Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Conservative family groups in California are bristling at a new state education law they say is angering parents and forcing a "pro-homosexual" agenda into public schools - and at least one group is trying to overturn it.
The law would ban any instruction or school-sponsored activity that promotes "discriminatory bias" based on such characteristics as religion, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.
But such groups as Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) and Capitol Resource Family Impact (CRFI) said the law - signed last week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and set to take effect in January - could open the door for legal challenges to such traditions as naming a homecoming "king" and "queen," or biology lessonsthat refer to "male" and "female." And it even could be interpreted as requiring schools to have gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms, a PJI memo stated.
"Parents are very angry across California about this legislation," according to PJI President Brad Dacus. He said the group's attorneys are studying the law and think the "ramifications could be extremely broad."
Meanwhile, CRFI is trying to secure a ballot referendum that would allow Californians to vote to overturn the law. The group has 90 days to obtain about 400,000 signatures, CRFI Executive Director Karen England said.
The new law defines gender as a person's gender identity, appearance and behavior "whether or not stereotypically associated with the person's assigned sex at birth." It defines sexual orientation as heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.
Supporters say it is meant to clarify current anti-discrimination laws governing public schools.
"It really is a law designed to protect all students from discriminatory bias," said Seth Kilbourn, political director of Equality California, a main supporter of the new law. "This law makes sure this is enforced across the entire educational code in California."
He said opponents are making "outrageous" claims that aren't true. The law won't mandate any particular teaching or instruction, he said, and it simply "spells [the law] out more clearly ... so that teachers and administrators understand
their responsibility" not only when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation, but also religion and other traits
A second California law which was signed recently spells out steps schools must take in order to comply with a 2000
anti-harassment law, including creating a process to handle complaints and alerting students, staff and parents of their rights
Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families - which opposes both of the new laws - said the first law in particular requires "positive promotion" of lifestyles that "many parents find morally objectionable. …