsory training on “tolerance” which are pro-homosexuals “violates the right of conscience of parents and students who believe such behavior is immoral” (“Kentucky Parents,” 2005, p. 8). The video was basically about why homosexuality should not be taught in schools but reactions from the homosexuals produced strong negative words like extremely biased, hateful, scary, frightening, radical, sham, depression, suicides and disgust. H2’s revelation that even teachers are ignorant of the facts about being gay implies that they definitely need some help in order for them to teach homosexuality to children. And this is exactly the reason It’s Elementary was produced a lesbian couple. Other resources are being made available to different schools in order to train teachers to include homosexuality in the teaching of tolerance and diversity. Among these books, as referred by Wilmann-Hermarth (2007), could include Queering Elementary Education: Advancing the Dialogue about Sexualities and Schooling by Letts and Sears (1999), Getting Ready for Benjamin: Preparing Teachers for Sexual Diversity in the Classroom by Kissen (2002) and It’s Elementary by Chasnoff and Cohen (p. 347). Wilmann-Hermarth (2007) believes that “as more and more teacher educators find ways to integrate gay and lesbian issues into their classrooms-using children's literature, films, and discussions-more and more elementary school teachers will find ways to integrate those same issues into their classrooms, which will, in turn, become more inclusive spaces” (p. 347).
Participants’ Opinion on the Matthew Shepard Case vis-à-vis Teaching Homosexuality in Schools Shepard is a significant icon in the advocacy for equality towards homosexuals. On the front page of the site, its vision is clearly written: To educate and enlighten others on the importance
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of diversity, understanding, compassion, acceptance and respect. Everyone must participate in developing solutions to problems that are rooted in ignorance and hatred (“Matthew’s Place”)
This site, being an advocacy site against homophobia, seemed to remind an administrator that she didn’t really agree with education programs. She is more in favor of a simple awareness campaign that gives students a chance to make decisions for themselves. A teacher called the Matthew Shepard case a “tragic case” while T2 called it “horrible.” This kind of reaction to the case, perhaps, is expected. For people who heard about what happened to Matthew, the same picture might be in their minds: an innocentlooking young man with blonde hair who was “tied to a fence by two Laramie men, brutally beaten and left to die on the Wyoming prairie” (Bohan, 2003). A parent, P3, articulated that there is no need to single out homosexuals when teachers teach about tolerance because sexual orientation is not the only reason people are bullied in school. However, the addition of `sexual orientation’ in the non-discrimination policy, according to Macgillivray (2003), was actually pushed by officials who were also gay and by people with gay relatives (Purday, 2007). This inclusion, according to the conservatives, is no longer necessary because the already existing non-discrimination policy already encompasses all groups and that “no one group needed to be singled out for mention since other groups, such as disfigured people, would feel excluded, and furthermore, it was neither possible nor desirable to list every group in a nondiscrimination policy” (Purday, 2007).
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More than sexual orientation, P3 sees the importance of teaching children to respect themselves first before they could start respecting others. Indeed, for P3, the issue is not about sexual orientation, but about respecting everyone’s rights. These rights, according to Macgillivray (2003), are where the problem lies when people talk about sexual orientation vis-à-vis school policy (Purday, 2007). The real argument, said Macgillivray (2003), rests on the issue between two rights: a citizen’s right to hold religious views and the right to be free from any form of discrimination, including sexual orientation (Purday, 2007).
Participants’ perception on how teaching homosexuality in public elementary schools can have impact on the tolerance and better understanding of homosexuals Some researchers suggest that “harassment of gay students is rampant” (Tomsho, 2003). Does this mean that there is a need to adopt It’s Elementary in public elementary schools and promote the goals and mission of the Matthew Shepard Foundation? Or is there strong ground to push for the president-elect to approve the Matthew Shepard bill? The school stakeholders need to speak their minds out regarding the current issue that the religious and the homosexual activists have been debating on. Can teaching homosexuality to elementary school students foster tolerance and better understanding towards homosexuals? The only participants who answered “yes” to this question were the three homosexuals. This answer from them is quite expected since they are they can relate well with the issue. In fact, they seemed to be excited about the idea of teaching kids about homosexuality. Their ‘excitement’ can be inferred from their answers which was a sure “Yes” or a resounding “Without a doubt!” or a revealing “Most certainly!”
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The participants who said “no” reasoned out by explaining that kids are too young to talk about the issue. In the first place, a parent, P1, reiterated that kids should be playing at the park and not talking about “sex education,” in the classroom. It is worth noting that a parent shared a different belief on this matter. P2 believed that it is the teachers who should be educated “so that they can steer the children more towards tolerance for all people without delving into one subject or any other.” Similarly, Bower (2008) found out that mothers, particularly lesbian moms, also have preferred traits for their children’s teachers. Teachers who are open-minded, who have “progressive political beliefs,” and those who acknowledge diversity in terms of sexual orientation are favored. Aside from these, energetic teachers and teachers who are not afraid to try new things are more desired. Mothers, according to Bower (2008) expect teachers to have deep knowledge of students and diversity (p. 181). For P2, if teachers are educated on the issue of diversity, then the children could learn from how their teachers exhibit respect for all. More specifically, children actually “watch carefully and mimic how teachers interact with other people in school” (Carpenter II, 2008). An act of kindness, therefore, towards “different-looking” people may be passed on to kids who will learn to treat all people with kindness. Similarly, a sarcastic teacher sends the message that exhibiting lack of respect is acceptable. This shows the critical role that teachers have in the academe (Carpenter II, 2008). A parent, on the other hand, admitted not knowing exactly at what age children would be ready to understand concepts related to people’s sexual orientation. This point of view contradicts what It’s Elementary shows – that unlike what most people, like T2, believe, elementary school children are “actually more open, thoughtful, and accepting of LGBT issues (Hackman, 2002, p. 58).
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T2 also articulated her suggestion to include topics on homosexuality in safe sex curriculum or in health class which, she believed, are being taught to fifth graders. It is also significant to teach children, said T2, that not all kids have a mommy and a daddy at home. Some have two mommies and some have two daddies. T2 believed that kids don’t have to be exposed to the “sex stuff” but only to realities about family. It is necessary, according to Fox (2007) for lesbian or gay parents to feel that they are welcome in schools (p.277). Making parents feel welcome includes several things, however. Fox (2007) suggests teachers should (a) be aware of the issues involving gays and lesbians in their community; (b) try to understand the state and federal laws which apply to the GLBT community. Knowing these can help teachers understand the challenges faced by the gay and lesbian parents of their kids; and (c) appreciate gays’ and lesbians’ ability to “come out” because it isn’t easy to do so, especially in a community where people hardly understand their nature (p. 577). Fox (2007) believes that only when teachers and administrators are knowledgeable about issues confronting the gay and lesbian parents will they be able to “open communication between school and home,” thus helping parents feel welcome in the school where they send their children (p. 577). Moreover, an administrator, A3, mentioned her disbelief on labeling people. An education policy analyst also holds the same view by explaining that sometimes, teaching explicitly how one person is different from others can cause children to feel that not everyone is equal. Discussing the reasons and factors for being gay or lesbian “carries the potential to separate rather than integrate”(Carpenter II, 2008).
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This study investigated on the four school stakeholders’ perception on the need to teach homosexuality in public elementary schools to foster tolerance and better understanding of homosexuals. The four stakeholders which are divided into four group included administrators, teachers, parents and homosexuals. The researcher’s utilization of qualitative approach and the decision to use convenience sampling limited the researcher from generalizing the result and from coming up with generalizable conclusion. The conclusions, therefore, which are presented on this chapter, apply only to the four groups of stakeholders who willingly participated in this research.
Teaching homosexuality to elementary school students is not the answer to the prevailing biases against homosexual individuals.
The GLBT community is now becoming more assertive of their rights. Also, more openly gay officials are “coming out” in public. As these happen, more stories about gays or lesbians being shot to death, beaten, harassed, or discriminated reach the consciousness or knowledge of the American people through various media. In reaction to news reports about these incidents, various organizations, both from the religious and from the side of the homosexual activists broadcast their stand about the issue using different media and various campaigns. Eventually, the issue reached the public elementary schools. When it reached the kids, the goal and the strategy were already in place. With several states having nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, some schools have been reported to
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be using different teaching and training tools, e.g. It’s Elementary, to teach children about homosexuality. Consequently, even the parents broke their silence on the issue. On this research, the four stakeholders involved in this issue have spoken. Data revealed that the answer to the biases against the homosexual individuals is not to teach homosexuality to grade school students. With only the homosexual participants articulating belief that teaching about homosexuality can foster tolerance and promote better attitudes towards gays and lesbians, it is difficult to believe that it is, indeed, a promising answer. The parents and the school “insiders” – administrators and teachers -- are skeptic of the idea. They express skepticism on this idea although all of them expect schools to ensure safety of all students, regardless of their differences which include sexual orientation. Also, parents, teachers and administrators are skeptic, not because they think homosexuals are living their lives by choice, or not because they think the homosexuals have a different lifestyle that many might object to. In fact, administrators and teachers see no difference in terms of lifestyle between the homosexuals and the heterosexuals. The study revealed that they have nothing personal against the homosexual individuals. All the administrators and teachers want is to promote respect for all and to teach diversity and tolerance without necessarily trying to single out one aspect. For them, the answer to the prevailing biases against gays and lesbians is not to give formal education on homosexuality, especially not to young children.
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Recommendations for Future Research This study is without limitations. As such, the research recommends the following to future researchers: 1. This research used convenience sampling; therefore, the results are not
generalizable. It is for this reason that the researcher recommends that future researchers conduct a study using random sampling in order to generate results that can speak for the whole population selected. 2. It is also recommended that future researchers conduct a comparative study
describing how schools from different states with non-discrimination policy involving sexual orientation are able to implement such policy. The result of this study seemed to suggest that even if the school already has such policy, the teachers and even administrators could still be skeptic of the idea, and of course, they could also be doubtful of the implementation and effectiveness of the said policy. It is interesting to find out how administrators implement such policy and how teachers contribute to the success of the implementation.
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Long, C (2008). Safe schools for everyone. NEA Today. NEA. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2008 from http://www.nea.org/member/index.html Matthew’s story (2005). Matthew’s Place.org. Retrieved Nov. 25, 2008 from http://www.matthewsplace.org/. Miller, H (2008). Rescuing LGBT issues from “no child left behind,” standardization, and “”don’t ask, don’t tell. English Leadership Quarterly, 31 (2), 7-11. Retrieved January 4, 2009 from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?index=35&did=1584219591&SrchMode=1&sid= 6&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=122970 3624&clientId=57020 Mueler, M A (2004). Understanding gay culture (Thesis, University of MissouriColumbia). Retrieved Nov. 25, 2008 from http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:dteYtQkDuqEJ:edt.missouri.edu/Fall2004/Th esis/MuellerM-112904T63/research.pdf+homosexuality+thesis&hl=tl&ct=clnk&cd=52&gl=ph Murphy, T (2007, Nov. 6). From ABC’s to LGBT. The Advocate. (996), 27. Retrieved Jan. 5, 2009 from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?index=0&did=1382146871&SrchMode=1&sid=2 &Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1233197 085&clientId=57020 National school climate survey: Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students harassed. (2008). GLSEN. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2008 from http://www.glsen.org/cgibin/iowa/all/news/record/2340.html Nedjat, S. (n.d.). Triangulations as a qualitative research strategy [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2008 from http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:hQ59eFd-
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IS IT ELEMENTARY? : School Stakeholders Speak on the Issue of Teaching Homosexuality In Public Elementary Schools 84
ServantofJesusC (2008, July 14). Homosexual Agenda in Public Schools Part 1 [Video]. Retrieved Nov. 25, 2008 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6Ui5Gm5KBY&NR=1. ServantofJesusC (2008, July 14). Homosexual Agenda in Public Schools Part 2 [Video]. Retrieved Nov. 25, 2008 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CykE1X77_bk&feature=related.
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For the bible tells me so Parts 1 – 10 [Full-length Videos]. Retrieved Nov. 25, 2008 from www.youtube.com**
** The videos of For the Bible Tells Me So which were available at YouTube during time of retrieval but
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