Pushback to Tolerance Guidelines
"We've got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It's not," said the President.
“Of course, we’re all against bullying, “ said the Montana pastor. “But the Bible says very clearly that homosexuality is wrong, and Christians don’t want the schools to teach subjects that are repulsive to their values.”
A couple of weeks ago schools were reminded by the federal Department of Education that bullying is a violation of a student’s civil rights, including those that protect sexual orientation. Some, according to the NY Times, see the attempts of schools to educate students about tolerance of others’ life styles as driven by a “homosexual agenda.”
In an earnest attempt to get ahead of the curve the Helena, Montana school district last summer revealed its new elementary guidelines for teaching about sexuality and tolerance. The guidelines included teaching first graders that people can love other people of the same or different genders. The fifth grade guidelines included explaining that sexual intercourse can be accomplished in at least three specific ways. Not surprisingly, members of the community, including several pastors, rose to the bully pulpit.
To be honest, while I applaud the school district for its attempts to address the problem, I’m sure many will wonder what school officials were thinking when they proposed some of these guidelines. (However, I know from my own experience with the Day of Silence how an earnest attempt to reduce discrimination can end up increasing it.) In the end the district revised much of the explicit language in the curriculum, settling for more vague notions about diversity. Even then, some parents said they would remove their children from the classroom during these lessons.
Next year the White House and the Department of Education will host a conference to raise awareness about bullying and harassment and to “spark a dialogue” about how the community can “come together” to address these issues. It’s a worthy endeavor, but a heavy lift.