Friday, June 24, 2005

School Officials Can't Define "Diversity" in Sturbridge

They push "diversity" -- but they can't define it! What a surprise.

In the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, we read about the propaganda film "The Laramie Project" being force-fed to high school students at the Tantasqua Regional High School -- without parents being informed or given the chance to opt their children out. (This is the film which portrays Matthew Shepard's murder in Wyoming as a "hate crime", when in fact the murderers were thieving thugs on drugs.)

[from Worcester Telegram & Gazette, June 23. 2005]
Diversity issue roils Tantasqua
By James F. Russell

STURBRIDGE — The Tantasqua Regional School administration cannot say what the meaning of diversity is. The surprise admission by School Superintendent Kathleen H. Reynolds came during Tuesday’s school board meeting and has fanned the controversy that became public May 17 when some school board members criticized the administration’s decision to screen “The Laramie Project” during Tantasqua’s annual Diversity Week exercises in April.

School Committee members had questioned how the assembly promoted diversity and objected that parents were neither informed of the movie’s showing nor given the opportunity to decide whether their children should have watched the movie.

Reflecting public dissatisfaction with the school not notifying parents, Brimfield resident Ginger Rousseau read a statement at Tuesday’s meeting. She asked the school to provide “written notification to parents/guardians of all students at Tantasqua Senior High School detailing the substance and purpose of any assembly or program” and “that all students be allowed, with parental permission, to decline to attend.”

“The Laramie Project” depicts the 1998 murder of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo. New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley wrote that Mr. Shepard “in death has become the poster boy for the casualties of antigay violence.”

Ms. Rousseau handed school board Chairman Ronald Levine a petition signed by almost 100 district parents saying that they, “for various reasons, have become concerned about the amount of time spent on extracurricular assemblies.”

The movie screening was part of a mandatory student assembly during Diversity Week that was sponsored by the Gay-Straight Alliance at Tantasqua, according to school board member Susan Hilker of Brimfield. During Tuesday’s meeting, committee member Michael Kennedy of Holland said to Ms. Reynolds, “I asked you at the last meeting (May 17) for a definition of the word diversity; I am prepared to hear it.”

“Unfortunately, we failed to get a definition of diversity,” Ms. Reynolds replied. “You have been teaching it for seven years now. I would think, as an educator, you would be able to define what you taught,” Mr. Kennedy said, referring to the Diversity Week programs that the school has held since 1999.

High School Principal James White said the school should acquaint students with “sexual preference issues” and “people who are not mainstream, so you can appreciate people” and their “different modes of diversity.” “That concerns me a great deal,” Mr. Kennedy said.

After Tuesday’s meeting, committee member Kathleen M. Neal of Sturbridge said some committee members are “stepping on toes” and interfering with the “prerogatives of the high school principal.”

“The logical extension of this is parents telling teachers what to teach,” she said. Meanwhile, Mr. Kennedy, Ms. Hilker and committee member William Gillmeister of Brookfield said the school has confounded the issue of diversity by weaving it to sexuality and that the school has no business encouraging minors to identify with forms of sexuality.

“For me, the overarching issue is about the school assembly promoting the normalcy of homosexuality,” Mr. Gillmeister said after the meeting. “Because Diversity Week and the Gay-Straight Student Alliance are promoting homosexuality at Tantasqua, parents want to know when such subjects are going to be covered at the high school, especially mandatory assemblies, so they can get their children excused from those discussions.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted 10-4 to approve a motion by James Cooke of Brookfield to request the curriculum subcommittee “to consider policy regarding assemblies”. Mr. Levine said he wants the subcommittee report by February. Last month, the School Committee rejected Mr. Gillmeister’s motion that would have directed the policy subcommittee to come up with a parental notification policy on “human sexuality assemblies in school.”