Tom Prichard: What does it take to make a school safe for learning?

  • Article by: TOM PRICHARD
  • October 14, 2010 - 6:55 PM

Much has been written about the tragic suicide of an Anoka-Hennepin school district student and about how best to protect students (including "GLBT students deserve safe schools," editorial, Sept. 29). Rather than bringing people together to produce real solutions, the discussion has generated more controversy and has driven people further apart. The Minnesota Family Council is calling on all people of goodwill to find common ground, so we can stand together against the bullying of children in our schools.

MFC is strongly opposed to bullying of all kinds -- including that of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. Current state law requires that each school district have an antibullying policy. MFC strongly supports these policies and believes they should be vigorously enforced.

Because teachers and school officials can't be everywhere, MFC is calling on parents and students to join with their school officials and stand up to the bullies in their schools. An excellent role model is in the Gospel of John, 8:3-11, when Jesus stood up for the woman who was about to be stoned. He didn't affirm her behavior but confronted those attempting to bullying her.

Imagine the impact of dozens of students in every school district standing up to the bullies. We believe Jesus' example, and the bringing together of parents, students, teachers and school officials, would have an immediate impact in putting an end to bullying and related tragic suicides.

Some are calling for the Anoka-Hennepin school district to adopt controversial "antihomophobia" curricula that have ignited division among parents, students and teachers in school districts across the state. MFC does not support "antihomophobia" curricula, because they cross the line from addressing bullying words and behavior to targeting the attitudes, values and beliefs of students and undermining the authority of parents regarding homosexuality, homosexual "marriage" and same-sex relationships.

An example of "antihomophobia" curricula is "Welcoming Schools," championed by the nation's largest homosexual lobbying group, the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

In 2008, MFC examined "Welcoming Schools" when it was introduced in a handful of Minneapolis elementary schools under the guise of antibullying curriculum. MFC found it had very little to do with stopping bullying and more to do with changing children's beliefs and values towards homosexual "marriage," relationships and behavior. "Welcoming Schools" immediately ignited enormous controversy, and there were vicious attacks on a diverse group of parents who peacefully objected to its content and methods.

Lessons included reading controversial books like "The King and King" and "Both of My Moms' Names are Judy" to elementary school children. It included a video, "It's Elementary," that showed an 8-year-old girl receiving praise from her teacher for saying people who believe what the Bible says about homosexuality are "stupid." This video and others were so clearly geared toward homosexual advocacy that significant portions of the curricula were pulled by the Minneapolis School District, because the parental outcry was so great.

Concerned parents told the Minneapolis school board that "Welcoming Schools" encouraged children to "question the moral authority of their parents and created conflict between child and teacher, child and parent, and parent and teacher." We are concerned that efforts to introduce "antihomophobia" curricula in Anoka-Hennepin and other districts will do the same while not effectively addressing the concern over bullying.

MFC recommends examining alternatives that focus on the behavior of the bullies and are inclusive of all children at risk of being bullied. Let's stop focusing on what divides us and start confronting the bullies.

Tom Prichard is president of the Minnesota Family Council.

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