The First Amendment Center along with BridgeBuilders and others have drafted a framework within which communities can discuss issues of sexual orientation within the public education system. The agreement is based on the idea that all viewpoints deserve to be heard and that common ground can be reached. The following organizations have endorsed the proposal:
The First Amendment Center
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Christian Educators Association International
American Association of School Administrators
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
“There are a lot of voices that have been excluded like, very often, the faith community,” Laursen [CEIA executive director] notes, as well as, “very often, the ex-gay voice that says, ‘Hey, it’s a choice. We have chosen not to live that lifestyle.’ Those voices just aren’t heard.” However, he describes the guidelines that have now been developed to guide educators in this area as “empowering” for the school community.”
The seven step framework consists of:
1. Create a common-ground task force
2. Agree on civil ground rules and understand current law
3. Include all stakeholders
4. Think outside the box of “us vs. them” politics
5. Listen to all sides
6. Work for agreement on civil principles and safe schools
7. Provide education opportunities for First Amendment principles
These steps seem to be a positive direction towards eliminating some of the animosity found in the discussion of the role of sexual orientation education and representation in public schools. We should be hopeful that serious people on all sides will use this tool to address a topic that has often been rancorous and divisive. Let’s also hope that all parties involved keep in mind that the safety, education, and inclusion of all students should be their goal, and not winning skirmishes in a culture war.
I believe that there is room in society – and in public education – for all citizens, be they gay, straight, bisexual, or ex-gay, and that respect can be accorded to all provided that they use accurate, verifiable, statistically and scientifically valid information when presenting their views. I hope that during the establishment of policy that scientific evidence takes precedent over viewpoint but that no one is silenced or marginalized for dissenting belief.
I think I can speak on behalf of exgaywatch when I say that we hope for a day when the facts about sexual orientation and same-sex attraction can be presented in a non-biased non-judgmental way that allows for respect for differing religious and cultural views while maintaining freedom and equality for all persons regardless of their sexual orientation.