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.