Saturday, November 1, 2008

Open Letter to Superintendent Jack O'Connell

Mr. O'Connell,

As an English teacher in a CA public high school, I am appalled at your equivocations and truth-stretching regarding education and Prop 8. As much as I would like to see you accept the debate challenge from United Families, I recognize that it will not happen because your position is insupportable.

You claim that
1) schools are not "required" to teach marriage.
2) CA schools have an "opt out" clause if the issue arises.

The truth (as written in the ed. code) is
1) the choice is up to the individual districts. My district (like the vast majority) has chosen to teach health education and thus will be required to redefine marriage in the classroom (Sec. 51933).
2) the legal definition of marriage is required to be supported and promoted across all grade levels. (Sec. 51890)
3) "opt out" clauses only apply when graphic descriptions or body parts are part of the discussion. Since family relationships will not fall under this category, there will be no "opting out" for any K-12 students. So much for parental notification. (Sec. 51932)

I wholeheartedly support my students in any way I can. I want them all to feel equally safe, valuable, and accepted. To do this, I do not need to acknowledge all lifestyle choices as equal. I can champion the individual without trying to define his or her personal morality. My "approval" of lifestyle choices is irrelevant--just as my own moral and religious beliefs should be irrelevant to my employer.

This becomes a 1st amendment issue for teachers (not just students and parents) when we are forced to propagandize in support of a gay and lesbian agenda which we cannot accept. I cannot, in good conscience, bring myself to promote such practices. What then of my freedom of religion and speech? Shall I commit heresy to please you, the CTA and the GLBT alliance? I will not.

Of the 100+ teachers on my campus, I know of at least 25 who are in favor of Prop 8 and angry at the stand taken by you and the CTA. Many of us are seriously reviewing our options and expect to be leaving CTA. The teachers' union should be supporting teachers' rights and working conditions, not promoting a political agenda based in redefining morality. I do not try to define morality for my students--I accept and support them for who they are, whatever their situation. Why should CTA or the Office of Public Instruction attempt to define morality for me and for the families of the state?

I would be interested to hear the answers to my question, and so encourage you to accept the opportunity to debate the issue this weekend.

Mrs. Diana Giles
La Habra High School
La Habra, CA


The California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) is the major statewide professional organization supporting English teachers and providing professional development materials; NCTE is the national arm.

The link to CATE & NCTE above is CATE's call for presenters at the next conference. Scroll to the bottom of the page. "GLBT" stands for "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender." This belies O'Connell's statement that gender issues will not be taught in regular classrooms.

I do know GLBT lessons will not be taught in my classroom.

Kindergardeners celebrate "Coming Out Day"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Leaving CTA?

In answer to a couple of recent questions:

I believe that you can make a statement to CTA by

1- check the box that says your dues may not be used to promote political causes. (I have to admit to being a little skeptical. How will I know if that happens or not? Where is the accountability and verification?)

2- check a different box and become an "inactive member." In this case, you can no longer vote on issues (as if it mattered!). Your pension and insurance should not be affected. You would want to see about getting legal insurance from another union.

There are other unions out there. We expect to be having a meeting soon with a representative from a Christian Teachers Union.

As I have said before, I'm not sure which course of action I'm going to take, but I do want to listen to the alternative presentation. I'll post the date and time here as soon as I know when it will be.

If you are interested in more information, please add a comment.

No "opt out" for teachers or parents.

I resisted posting this video because I did not want to be a scaremonger. But in watching it again, and after reading more of our Ed Code, I see it as completely relevant. Our CA Ed Code says that teachers must acknowledge and support legal marriage. It also says that parents do not have "opt out" rights unless the discussion is graphic and includes details and body parts. A simple discussion of "marriage" is not likely to include that, especially in elementary grades. Therefore, teachers are required to condone any "legal" form of marriage and parents will not be notified of such a discussion, nor will they be able to "opt out."

A sad realization

In talking with our building rep last week, I got the impression that Prop 8 had not gone to committee because (as he said), "it wasn't really education related." In following that thought, it appeared then that the policy decision must have been made at a higher level--the governing board of about 10 people--so I emailed and published that as my belief.

From what I have recently learned, Prop 8 actually was discussed on the floor by the representatives sometime last spring. Unfortunately, there seem to have been very few of our elected representatives who spoke in defense of traditional marriage--none from our district. And so the matter went up for a vote and policy was determined.

That's a very sad statement because it means that I have elected representatives who think so very differently than I do. I also have to admit that I did not pay much attention to the people I voted for. Thus, I have contributed to the current sad situation...and it's going to be very hard to undo.

Monday, October 27, 2008

"My school district will teach gay marriage and Jack O'Connell knows it."

The article linked here was written by CA Assemblyman Mike Spence. Unfortunately, it's all too true. State Sup't. Jack O'Connell is no fool, so he must know that he's skirting the issue when he says Prop 8 won't affect the schools. The Ed Code allows each district to decide whether to teach "sex ed" or not. Of course, 96% of them do. Thus, the onus is on the district for making the decision, not on the state, and Mr. O'Connell can ignore reality.

Additionally, you may know that CATE and NCTE are the major professional organizations for English teachers. As an English teacher, I am very much aware that they already proffer lesson approaches and "dialogues" on GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) issues via literature. If you follow the CATE link I've included here, you'll see what was offered at the most recent conference for inclusion in the classroom. Look at last year's California Association of Teachers of English Conference. Look for the "Strand" initials above the far right column.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Faith Ringgold Public Charter School kindergartners participate in "Coming Out Day"

Posted: October 22, 20089:34 pm EasternBy Chelsea Schilling© 2008 WorldNetDailySACRAMENTO, Calif.
– Some parents are shocked to find their children are learning to be homosexual allies and will participate in 'Coming Out Day' at a public elementary school tomorrow – and they claim the school failed to notify parents.One mother of a kindergartner who attends Faith Ringgold School of Art and Science, a K-8 charter school in Hayward, Calif., said she asked her 5-year-old daughter what she was learning at school.The little girl replied, 'We're learning to be allies.'The mother also said a Gay Straight Alliance club regularly meets in the kindergarten classroom during lunch.According to a Pacific Justice Institute report, Faith Ringgold opted not to inform the parents of its pro-homosexual activities beforehand. The school is celebrating 'Gay and Lesbian History Month' and is in the process of observing 'Ally Week,' a pro-'gay' occasion usually geared toward high school students.The school is scheduled to host discussions about families and has posted fliers on school grounds portraying only homosexuals. According to the report, a 'TransAction Gender-Bender Read-Aloud' will take place Nov. 20. Students will listen to traditional stories with 'gay' or transgender twists, to include 'Jane and the Beanstalk.'Some parents only recently noticed posters promoting the school's 'Coming Out Day' tomorrow – celebrated 12 days after the national 'Coming Out Day' usually observed on Oct. 11. When WND contacted the school to confirm the event, a female representative replied, 'Yes, it is scheduled on our calendar.'When asked if the school made any efforts to inform parents, she refused to answer and said Hayward Unified School District would have to respond to additional questions. However, the district did not answer its phones or e-mails, and a voicemail recording would not take messages. 'Coming Out Day' is not listed on the district's online schoolcalendar.Some of the parents contacted Pacific Justice Institute for representation when they learned the school was pushing pro-'gay' events for young children without warning.Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, said opponents of California's proposed ban on same-sex marriage, or Proposition 8, often say the measure would not have an effect on public schools – but this is one of many recent developments that prove otherwise.'Do we need any further proof that gay activists will target children as early as possible?' he asked. 'Opponents of traditional marriage keep telling us that Prop. 8 has nothing to do with education. In reality, they want to push the gay lifestyle on kindergartners, and we can only imagine how much worse it will be if Prop. 8 is defeated. This is not a scenario most Californians want replayed in their elementary schools.'Concerned individuals may contact Faith Ringgold School of Art and Science by calling (510) 889-7399. The Hayward Unified School District can be reached at (510)784-2600 or by filling out the district contact form.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Let your voice be heard

The whole point here is to be heard, to make a difference.
(Just a reminder, CA Sup't. of Public Instruction is an ELECTED OFFICE)

Where to write: -- CA Dept of Education -- David Sanchez, President of CTA -- CTA -- LA Times Letters to the Editor -- OC Register Letters to the Editor -- Fullerton Secondary Teachers Org. -- our local union
Sup. Jack O'Connell
c/o California Department of Education
1430 N StreetSacramento, CA 95814

Where to call:
Jack O'Connell, CA Supt of Schools: 916-319-0800 (no direct email available)
FSTO Office: 714-879-5030
FSTO President, Mary Wild: 714-626-4331

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My understanding of how CTA makes policy decisions

I spoke for a short time with Chuck, our building representative, and Tony (retired FSTO Pres) yesterday to find out who makes the decisions about what CTA supports.

As I understand it...there is a body of about 1200 members (Chuck is one) who meet regularly in Sacramento to review bills and decide what CTA will/won't support. We voted these people into office, I believe, and they represent 340,000 teachers statewide. They review upcoming legislation to determine how each relates to education and the classroom. They argue, sometimes heatedly, and eventually make a decision. However, Prop 8 probably did not go through this type of review "because it's not really education-related."

  • If it's not education-related, why is CTA taking a stand in the first place?
  • If it's not education-related, who made the policy decision?

Apparently, if an issue does not go through a committee, the policy decision is made by the Governing Board (about 10 people?) and President David Sanchez (who has ultra-liberal views).

Chuck and Tony agreed that if we want to make a difference, we need to get involved and make our voices heard. I have to admit to being guilty of non-participation and simply voting without any knowledge. It may be time to change that.