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"Parents Rights: The Sleeping Giant

From 1996 - It still haunts us today

The following article was written by two Parents Rights Coalition (now MassResistance) activists and published in National Review on July 30, 1996 -- a month after the Massachusetts Legislature passed the original Parents Rights Bill.

Parents Rights: The Sleeping Giant
Educators have been waging a covert war on parents -- who are starting to fight back.

Originally published in National Review, September 30, 1996

By Michael Chiusano and Isabel Lyman

CRAIG Goddard's first-grade son came home from public school one day and told his father that women could change themselves into men and men into women. It turns out that the boy, a student at Brookline Elementary School just outside Boston, was learning the details of the sex-change process from a transsexual parent, invited into first-grade classes by one of the school's faculty.

At about the same time, children in a school in Ashland, Mass., were assigned to play "gays" in a school skit. One boy's line was, "It's natural to be attracted to the same sex." Two girls were told to hold hands and pretend they were lesbians. Parents were not informed in advance.

In nearby Newton, Mass., a young father, Brian Camenker, learned that a 7th-grade class in sex education used graphic descriptions of oral and anal sex. When he went to the school principal and asked to see the curriculum, the principal said no and told him that if he didn't like the situation he could send his child to private school. Mr. Camenker had the Massachusetts Secretary of State notify the school system of statutory law regarding parents' rights to view curricula, after which he arranged to have parents visit the school committee and read aloud passages used for 12-year-old children. The quoted passages were so offensive the committee cut off debate and threatened to call the police to have Mr. Camenker removed from the meeting.

What happened to these parents and children was, sadly, not a rare occurrence. Across the country, bizarre and intrusive programs are part of everyday business in public (and private) schools, a world virtually at war with the everyday values of parents.

Welcome to 1996, the year parents are finally realizing that something goofy -- and dangerous -- is happening to their children. Consider the First AIDS Kit, an "educational resource," to use the jargon, put out by the Harvard Community Health Foundation -- part of one of the most respected health establishments in the country -- for teaching youngsters about the hazards of AIDS. Inside, students will find, right away, a discount coupon from the local pharmacy for their next condom purchase. Then it's on to "Talk about Sex," a "booklet for young people on how to talk about sexuality and HIV/AIDS." Here students read that there are all kinds of sexuality: bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual, and transvestite, in that order and all treated with a fine impartiality. The booklet advises students, "For many young people, exploring their sexuality with someone of the same gender is a natural part of growing up." All three sexual orientations, advises the booklet, "are part of being human."

In addition, the handy "Proud Pete" flipbook, which you activate by flipping its pages through your fingers, shows a cartoon version of a penis becoming erect and a condom slipping over it. One health educator actually told a school board that "Proud Pete" was designed for Hispanic students who might not be able to read the English prose in the rest of the kit.

Naturally, this material makes no mention of marriage or traditional family structure and instead assumes a norm of complete sexual anarchy. But one item was considered potentially controversial: the condom key chain. This contraption, with a ring for Dad's car keys, has a slide-out drawer that holds a condom. Sensitive to parental concerns, Harvard Health sells the kit with and without the condom key chain.

Another area that has sent parents reeling is so-called "death education." The pedagogical "theory" here is that "death is part of life," that if youngsters "experience" death they will be more healthy mentally and have higher self-esteem. In these programs, children are brought to cemeteries and mortuaries, where the viewing of corpses is deemed to have high educational value. A common classroom exercise is having students write their own obituary.

Again, a concrete example is instructive. Several years ago, a community in western Massachusetts had an unusual number of teen suicides. An educational consultant (who asked not to be identified) determined to find out why, and arranged to meet the teacher involved in the "death education" course. The meeting went cordially until the consultant asked if the situation was improving, by which he meant, were the suicides tapering off.

The educator's shocking answer was that he did not necessarily agree that fewer suicides constituted improvement. His general tone implied that if the students came to the suicide decision on their own, choosing freely, it would indicate their "courage" to make an independent decision. In this upside-down moral world, any choice is valid, as long as it is freely chosen.

But sex remains the cutting edge, especially homosexuality.

Consider an advocacy group called the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network, now headquartered in New York City. It began in Boston in 1990 as a group to promote homosexual issues in public schools and to assist teachers in "coming out." When Governor Weld gave the go-ahead for his Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, GLSTN's current president was active in setting the agenda for the program. This included the training of teachers in "gay sensitivity," lectures for school personnel and parents, formation of gay/straight alliances for students, gay-history courses, and gay assemblies and library materials.

The planners in Massachusetts knew full well that most parents were not going to sit still for a direct statement about the normality of homosexuality. Instead, as GLSTN's own documents state, it was necessary to "re-frame" the debate, using an argument about the need for safe schools, free of harassment, for gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth. Through a series of unscientific surveys, an "epidemic" of gay teen suicide was postulated, which played on the natural sympathies of normal citizens.

Kevin Jennings, executive director of GLSTN, took the argument from there in a speech he gave to another advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign Fund: "We immediately seized upon the opponent's calling card -- safety -- and explained how homophobia represents a threat to students' safety by creating a climate where violence, name-calling, health problems, and suicide are common. Titling our report 'Making Schools Safe for Gay and Lesbian Youth,' we automatically threw our opponents onto the defensive and stole their best line of attack."' Note that Jennings brags about using teen "safety" as a rhetorical tactic, nothing more than a debating trick. Also note that when he refers to "opponents" he is really talking about parents. Homosexual activists have been astonishingly successful at their task. In liberal states such as Massachusetts, statutes now make it a "hate" crime to express in public a negative judgment of homosexual behaviors. Gay activists have already warned teachers, administrators, and parents that questioning gay behavior could be grounds for criminal proceedings.

There is in all the activism about sexuality and other sensitive issues a rather profound contempt for the bond of parent and child. Part of this is the belief of teachers, therapists, and counselors that all parents are dysfunctional, a hazard to their own children almost by definition. The homosexual activists, meanwhile, know that normal healthy and loving relationships between parents and their children impede the goal of homosexual normalization.

But parents are striking back at all levels of government. The Parents' Rights and Responsibilities Act, sponsored by Rep. Steve Largent and Sen. Charles Grassley, sets broad limits to the state's ability to interfere with parents' upbringing of their children. At the state level, Of the People, a grassroots group, has advocated statewide constitutional amendments along the same lines. And in state legislatures, numbering over 28 as this is written, parents' rights bills have been introduced that affirm and elaborate on the national-level bill.

The activism of recent years is a direct assault on something that has operated for millennia on sacred grounds, outside the reach of the state. The great sleeping giant of parents' rights is going to awake in the political battles to come.

On the Battlefront

WHY have parents lost faith in public educators? Here are a few reasons why parents across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are demanding real protection from their legislature:

-- At a required school assembly in Chelmsford, an instructor used four-letter words, described the joys of oral and anal sex, and had children participate in licking condoms. Parents were not notified about this in advance.

-- A 14-year-old Beverly High School girl came home and told her father that he was a "homophobe." She had just returned from "Homophobia Week" sessions at the school.

-- In Westford, 13-year-olds were asked on a quiz: "What is the best method against pregnancy?" "Abstinence" was deemed to be incorrect.

-- At a Lexington high school Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, 13-year-olds can borrow a book (bought with state health funds) telling how gay men at the opera can socialize with "the backs of their trousers discreetly parted so they could experience a little extra pleasure while viewing the spectacle on stage."

-- In Falmouth, a mother asked school officials why her son was being shown R-rated movies -- not allowed at home -- in school without her permission. The English Department head told her that it was OK because it went along with the themes that were being presented that quarter, and that "the message of the films transcends the language and violence."

-- In Newton, a high-school principal told a group of parents that they could not remove their children from the condom-distribution program because "it is too important."

-- At Silver Lake High School, the ninth-grade health text teaches: "Testing your ability to function sexually and give pleasure to another person may be less threatening in the early teens with people of your own sex." Also, "You may come to the conclusion that growing up means rejecting the values of your parents." Students were told to keep the book in their lockers and not take it home.

-- The "First AIDS" kits described above in "Parents' Rights" also advised girls that even if parents tell them to abstain from sex, "You need to make the best choice for yourself."

-- In Manomet, an 8th-grade health class passed out material which one boy said was against his parents' beliefs. He was told by the instructor, "If you have any trouble with your parents, tell me and I'll handle them."

-- In Nutting Lake, "counselors" conducted a group session where a girl was asked to share with the class the details of her parents' divorce and her father's affair. The sessions were to be kept confidential from parents.

-- In Lexington, students were told to answer surveys on their use of drugs and on personal feelings about suicide and death. Parents were outraged when they found out.