Gay Shield Kept out of Maryland's School Laws
Ferrechio, Susan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The Maryland State Board of Education nixed a proposed regulation that would have specifically banned harassment of students based on sexual orientation.
The board, in a rare move, softened the proposal after a barrage of complaints from angry parents who feared such a provision would open the door to teaching homosexuality in classrooms throughout the state.
"The concern that people expressed to us indicated that they thought we had opened a specific can of worms, and we didn't want a specific can of worms," said state school board member Morris Jones of Queen Anne's County. "You can't ignore hundreds of letters and phone calls."
The board voted unanimously on July 27 to remove from a proposed regulation promoting a safe school climate any specific reference to sexual orientation. Along with it, they removed references to region, religion, sex, language, socioeconomic status, age and disability.
Instead, the board has put forth a generic anti-harassment proposal that does not list any specific group but bans harassment of any student.
"Our purpose was to make sure that schools were safe and all children in those schools were safe," said Mr. Jones, who supports the revised provision. "We did not want children singled out for any particular purpose."
While the Montgomery, Howard and Prince George's school systems already ban discrimination specifically based on sexual orientation, the state's other 21 systems do not. Several, including Anne Arundel County, were waiting to see what kind of regulation the state board would endorse.
"We were waiting to see what the language of the proposed state regulation was going to be," said Darren Burns, attorney for the Anne Arundel County public school system.
The move surprised and disappointed homosexual support and advocacy groups, which had worked to get sexual orientation included in a state and local anti-harassment regulation.
"I think they got scared," said Lawrence Jacobs, chairman of the Safe Schools Coalition, which aims to protect homosexual children in the Montgomery County school system.
The revised policy, Mr. Jacobs said, is little more than a smoke screen.
"It is saying they are so afraid of including sexual orientation that they were willing to gut [other characteristics] rather than put it in," he said.
Opponents of the dropped proposal bombarded the Maryland State Department of Education and its board with phone calls and letters opposing the reference to sexual orientation.
"We feel the board made the right decision," said Tres Kerns, co-founder of Citizens for Parents Rights, an advocacy group for traditional family values. …