More on David Parker and Diversity Bookbags

A generous reader emails an update to the ‘Diversity Bags’ story, summarizing a Lexington Minuteman article:

1) Much of the original dispute centered around the contents of a "Diversity Book Bag." The Diversity Book Bag is an optional program created by the "anti-bias committee" (the article doesn't explain exactly what that is, but it sounds like a PTA committee or something similar), whereby a set of books and other materials are sent home with one student each week, with the goal of providing material to discuss the diversity of families and cultures with parents and children. Parents are told about the program at several occasions (although it isn't clear from the article if they can examine the contents of the diversity book bags before there children bring them home), and are given the opportunity to opt out of the program. This material is NOT a mandatory part of classroom teaching, as many news reports have implied. The depiction of homosexual families in the book in question consists, according to the Minuteman story, of one picture of two dads setting the table, and another picture of two moms outside washing the dog, both with their children. The book also contains other "non-traditional" families, which I assume to mean single parent families, families with grandparents as the main caregivers, perhaps families of different cultures and races as well -- the article does not describe exactly. Given the strongly pro-gay atmosphere of Lexington, and given the fact that lesbians and gays can in fact legally marry in Massachusetts, it is pretty hard to imagine that a reasonable parent couldn't suppose that a diversity book bag would contain depictions of gay
and lesbian families.

2) The man in question, David Parker, clearly wanted to be arrested. An Estabrook teacher called the police sometime after school to say she was having problems with a parent. The police came, discussed the situation with the teacher, and left without making any arrests. Later, when the
school had to be locked up for the night, the teacher called again. The police came again, and told Parker that the school had to be locked, and he could either leave peacefully or be forcibly removed. Parker refused to leave, saying (according to the Minuteman story), "If I'm not under arrest, I'm not leaving." At that point, he was arrested for criminal trespass. He was offered to be released on personal recognizance, but chose to spend the night in jail instead.

3) The law in Massachusetts requires that parents be notified prior to any discussion of sex in the classroom, but makes no mention of homosexuality. Whatever you think about the morality of same-sex marriage, the fact is that it is legal in Massachusetts, and to equate the depiction of a legal, married couple (who happen to be of the same sex) with "the discussion of sex" more generally seems far-fetched at best. Again according to the Lexington Minuteman article, the school officials that David Parker met with understood his objections to be to any representation of non-traditional (by this I think the article means gay and lesbian headed) families, in any way or in any context.

Not in the news article, but my take on the whole issue: if you live in Massachusetts, and want you prevent your kid from being exposed to the existence of same sex couples, it seems to me that you have two options: move to another state, where at least those couples are not legally
sanctioned, or home school your kid. Expecting the public schools to attempt to shield children from a fact of life in Massachusetts is ridiculous.

Also, this letter to the editor shines some light on Parker’s intent and demands:

I would like to thank Neil Tassel for clarifying several issues surrounding the David Parker/Estabrook School incident (“Refuting accusations against David Parker,” July 28 Minuteman). I would also like to respond to a few points.

Mr. Tassel said that the Parkers wanted the school to “…notify them in advance if there is a planned discussion about same-sex issues, and, if an adult becomes involved in a discussion spontaneously begun by a child, then remove their child from the discussion. Their concern is that impressionable children will hear for the first time from a respected adult that a homosexual-headed family is a normal family structure, and an equally ‘good’ one at that.”

But do Mr. Tassel and the Parkers not understand that if their demands were met, these same impressionable children would be getting the message from a “respected adult” that these families are not normal, and not equally “good?”

This is the view of the Parkers, and they are demanding that the school present their view to all of the children, no matter how damaging this view is to the children of the affected families. Put yourself back into kindergarten and imagine if any time you wanted to talk about your family to the teacher and the class, the classroom ground to a halt so that certain kids could leave.

How would that make you feel? How often would you bring up your family in classroom discussion after that? How would you feel when other kids freely talked about their families? How would you feel when the other kids teased you about it?

The guy is just a bigot, it seems.






22 replies
  1. 1
    BumperStickerist says:

    As a way to get your name out there, David’s plan worked tremendously well.

    $5 says that Mr. Parker runs for School Board next election.

    If so, $20 says he gets elected.

  2. 2
    DougJ says:

    Right, John, I guess trying to bring your kids up right makes you a “bigot”. Okay.

  3. 3
    bg says:

    Yeah, but I quarrell whether that’s bringing your kids up “right” at all.

  4. 4
    docG says:

    DougJ – If you have children, what do you teach them about how to treat gays, lesbians and their family members? If you teach your kids to treat them with respect and kindness, you are doing the same thing as the diversity bag is attempting to do. If you teach your children to treat them in any other fashion, I wouldn’t throw the bigot word around too quickly.

  5. 5
    Anderson says:

    Sigh. Gay people exist. They appear in public together. Your children will see them.

    If you believe it’s wrong to be gay, then “bringing your kids up right” means teaching them what you believe and why, not pretending that no one’s gay.

  6. 6
    DougJ says:

    “If you teach your kids to treat them with respect and kindness”

    I do — but that doesn’t mean I think that gay couples should be allowed to marry or to adopt children. I view homosexuality as a personal problem, like alcoholism or a drug problem, and that gays therefore deserve our compassion. But that doesn’t mean that I condone their lifestyle.

  7. 7
    capelza says:

    Doug J, first off, adoption is not the only way Gay couples have children. Lesbians get pregnant one way or another, and Gay men can have children from other relationships. The eggs and sperm still work the same way.

    Whatever your views are, in MA is it legal to married legally as a homosexual. But that said, would you condone a child of gay parents being ostracised in the manner that Parker wants? Should that child be singled out fro discrimination because one parent in the school thinks that child’s parents are an abomination? Talk about “sins of the father”..

  8. 8
    yet another jeff says:

    “Condone their lifestyle”? Why not condone it? Why not pardon or overlook voluntarily…treat as if trivial, harmless, or of no importance?

    What lifestyle are you talking about, shopping at Whole Foods? Explain what it is that you feel you are being forced to condone when children learn that gay couples exist. How can you treat someone with respect and kindness and yet not condone them?

  9. 9
    Defense Guy says:

    The man has a right to his opinon, even when I think it is too shortsighted. The child of gay parents can not help who his/her parents are, and if homosexuality is a sin against G-d then it is only the sex act part and definately not the raising of children aspect which is inherent in the description of ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’.

    I would like to hear from any of my fellow ‘religously oriented’ about how we can expect a child to honor his parents if we are busy telling them they deserve no such respect?

  10. 10
    Mike S says:

    I would like to hear from any of my fellow ‘religously oriented’ about how we can expect a child to honor his parents if we are busy telling them they deserve no such respect?

    Interesting point. How does one reconcile the two?

  11. 11
    Geek, Esq. says:

    As a way to get your name out there, David’s plan worked tremendously well.

    $5 says that Mr. Parker runs for School Board next election.

    If so, $20 says he gets elected.

    This is Lexington, Massachusetts. It isn’t the backwoods of Alabama.

  12. 12
    Defense Guy says:

    This is Lexington, Massachusetts. It isn’t the backwoods of Alabama.

    I wonder if you find this statement elitist or bigoted in any way. I would bet you don’t.

  13. 13
    Tim Sackton says:

    This is Lexington, Massachusetts. It isn’t the backwoods of Alabama.

    I wonder if you find this statement elitist or bigoted in any way. I would bet you don’t.

    Geek, Esq. may not have put it in a particularly nice way, but he has a point. This incident will completely ruin any chance that Mr. Parker ever had of getting elected to the school board in Lexington, MA. I doubt he could get more than 20% of the vote, if that.

    Community norms vary, and while communities in many parts of the United States would find Mr. Parker’s opinions reasonable or even admirable, Lexington (or any suburb of Boston, really), is not one of those places. Is it elitist or bigoted to point out that standards of what is acceptable are most certainly different in Lexington, MA than in many parts of Alabama?

  14. 14
    Defense Guy says:

    Community norms vary, and while communities in many parts of the United States would find Mr. Parker’s opinions reasonable or even admirable, Lexington (or any suburb of Boston, really), is not one of those places. Is it elitist or bigoted to point out that standards of what is acceptable are most certainly different in Lexington, MA than in many parts of Alabama?

    That they do, and yet Boston has traditionally been a very Catholic city, and one of the more affluant suburbs of Brookline has strong Jewish roots. So it would be interesting to put this point to the test. The actual constitution of Mass. is chock full of religous reference, and it isn’t talking about Hinduism.

  15. 15
    Tim Sackton says:

    That they do, and yet Boston has traditionally been a very Catholic city, and one of the more affluant suburbs of Brookline has strong Jewish roots. So it would be interesting to put this point to the test. The actual constitution of Mass. is chock full of religous reference, and it isn’t talking about Hinduism.

    Which point, exactly, do you think it would be interesting to put to the test? The fact that community norms are different between Boston and rural Alabama? Considering that Boston is one of the most liberal cities in the country, and Alabama is one of the most conservative states in the country, that point seems obvious.

    Or rather, is it the idea that Boston and its suburbs tend to support same sex families that you want to put to the test? I don’t have any hard data on this, but the latest poll that I can find (taken in March 2005 by the Boston Globe) shows that 56% of Massachusetts residents support same sex marriage. Given that: 1) supporting same sex marriage is probably a more controvesial position than acknowledging that same sex families exist (which is what Mr. Parker is trying to prevent), and 2) proportionally more legistators from western and southern Mass voted to support a proposed amendment to the state Constitution outlawing gay marriage, I think it is reasonable to suppose that substantially more than 56% of people in Boston and its suburb would think that Mr. Parker’s objections to the Diversity Book Bag were unreasonable.

  16. 16
    John S. says:

    I view homosexuality as a personal problem, like alcoholism or a drug problem, and that gays therefore deserve our compassion.

    LOL…thanks for the good belly laugh!

  17. 17
    Don says:

    Right, John, I guess trying to bring your kids up right makes you a “bigot”. Okay.

    What part of this grandstanding assisted him in bringing his kids up the way he so desires?

    He could have opted out of this divertity bag thing (and if he’s got a room-temperature IQ he recognizes that any organization talking about diversity is gonna cover homosexuality at some point), he chose not to. Apprently the goal wasn’t to shield his kid from these things.
    He could have transfered his kid to a school more to his philisophical liking (despite the fact that the current school offered him chances to opt his kid out of the program that set him off as well as any sexual discussion) or even home-schooled.
    He went and got himself arrested by refusing to leave school premises when they were closing for the night. He could have left and come back the next day or camped out OUTSIDE the school if he wanted to make a visible point, but instead he committed tresspass. Nobody told him he couldn’t be there when the place was open and they talked with him repeatedly over the course of the school year.

    So rather than just avail himself of the tools available to raise his kid the way he likes, he goes and gets himself put in jail and when offered the chance to leave, declines. Apparently actually being at home for the kids isn’t involved in raising them. Who knew?

  18. 18
    jg says:

    Considering that Boston is one of the most liberal cities in the country,

    No it isn’t. The surrounding suburbs are filled with tree huggin hippies but Boston gets all the press for them not shaving their legs.

  19. 19
    Steve says:

    You liberals didn’t get the memo. Attacking Massachusetts is fair game for Republicans, but that doesn’t mean you can go around making comments about red states. That, you see, would be bigoted.

  20. 20
    Defense Guy says:

    Steve, try to keep up, it’s France that is fair game. Massachusetts, as a free state of the Union is fine by me. My largest complaint is the two pretentous windbags they keep sending to the Senate.

  21. 21
    tBone says:

    My largest complaint is the two pretentous windbags they keep sending to the Senate.

    C’mon, now. If states stopped sending pretentious windbags to the Senate, the climate in D.C. could be devastated by the sudden drop in hot air emissions and an overabundance of oxygen. Children and tourists would roam free and overpopulate, unchecked by trampling deaths caused by getting in between Senators and cameras. It would be a complete ecological disaster – think “The Day After Tomorrow,” but substitute paunchy white guys in suits for global warming.

  22. 22
    Mike says:

    Massachusetts state law permits a parent to have his child “opt-out” of certain subjects. The only thing David Parker was trying to do was exercise his guaranteed right!

    The issue here is intolerance and denial of rights – intolerance of people with different lifestyles and beliefs and denial of rights guaranteed by the state of Massachusetts.

    And, I’ll take that bet about running for School Board. David Parker’s only “hidden agenda” is raising his child as he sees fit. Unfortunately, the town of Lexington, Massachusetts is using all of its resources to extract vengeance against a man who tried to stand up for his rights.

    To view the real facts and motives behind this case, go to http://www.davidparkerfund.org/

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