5.23.2009

in which 6th-grade students need their parents' written permission to hear the words "harvey" and "milk"

[Redsock guest post]

At this point, all you can do is bang your head on your desk (my emphasis).
The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday [May 20] threatened to sue a San Diego County school that refused to let a student present a report on slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk until her classmates got permission from their parents.

David Blair-Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego County, said the principal of Mt. Woodson Elementary School in Ramona violated the free speech rights of 6th-grader Natalie Jones, who was the only student in her class prevented from giving an in-class presentation.

According to Blair-Loy and Natalie's mother, Mt. Woodson Principal Theresa Grace concluded last month that the subject of the girl's project triggered a district policy requiring parents to be notified in writing before their children are exposed to lessons dealing with sex.

After the principal sent letters to parents alerting them about the "sensitive topic," Natalie was allowed to give her 12-page PowerPoint report during the May 8 lunch recess but not in class, Blair-Loy said. Eight of the 13 students in the class attended, he said.

In a letter to the Ramona Unified District on Wednesday, the ACLU demanded that school officials apologize to Natalie and clarify its sex education policy. It also wants the girl to be given the chance to present her biographical account of Milk's life and death again in class.

"It's not about sex, it's not about sex education. It's a presentation about a historical figure who happened to be gay," Blair-Loy said. ...

Natalie's mother, Bonnie Jones, said her daughter was inspired to choose Milk as the subject of her research report after seeing the movie "Milk," which earned Academy Awards for actor Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

"First my daughter got called into the principal's office as if she were in some kind of trouble, and then they treated her presentation like it was something icky," Jones said in a statement.

"Harvey Milk was an elected official in this state and an important person in history," Jones added. "To say my daughter's presentation is sex education because Harvey Milk happened to be gay is completely wrong."

It's unclear if the other five kids in the class were forbidden by their parents to hear the report or whether they had other plans during lunch.

A PDF version of Natalie's report can be found here. I don't care if you are 4 or 94, you do not need anyone's permission to click on that link.

10 comments:

redsock said...

Laura's comment when I emailed this to her?

"for fucks sake!!!!!!!!!!!"

L-girl said...

ACLU-crazy-US-related tangent:

Do you remember the girl who was strip-searched at school, under suspicion of possession of Motrin? The "evidence" was an uncorroborated accusation (later proven false) from a classmate who was caught with similar pills.

She and her mom have pursued their case all the way, and in April the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Video here, and you can senda message of support.

impudent strumpet said...

If I were in that class, I'd be frantically googling for a gay-related subject for my next presentation just so I could get out of having to present in front of the class.

L-girl said...

I hope I'd do the same!

I'd also start a petition to allow the girl to give her presentation in front of the whole school - and get as many parents to sign as I could. Sixth grade is a fine age to start petitioning.

L-girl said...

"I hope I'd do the same!"

Oops. I would do the same so I could present it to the whole class, not get out of it. :)

impudent strumpet said...

So all the shy kids are going to be looking for good gay role models. All the non-shy activist kids are going to be looking for good gay role models. Perhaps some kids of activist parents will also be encouraged to look for good gay role models.

That's probably about half the class. Way more reach than if she'd just been the fourth of five presentations that morning and everyone is either stressing about their own presentation or watching the clock for lunch hour.

L-girl said...

Sounds like the Jason Kenney-George Galloway debacle!

Skinny Dipper said...

Unfortunately, under Alberta's proposed law that deals with education and sexual orientation, that same student would have to wait before parents of other students are notified about this particular presentation.

MSEH said...

So, I guess I should start objecting every time someone who is (allegedly) heterosexual is the focus of a school activity, event, project...

I mean, f**k, it's one thing for people to throw a hissy fit over actually talking about "homosexuality" as "an option," but to eliminate a good portion of prominent historical figures because they happen to be GLBT. I am just so disgusted.

Cornelia said...

OMG!!!