School-related news is flying faster than first graders at recess this week:
The Evesham Township School Board in New Jersey voted 7-1 to uphold the removal of the film That’s a Family! from its elementary health curriculum. The Board had eliminated the film in early February after some parents protested the documentary’s inclusion of same-sex families. After protests by Garden State Equality and fair-minded parents, it formed a review committee of educators, teachers, parents, and health curriculum experts. Tonight, the committee advised the Board to keep the film, but move it to 4th grade instead of 3rd. The Board rejected their entire recommendation.
Blue Jersey reports:
Based on their reaction, the decision was pretty clearly based on the school board being uncomfortable with the gay community. There will probably be litigation following this decision. Steven Goldstein, the chair of Garden State Equality, says this is “far from over”.
That’s a Family! is an award-winning half-hour documentary designed for elementary school children and shown across the country. It features elementary school children being raised by parents of different races or religions, adoptive parents, single parents, divorced parents, gay or lesbian parents, and grandparents serving as guardians. In a press release from Women’s Educational Media, which produced the film, Director Debra Chasnoff said:
This decision sends the message that not all families—and not all children—are welcome in the Evesham Township School District. It is simply not possible to create a supportive learning environment for children whose families were just erased from the curriculum. We regularly hear from educators, counselors, and parents throughout the country who have found That’s A Family! to be a valuable tool in combating prejudice, encouraging empathy, and creating educational environments conducive to learning. This decision will have a negative impact on the development of Evesham’s youth and the entire community for years to come.
It also comes mere days after two couples in Lexington, Massachusetts said they are appealing a U.S. District Court dismissal of their claim that the local public school district violated their rights by teaching their children about same-sex families. My comments on that case apply yet again. Banning us from the curriculum can’t alter the fact that our kids will be sitting next to everyone else’s, or stop them from talking about their parents during show and tell. Or can it? What impact will bans or attempted bans have on our children’s pride, self-confidence, social interactions, and safety? What message is the ban sending to students about how to treat those who are different? How do we as parents walk the fine line between the visibility needed to combat incidents like this and our children’s need to control how they disclose personal information about their families, especially as they grow older?
[Update: Steven Goldstein, Chair of Garden State Equality, has given us an inside look at the night's events.]
(Photo Credit: Women’s Educational Media.)