Friday, May 25, 2007

TAKE ACTION: Public Hearing Tuesday on Anti-Gay Bills

On Tuesday, May 29, there will be a number of anti-gay bills taken up at a hearing at the State House in front of the Education Committee. The public is encouraged to come and testify in front of the committee. [If you can not attend the hearing, you can submit written testimony to the committee.]

When: Tuesday, May 29 @ 1:00 pm
State House, Room A1

The anti-gay group, MassResistance, is making a big push to get people to this hearing. Their infamous "Parent Rights Bill" will be taken up at this hearing.

This is one nasty bill. To start, this bill, AN ACT regarding parental notification and consent S321, would change the current parental notification bill. The current bill states that parents can opt their children out of any portion of curriculum that involves "human sexual education or human sexuality issues".

Chapter 71: Section 32A. Sex education; policy regarding notice to parents, exception: Every city, town, regional school district or vocational school district implementing or maintaining curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues shall adopt a policy ensuring parental/guardian notification. Such policy shall afford parents or guardians the flexibility to exempt their children from any portion of said curriculum through written notification to the school principal.

MassResistance's new bill seeks to add the language "
alternative sexual behavior" after the words "human sexual education or human sexuality issues". The bills then goes on to state:

The term “alternative sexual behavior” means homosexuality, bisexuality, lesbianism,
transsexuality, transgenderism, cross-dressing, pansexuality, promiscuity, sodomy, pederasty, prostitution, oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, polygamy, polyandry, sex re-assignment treatments, “bondage and discipline”, sado-masochism, bestiality, and similar behaviors. It also includes issues and relationships deriving from those behaviors, including but not limited to “sexual orientation”, and alternative family, parenting, and marriage constructs.

Wow. That is quite the definition! Pay close attention the the last sentence. Like I said, this truly is one nasty bill.

Wait, there's more! The bill would add this language:

All such school programs shall be offered only in clearly identified non-mandatory elective courses or activities in which parents or guardians may choose to enroll their children through written notification to the school, in a manner reasonably similar to other elective courses or activities offered by the school district.

This of course means that there will be no discussion of LGBT issues in health class, history class, english class, or any other class that is part of the general curriculum.

The bill then defines the term "
school programs":

The term “school program” means any school sanctioned activity, or portion thereof, whether on or off campus, whether during or outside school hours, whether organized, presented or directed by school employees, agents of the school, students, volunteers, or others. This shall include, but not be limited to classes, curriculum, assemblies, outside speakers, workshops, clubs, exhibits, private or non-private counseling sessions, ‘teachable moments’, reading assignments, videos, posters, displays, and handouts. It shall not include spontaneous student-initiated conversations among themselves.

Notice that the term "school programs" includes "teachable moments" as well as "posters, displays, and handouts". The last sentence is almost comical as it states that the definition "
shall not include spontaneous student-initiated conversations among themselves."

This bill would change the law from opt-out to opt-in. This would mean that any student who would like to attend a meeting of their school's Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) would need a permission slip signed by their parent or guardian.

Many of the students that attend GSAs are not out to their parents. This may be because they are not ready to come out, or because their parents would kick them out of the house if they were to come out. The GSA clubs in schools provide a safe place for LGBT students and their allies to meet. These clubs have been proven to reduce the rate of LGBT teen suicide.

The Gay/Straight Alliance at my school helped me accept my own homosexuality at a time when I felt that no one could possibly understand how I felt. After gaining support from other members in the club at my school, I came out to my parents. If I needed to have my parents sign a permission slip in order for me to attend a meeting of the GSA, I am not sure what I would have done. I probably never would have been to a meeting of the GSA club.

That is exactly what MassResistance is trying to do!

The last part of this new bill is relative to surveys conducted in school. The Department of Education conducts surveys in schools for various reasons. Information gathered from these surveys are used to determine what is needed in our schools.

It is this survey that provides us with the information about LGBT teen suicide, violence, and feeling unsafe in school. This survey proves that students who describe themselves as gay or lesbian (the survey does not include bisexual or transgender) are:
  • Over four times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year
  • Over four times more likely to have missed school in the past month because of feeling unsafe
  • Almost twice as likely to have been injured or threatened with a weapon at school.
The information that this survey provides is proof that we need funding for Gay/Straight Alliances in our schools. That is exactly why MassResistance wants to do away with these surveys with this last part of their bill:

No student in any public elementary or secondary school shall be requested or required to submit to a survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning: (1) political affiliations; (2) mental and psychological problems potentially embarrassing to the student or his family; (3) sexual behavior and attitudes; (4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating and demeaning behavior; (5) feelings of victimization; (6) suicide or self-abuse; (7) birth control or abortion; (8) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships; (9) legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those with lawyers, physicians and ministers; or (10) income without the prior written consent of the parent or guardian.

As you can see, this is one hateful and extremely hurtful bill. On Tuesday, May 29, MassResistance will pack the hearing room with its supporters who will testify in favor of this awful bill. We need to be there as well.

We need to testify against this bill. Did you have a gay/straight alliance in your high school? Did your health class ever discuss LGBT issues? Did you have any LGBT signs, posters, or assemblies in your school? If so, write a letter on how they affected your experience in school.

If you cannot attend the hearing in person, you can submit written testimony to the committee.

There is also a good bill that will be taken up at the hearing on Tuesday. This bill,
AN ACT to provide health education in schools S288, would add health education as a requirement for graduation. Can you believe that health education is not already a requirement for graduation?

There is a lot of good parts to this bill. Check out Planned Parenthood's website for more information about this bill. You can also take a look at why MassResistance hates this bill and wants people to testify against it.

Come to the State House on Tuesday, May 29 and testify against the horrible MassResistance anti-gay bill and testify in favor of the health education bill.

If you plan on attending the hearing, bring written testimony to submit to the committee. If you can not attend the hearing, send written testimony to the committee.


At 7:49 PM, Blogger John Hosty said...

Chris, we should go dressed aas clowns and sit right next to Amy and Brian! What a cirus...


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