The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee has announced its intention to hold a hearing on Parental Involvement in Social Issues in Education and a number of allegations have already surfaced in anticipation of these hearings. Some are general -- that our public schools are filled with teachers and counselors who are "recruiting" for the homosexual movement -- and others are more specific, dealing with particular programs in use in the schools. It is vital that anyone seeking the truth --- Members of Congress, the media, the public, and particularly parents of schoolchildren --- go to the appropriate place for the truth: the curricular materials, the teachers and the counselors themselves. Only in that way can they determine exactly what is being taught and what programs are in place.
In recent years, a number of public school districts have instituted programs that include discussion of homosexuality. Local communities have chosen to incorporate these programs because they meet the needs of students. School board members, administrators, counselors and teachers have responded because gay, lesbian and bisexual students are under attack, and young people are being lost. They suffer from isolation and fear. They are harassed, verbally and physically, by their peers. They are beaten and raped. They have higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse. They drop out of school at higher rates. And, most critically, government reports document that approximately 30 percent of teen suicides occur among teens who are gay, lesbian or bisexual, or who are struggling with sexual orientation issues. American educators have identified the need and have worked with health care professionals, parents and others concerned about this problem to develop programs to help gay, lesbian and bisexual (g/l/b) students and to ensure a safe and supportive educational environment where all students can develop their potential. The goals of these programs are several: to fight violence, discrimination and harassment against students who are gay or are perceived to be gay; to fight prejudice; to provide comprehensive sexuality education and AIDS education (often mandated by state law); to provide support to students who may be struggling with sexual orientation issues; and to provide accurate and complete information to students.
This backgrounder examines, in brief, some of the programs currently in the schools. It provides an overview of the types of programs in place in the schools, and attempts to respond to some of the deceptive allegations of the opponents of these programs, the most prominent of whom is the Rev. Lou Sheldon, Chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition. The allegations are most often based on partial truths about elements of programs that have been taken out of context. This backgrounder attempts to provide that context. Full descriptions of the programs themselves, however, have been made available to members of the committee, and it is only by reviewing the full context -- the curriculum, mission and purpose statements and evaluations -- that one can have the full picture of how these programs operate.
There are four types of programs in the public schools. The first, and most common, consists of support services for gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. It can include support groups, counselors who have special training in these issues, events designed for g/l/b youth, and policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination. The second type of program is found in sexuality education programs. In most comprehensive sexuality education curricula, a discussion of homosexuality is included. This does not necessarily address specific sexual acts, but may address general issues of same sex attraction and the damaging effects of prejudice. Third, a number of school districts have instituted staff development training for teachers and counselors, aimed at raising their awareness of these issues and the special needs of g/l/b students. Finally, a few districts have made efforts to include gay and lesbian issues in the curriculum. For example, in history and literature classes, instructors provide information on gay and lesbian historical figures or authors, and their contributions. Such information can be invaluable in countering the isolation experienced by g/l/b students. Contrary to opponents" allegations, in none of these programs is homosexuality or bisexuality "promoted," "encouraged" or "endorsed," nor are educators "recruiting" students into homosexuality.