MASSACHUSETTS

I. Background:

Surprisingly, Massachusetts still has two felony sodomy statutes on the books, although the "Unnatural and Lascivious Acts" one was held in 1974 by the Supreme Judicial Court not to apply to private consensual behavior; it is thought that this ruling might apply to the "Crime Against Nature" one, too. (Thankfully, these statutes were nullified by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.) Yet, two top officials in Governor Weld's administration have come out as a gay male couple with no apparent negative repercussions. (They are Revenue Commissioner Mitch Adams and Kevin Smith, Commissioner of the Division of Capital Planning).

MASSACHUSETTS HAS HAD IN PLACE, FOR SEVERAL YEARS, A GOVERNOR'S COMMISSION ON GAY AND LESBIAN YOUTH. IN 1993, THANKS TO THE WORK OF THE COMMISSION AND THE ORGANIZING AND LOBBYING DONE BY YOUNG PEOPLE (LGBT AND STRAIGHT) THEMSELVES, MASSACHUSETTS ENACTED THE NATION'S FIRST LAW PROTECTING THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF LGBT TEENAGERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS!

As of October, 1994, the Massachusetts State Board of Education requires that the 36 institutions accredited to certify teachers demonstrate to the State DOE that their graduates are sensitive to sexual orientation issues for students. To our knowledge, this is the ONLY state to do so.

The Governor has ENORMOUS powers when it comes to education: appointing the State Board, a good number of the members of the Education Reform Review Commission, and the body which reviews the governors own appointments, the Public Education Nominating Council. Be sure to let him know, often, your thoughts on education equity issues pertaining to LGBT people.

State House, Room 360, Boston, MA 02133
(617) 727-6250 fax: (617) 727-9725 TTY: (617) 727-3666
Springfield Office, 436 Dwight Street, 3rd floor, Springfield, MA 01103; (413) 784-1200

The regular state legislative session starts Jan-03; the legislature meets throughout the year. Its Home Page is http://www.magnet.state.ma.us:80/legis/

JOINT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION, ARTS AND HUMANITIES

Room 473G, State House, Boston, MA 02133, Telephone: (617) 722-2070
It shall be the duty of the committee on Education, Arts and Humanities to consider all matters concerning education and such other matters as may be referred.

II. Education Specific Information:

You may locate any school or school district in your state by going to the following search engine:

American School Directory

http://www.asd.com/

Massachusetts has prohibited discrimination based upon sexual orientation in its education code. [M.G.L.A. Chap. 71 5].

ALSO, it has this:

"An act relative to the discrimination against students on the basis of sexual orientation.

No person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town, or in obtaining the advantages, privileges and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, religion, national origin or sexual orientation."

- Section 5, Ch. 76 Ch. 202 MA law signed by Gov. Weld on Dec. 10, 1993

OFFICIAL Guidelines on Harassment on the Basis of Sexual Preference

"Harassment on the basis of an individual's sexual preference or orientation is prohibited, Words, actions or other verbal, written, or physical conduct which ridicules, scorns, mocks, intimidates, or otherwise threatens an individual because of his/her sexual orientation/preference constitutes homophobic harassment when it has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment."

It appears that text adoption is local, with school principals purchasing texts under the district superintendent's direction, in accordance with the Uniform Procurement Act. HOWEVER THERE IS MUCH CURRENT AND IMPORTANT STATE ACTIVITY REGARDINGSETTING STATE STANDARDS THROUGH DEVELOPMENT OF CURRICULUM FRAMEWORKS.SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS, AND WE RECOMMEND HEARTILY THAT YOU GET INVOLVEDIN EVERY STAGE OF THIS PROCESS.

CONTACT: Massachusetts State Department of Education, 350 Main St., Malden MA 02148-5023, 617-388-3300, fax= 617-388-3394.
Try dealing with Michael Kozuch at the Department (617-388-3300, ext. 395) (email= Michael_J_Kozuch@doe.mass.edu). Or contact Margot Abels at617-388-3300, ext. 376 (email= Margot_E_Abels@doe.mass.edu)
Also, try contacting the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education, 1 Ashburton Place, Boston MA; 617-727-1313.

DEFINITELY ALSO CONTACT the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, State House, Room 111, Boston MA 02133, phone= 617-727-3600 x312 or 617-828-3039.

The (excellent) Massachusetts State Department of Education Web site is at

http://www.doe.mass.edu (searchable - use "gay")

The Massachusetts Department of Education's report on their study of youth risk behavior is available at URL:

http://www.doe.mass.edu/hssss/yrb95/yrb95ltr.html

And the Guide to Gay/Straight Alliances is at

http://www.doe.mass.edu/hssss/GSA/

All the Governors nominees to the State School Board and Education Reform Review Commission must be approved by the Public Education Nominating Council, which also is appointed by the governor and therefore has usually rubber stamped his choices.

Massachusetts is starting to address the criticism of ambiguity in curriculum standards. It is in the midst of a major overhaul of its education system. Following the passage of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act in June 1993, the state began the process of developing statewide standards by articulating broad goals for public education. The second step, which is still being hashed out, includes specific guidelines for teachers in seven different academic areas. The third step will be a comprehensive system to assess the performance of both students and schools. The goal is ``to ensure that there's a state standard for what all kids should be able to do in every academic area and every grade level in any school,'' says Alan Safran, a Massachusetts Department of Education spokesman (August 1996).

From Ed reform act of 1993: Section 51, P.72 SCHOOL TEXTBOOK SELECTION. This section provides that a principal, under the superintendent's direction, shall purchase textbooks and other supplies in accordance with the Uniform Procurement Act. The section repeals the textbook loan program for private schools.

CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT: In tandem with the development of the Common Core of Learning, committees have been formed to oversee the implementation of statewide Curriculum Frameworks.

These frameworks will provide schools and school districts with specific curriculum and instruction guides for teaching students, in grades K through 12, to reach the goals articulated in the Common Core of Learning. And once the frameworks are completed, a new statewide assessment will measure students' (and schools') ability to accomplish the goals of the Core and the specific benchmarks of the frameworks. As mandated by the Education Reform Act of 1993, curriculum frameworks will be developed for mathematics, science and technology, history and social studies, English, foreign languages, and the arts. In addition, the Department of Education is developing a health curriculum framework.

A framework identifies the important content for a subject area that students should know and be able to do, addresses best practices of how the subject matter can be taught, describes methods of assessing student progress, and guides the selection of instructional materials.

The Department formed one Curriculum Framework Development Committee for the subject areas of history and social science, English, foreign languages, the arts, and health. Selected from 500 applicants, 15-20 professionals who have expertise in the curriculum area of the framework were chosen for each committee. Students also sit on nearly all the committees. Through an intense schedule of meetings during the 1993-1994 and 1994-1995 school years, including a week-long institute during the summer of 1994, and NUMEROUS PUBLIC FORUMS, the committees drafted the curriculum frameworks in their respective subjects.

In addition, the CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETS THREE TIMES PER YEAR. THE COUNCIL WILL OVERSEE THE ENTIRE CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK DEVELOPMENT PROCESS. In particular, it will address the interdisciplinary nature of the frameworks, organize the public forums and focus groups, ensure consistency, provide feedback, develop a plan for disseminating and using the frameworks, and link the frameworks to the Common Core of Learning and the upcoming statewide assessment system. A member of each of the framework development committees sits on the Advisory Council.

Drafts of the first frameworks in math and science may be ready for release in May or June of 1994. Drafts of the other frameworks will be released for public comment in January of 1995. Public forums and focus groups will follow in February and March. The final frameworks will be completed in June of 1995.

According to Commissioner Robert V. Antonucci, "THE PROCESS OF REVIEW AND REVISION OF THESE CURRICULUM FRAMEWORKS IS JUST BEGINNING. THERE MAY BE 2, 3, 4, 5, OR EVEN 10 REVISIONS OF THESE DRAFTS BEFORE THEY ARE FINALLY APPROVED BY ME AND THE BOARD OF EDUCATION. In order for these frameworks to strengthen the quality of education that students receive, in order for them to be useful for classroom teachers, WE NEED TO ENSURE THAT OUR REVIEW PROCESS IS INCLUSIVE AND THOROUGH."

CONTACT PERSON RE DRAFT FRAMEWORKS AND THEIR REVIEW PROCESS IS Linda Beardsley, Curriculum Frameworks Coordinator, at (617) 388-3300 x270.

FOLLOW-UP would be to get the statewide curriculum frameworks (excerpts of some language which appears promising and useful to advocates for LGBT educational equity and inclusion appear below), to get the names and addresses of those on the implementation committees and contact them, to attend public forum and provide written and oral testimony, and in general to become intimately involved with this crucial process.

Below appear some samples of relevant and useful language [authors' note: we have added CAPITALIZATION for emphasis to language we think especially useful for LGBT inclusion advocacy] from the frameworks. These were obtained from the MA DOE WWW site. To get there, set your web browser to
http://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/default.html

(The Commissioner of Education describes the process as "this historic, first-time development of PreK-12 curriculum frameworks.")

Education Reform and the Classroom:

"Curriculum development has often been discussed separately from classroom culture and school organization. TO BE TRULY EFFECTIVE, THE EDUCATIONAL REFORM EFFORT MUST HAVE A DIRECT IMPACT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING EXPERIENCES THAT TEACHERS AND THEIR STUDENTS SHARE TOGETHER.

"The Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks focus on improving what happens in classrooms by LINKING CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT TO ALL FACETS OF THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM. These curriculum frameworks help teachers bring the vision, ideals and principles of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act, as expressed in the Common Core of Learning, into their classrooms.

What Are Curriculum Frameworks?

"Frameworks are GUIDES TO HELP SCHOOLS DEVELOP CURRICULUM GROUNDED IN AN UNDERSTANDING OF HOW STUDENTS LEARN MOST EFFECTIVELY. Teachers can use these frameworks to design learning experiences that encourage students to gain knowledge by asking questions, solving problems, EXPLORING INTERESTS AND DEVELOPING SKILLS APPLICABLE TO THEIR FUTURES AS RESPONSIBLE DECISION-MAKERS IN SOCIETY.

"Curriculum Frameworks ARE:

"Curriculum Frameworks ARE NOT:

--

"The ARTS FRAMEWORK is organized around THREE CORE CONCEPTS:

[...]

"Understanding of Cultural and Historical Contexts. TO COMPREHEND THE SOCIAL VALUE OF THE ARTS, LEARNERS MUST RESEARCH AND SYNTHESIZE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE WAYS IN WHICH ARTISTS REFLECT AND SHAPE CULTURES AND HISTORICAL PERIODS. THIS PROCESS LEADS STUDENTS TO MAKE MULTICULTURAL AND INTERDISCIPLINARY CONNECTIONS. FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT A PLAY, THEY INVESTIGATE THE SOCIAL CONDITIONS THAT INFLUENCED THE PLAYWRIGHT'S DECISIONS ABOUT CONTENT AND AESTHETIC EXPRESSION. When they create their own artworks, students mirror the richness of their families and cultural traditions, and CONTRIBUTE TO A HEIGHTENED AWARENESS OF THE DIVERSITY WITHIN THEIR COMMUNITIES.
Comprehensive PreK to grade twelve arts programs INTEGRATE THESE THREE CORE CONCEPTS AT EVERY GRADE LEVEL, and the concepts continue when the arts are used in adult basic education.

--

English/Language Arts Curriculum Framework: "Constructing and Conveying Meaning"

Executive Summary
"The Massachusetts Common Core of Learning adopted by the State Board of Education in July, 1994 states: 'All students should read, write, and communicate effectively . . . READ A RICH VARIETY OF LITERARY WORKS . . . RELATING THEM TO HUMAN ASPIRATIONS AND LIFE EXPERIENCES.' The English Language Arts Curriculum Framework affirms this and RECOGNIZES THE POWERFUL ROLE LANGUAGE PLAYS THROUGHOUT STUDENTS' LIVES.
"Students naturally integrate the language processes of reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and presenting through their EVERYDAY EFFORTS TO UNDERSTAND AND BE UNDERSTOOD. THIS FRAMEWORK ENCOURAGES TEACHERS TO PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH EXPERIENCES TO CONSTRUCT AND CONVEY MEANING that will teach them to become effective communicators.
"[...] This framework describes effective communication for all learners. IT ASKS TEACHERS TO DEVELOP CURRICULA THAT HELP ALL STUDENTS DEVELOP POWERFUL VOICES THAT WILL BE HEARD CLEARLY IN THE LARGER SOCIETY AS WELL AS IN THE CLASSROOM. Educators begin to meet this challenge when they recognize and use learners' home languages AND CULTURAL EXPERIENCES AS BRIDGES TO FURTHER LEARNING. Helping all students to become effective communicators also means responding to the many ways students learn and providing multiple pathways for learning.
"Finally, the English Language Arts Curriculum Framework is DEDICATED TO OPENING NEW WORLDS TO LEARNERS THROUGH INTERACTION WITH A RICH VARIETY OF LITERATURE REPRESENTING MANY GENRES, TIME PERIODS, AND CULTURES. This approach to literature expands learners' perspectives and develops in them an appreciation of themselves and others.

Components of the English Language Arts Content Standards

"Core Concept: Lifelong learners engage in constructing and conveying meaning by accessing, analyzing, evaluating, and applying knowledge and experiences for a variety of purposes, audiences, and situations.

--

Health Curriculum Framework: "BUILDING RESILIENCE

Executive Summary

A Vision Of Health Education: Building Resilience

"The Massachusetts Common Core of Learning, adopted by the State Board of Education in July, 1994 states: 'All students should know basic concepts of human development, mental health, SEXUALITY, parenting, physical education and fitness, nutrition and disease prevention, and understand the implications of health habits for self and society.' The Massachusetts Health Framework affirms this belief. Health education is the systematic study of the disciplines of health, family and consumer sciences (home economics) and physical education.
"The AIM OF SCHOOL HEALTH EDUCATION IS TO DEVELOP AND NURTURE RESILIENCE WHICH IS THE ABILITY TO THRIVE, PERSEVERE AND MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. RESILIENT STUDENTS ARE ADAPTABLE AND PURPOSEFUL, EVEN IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY. Health education teaches students to avoid problems like substance abuse, contagious diseases and eating disorders. Through health education, schools help students understand and demonstrate THE RESPONSIBILITY THEY SHARE AS INDIVIDUALS, FAMILY MEMBERS, AND CITIZENS TO ACT IN WAYS THAT ENHANCE HEALTH FOR THEMSELVES AND OTHERS.
"The Health Framework emphasizes three core concepts in health education, each of them rooted in the Massachusetts Common Core of Learning.
            1. HEALTH LITERACY IS THE CAPACITY TO OBTAIN, UNDERSTAND AND EVALUATE BASIC HEALTH INFORMATION AND SERVICES. IT EMPHASIZES STUDENTS' ABILITIES TO READ, LISTEN, AND THINK CRITICALLY; TO DISTINGUISH FACT FROM OPINION AND TO ANALYZE INFORMATION CAREFULLY.
            2. HEALTHY SELF-MANAGEMENT ENABLES STUDENTS TO INTEGRATE AND APPLY ESSENTIAL KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS WITH RESPECT TO THEIR OWN HEALTH RELATED DECISIONS AND BEHAVIORS.
            3. HEALTH PROMOTION AND ADVOCACY ENABLES STUDENTS TO RECOGNIZE AND DEMONSTRATE PERSONAL, SOCIAL AND CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY. STUDENTS LEARN TO TREAT ONE ANOTHER WITH RESPECT, REDUCE CONFLICT AND PREVENT VIOLENCE, and preserve the natural environment.
"These three core concepts encompass a range of traditional health content areas, from personal health to environmental and COMMUNITY HEALTH. They should be addressed through a PLANNED, SEQUENTIAL INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAM in health, family and consumer sciences (home economics), and physical education, FOR STUDENTS PRESCHOOL THROUGH GRADE TWELVE and adult basic education.
School health education, through its positive influence on the health knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors of individuals builds resilience in lifelong learners. They, in turn, help to shape resilient families and communities.

--Social Studies Curriculum Framework: "UNCOVERING SOCIAL STUDIES"

Executive Summary
"The Massachusetts Common Core of Learning, adopted by the State Board of Education in July, 1994 states, 'All students should know and make connections among important historical events, themes, and issues; recognize the role the past has played in shaping the present; and understand the process by which individuals and groups develop and work within political, social, economic, cultural and geographic contexts.' The Social Studies framework affirms this and describes social studies as the systematic study of people and societies, past and present.
"SOCIAL STUDIES EDUCATORS ARE COMMITTED TO EXAMINING AND UNDERSTANDING THE EXPERIENCES OF ALL PEOPLE: WOMEN AND MEN, MEMBERS OF ALL RACIAL AND ETHNIC GROUPS, AND ALL SOCIOECONOMIC CLASSES. In keeping with the Massachusetts Common Core of Learning, the social studies curriculum framework recognizes that DEVELOPING PERSONAL, SOCIAL AND CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY IS A KEY ELEMENT OF EDUCATION. A PRIMARY PURPOSE OF SOCIAL STUDIES EDUCATION IS TO EMPOWER STUDENTS TO BECOME ACTIVE AND RESPONSIBLE PARTICIPANTS IN A DIVERSE AND DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY and in an increasingly interdependent world.
"Mastering the ability to ask questions about topics under consideration and look for answers is at the heart of social studies education.
"DESIGNED TO HELP STUDENTS FIND RELEVANCE TO THEIR OWN LIVES: WITH INQUIRY AT ITS CENTER, SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM CAN AND SHOULD RESPOND TO THE CONCERNS OF STUDENTS. Social studies units use the key questions identified in the framework as a base, but also encourage students to identify the questions that interest them, questions that are formed in the context of students' lives.
The Massachusetts Social Studies Curriculum Framework Content Standards
Core Concept: Social Studies education teaches students to become active, responsible participants in their communities, committed to the fundamental values and principles of democracy."

========= end of excerpts from curriculum frameworks========

Massachusetts has a "new" Common Core of Learning, (URL is http://www.doe.mass.edu/edreform/commoncore/default.htm) which includes, in part, the statement that students, to meet the challenges of the 21st century, must, among other things, "will need to respect and understand people of different backgrounds in our diverse society."

The National Institute and the Governor's Commission successfully petitioned the Massachusetts State Board of Education to change the Educational Personnel Certification Codes for the State of Massachusetts to include sexual orientation sensitivity. What this means is that, as of October 1, 1994, each of the 36 higher education institutions in Massachusetts that train individuals for certification as teachers, administrators, school guidance counselors, and/or school psychologists must demonstrate to the State Department of Education that its graduates are sensitive to sexual orientation issues for students or face the loss of its certification process. Thus, Massachusetts has become the first state to institutionalize sexual orientation sensitivity training into school personnel educational programs. For additional information, call Karen Harbeck at (617) 321-3569 or the Governor's Commission at (617) 727-3600 x 312. Karen heads the National Institute for GLBT Concerns in Education, Inc., 55 Glen St., Malden MA 02148-2414, voice= 617-321-3569, fax= 617-321-9901, email= clmurray@lynx.neu.edu

The Massachusetts Department of Education offers a Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students. You can find it on the Web at

http://www.doe.mass.edu/hssss/program/ssch.html

Since 1993, the MA Department of Education has funded, via a grant, a project in which PFLAG members bring their stories to schools and communities throughout the state.

IT WOULD BE GOOD TO TRY TO EDUCATE/INFLUENCE THE MEMBERS OF THE FOLLOWING ORGANIZATION: Massachusetts Elementary School Principals' Association (MESPA, 28 Lord Road, Suite 125, Marlborough, MA 01752; Phone: (508)624-0500. Fax: (508) 485-9965) is the largest professional school administrators' organization in Massachusetts. Formed in 1926 and now serving nearly 900 members, MESPA remains the only statewide organization dedicated to the unique professional and advocacy concerns of elementary school principals and educators in Massachusetts schools. Through its educational entity MESPEF (Massachusetts Elementary School Principals' Education Foundation), MESPA develops programs in response to the needs of the full spectrum of its membership, including middle school and assistant principals, assistant superintendents, supervisors, and other allied members of the profession.

N.B. Local school board elections are held in March every year.

III. Current Context (for updates since 1995, go to http://www.youth.org/loco/PERSONProject/Alerts/States/Massachusetts/list.html):

The following, from Skip Poerteous' magazine _The Freedom Writer_ Sept. 1995 (The Institute for First Amendment Studies), is reprinted with permission.

__________________________________________________

Massachusetts school meets challenge

By Janice Doppler
During the fall of 1993, a Safe Schools Task Force (SSTF) was formed at Hampshire Regional High School in rural western Massachusetts, in response to a recommendation by the state's Department of Education encouraging schools to develop policies protecting gay and lesbian students from harassment, violence, and discrimination. The program offers training to school personnel in violence prevention and suicide prevention; and offers school-based support groups for gay, lesbian and heterosexual students; and provides school-based counseling for family members of gay and lesbian students.
Then, in March 1994, a provision protecting students from discrimination based on sexual orientation was added to an existing state non-discrimination law. In its first year of operation the Safe Schools Task Force drafted a Mission Statement on Diversity and mailed a survey to parents before beginning planning programs. Task Force members also intended to survey staff and students. Top administrators voiced strong support for the program.
The act of informing parents and asking for their opinions triggered controversy when a small, vocal group of parents insisted the program was unnecessary and immoral, and voiced fear that parents' rights would be usurped. It seems strange that this fear surfaced in response to a simple survey asking parents about their attitudes and opinions.
Those in opposition to the program used many of the typical tactics suggested by national Religious Right think tanks. For example, they sent(and continue to send) a stream of emotionally charged letters to the editor, a tactic used to create the appearance of a larger group of opposition than actually exists. They claimed to represent most parents when, in fact, no group chose them as their representatives. They frequently demanded documents from the school administration which consumed large amounts of time.
They allege that SSTF plans were made behind parents' backs. They circulated the homophobic videotape, The Gay Agenda, among school committee members, and distributed information linking "the homosexual agenda" with bringing pedophiles into the school at school committee and other meetings. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics about youth suicide were called inflammatory and were countered with information from Gary Bauer's Family Research Council, an organization affiliated with Focus on the Family. The open-meeting law was used to challenge the legality of SSTF meetings.
Other tactics used by those in opposition to the program included misrepresenting what educators say, then criticizing the misrepresentations rather than the actual statement, and quoting background material given to teachers or planning groups, then representing it as something intended for students.
Both tactics were used in a letter mailed to all parents in the school system by a group called Citizens for Responsible Education. For example, an administrator attending a Task Force meeting asked whether the program would be extended to the elementary schools. He was told it was a possibility at some time in the future, since there are students with lesbian or gay male parents in the elementary schools, but that it had never been discussed. That response was misrepresented as an intention to teach about homosexuality in the elementary schools without informing parents.
The letter also quoted background material given to SSTF members as if it were specific plans of the SSTF. In addition to this misinformation, the letter falsely charged that the Task Force was planning a "gender bender" week during which students would cross-dress.
Written and verbal attacks were leveled at the superintendent of schools and the high school principal because a Safe Schools training program at a faculty meeting was closed to the public, and at the health education coordinator, charging that she established a pattern of secrecy and deception in her administration of the Safe Schools program. In addition, a man claiming he was discriminated against because he was a heterosexual male filed a complaint against the school district with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Possibly the most difficult challenge to programs sponsored by the SSTF occurred when Northampton-based Gregory Hession of the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based Religious Right legal organization, challenged the legality of a series of assemblies planned for students during which author Warren Blumenfeld was to speak about how homophobia hurts all people in the school setting.
Hession claimed that if homosexual behavior was promoted at the assemblies, the school district would be guilty of statutory rape. He threatened to file suit to request an injunction to stop the assemblies. His threat had to betaken seriously, since in 1992 Hession filed (and lost) a lawsuit for $3.5million after a "safer sex" assembly at the high school in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.
At that point, it would have been very easy for the school committee to decide to cancel the assemblies since the small, rural school district could ill-afford to be involved in a costly legal battle. Instead of falling prey to the threat, the school committee held its ground. A litigation sub-committee was formed to deal with any legal issues growing from the Safe Schools Program, and a lawyer was retained. Hession did not file suit.
The school committee's strong stand made it possible to continue making the school safer for gay and lesbian students. Since the mid-May assemblies, there has been a marked decrease in anti-gay and lesbian name calling in the school. As the school becomes safer for this group of students, it becomes safer for all students who are different from the mainstream for any reason.
Janice Doppler is the health education coordinator for the Hampshire Regional School District. She is a member of the Massachusetts Health Curriculum Framework Development Committee. She is also a doctoral student in social justice education at the University of Massachusetts.
Copyright 1995 IFAS
The Freedom Writer / ifas@crocker.com
__________________________________________________

In May 1995, about 500 teens, teachers, and supporters marched through Boston in what was billed as the nation's first LGBT youth pride march, organized by the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth.

Even in this state which has led the way in educational equity, freedom is a constant struggle. In June 1995, in Northhampton, a town with a high proportion of lesbian residents, a coalition submitted 2,893 signatures, enough to force a referendum on a new city law allowing unmarried gay and heterosexual couples to register their partnerships at City Hall.

In late July 1995, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Falmouth public schools could distribute condoms in the nurse's office along with materials on abstinence and sexually transmitted disease. Within minutes, Pat Robertson's legal arm, the "American Center for Law and Justice", vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court to take away Falmouth's control over its own schools. "Schools have an obligation to accommodate the religious and moral teachings of parents," proclaimed ACLJ head Jay Sekulow. NOTE THIS HYPOCRISY...YOU WILL SEE IT AGAIN...AND AGAIN. USE IT AGAINST THEM. AMERICANS LIKE FAIRNESS, NOT DOUBLE STANDARDS.

In October, the city council of Cambridge, MA, adopted a resolution declaring October LGBHM by an 8-1 vote. The resolution contains a paragraph calling upon "the faculty and administration of our schools to incorporate into their curriculum activities and lessons that acknowledge the contributions of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals throughout history."
March 1, 1996, School officials announced that handouts used during a lesson on tolerance of sexual preference in an optional class no longer will be distributed at Framingham High School, because of complaints from parents and Roman Catholics. One handout identified some previous popes and cardinals on a list of famous historical gays. Another handout was a role-reversal questionnaire. "If you never slept with someone of the same sex, how do you know you wouldn't prefer that?'' is one question. "Isn't it possible you need a good gay experience?'' is another. The questionnaire no longer will be distributed, but teachers will be allowed to discuss the concept behind it. Two of the school's eight sex education teachers distributed the material to 10th grade students in February. Teachers used the same material without complaints last year, but this time 'round some parents took two students from the class and complained that the handouts were brainwashing students.
A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston said "The mention of popes and cardinals may very well reveal an anti-Catholic bias that often lies very close to the heart of those trying to force a so-called progressive sexual agenda,'' Teachers indicated that the list was intended to show students that homosexuality should not interfere with their potential. The role-reversal questionnaire was characterized by an official from the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts as "a threat to the religious freedom rights of Catholic students. For a public school to disseminate material encouraging 15-year-olds to experience homosexual sex is a reckless violation of the public trust and an egregious assault on the health, morals and well-being of the students,'' he said. Teachers got the two handouts last year at a sensitivity awareness program. They probably were not meant for students but one school official defended the teachers and the materials and said the parents who complained saw them out of context. 'When you see it out of context, in black and white, I can see how it's alarming,'' he said. "But it was handled very delicately and with sensitivity. The lesson was tolerance."

IV. Resources:

ALLIES AND YOUTH RESOURCES

http://www.pflag.org/chapters/find.html

http://www.glsen.org/templates/chapters/index.html

http://www.queeramerica.com/

V. USE OF MEDIA

There is much in this manual about how to access and utilize news media.

Why should you care about news media?

This is such a high profile issue that inevitably it becomes front page news, whether you wanted it to or not. You have to be ready to handle the media, and it is best to be proactive and put your side of the story out there first.

Get to know your area media people. Make sure you are always accessible to them. Make sure you provide them with accurate information. Be helpful to them, giving them story ideas and leads, background briefings, etc. Be persistent and polite. Remember, media are one of the most pervasive influences in our culture...they can make or break your efforts. Use them to teach the public at large, to organize, to develop allies.

Never let media inaccuracies go unaddressed...the slightest misuse of a word can change a whole story and, if let go, can ultimately ruin all your efforts.

We have provided statewide print media because the orientation of this manual is for systematic change at the statewide level in educational systems. Many smaller media outlets use wire service reports or stories from the major newspapers in their state or area. Thus, you will find that stories big and small bounce up and down the media ladder within a state. It is important to monitor media statewide, since stories, whether good or bad, spread in this multiplier fashion.

Even more important, from the standpoint of your being PROACTIVE, you will want to get the jump on the opposition by sending your releases out by fax and email to as many media as possible.

For important tips on using media and media skills, please refer to APPENDIX VI of our organizing handbook at

http://www.youth.org/loco/PERSONProject/Handbook/appendix6.html

For YOUR state's mainstream newspapers, go to

http://dir.yahoo.com/News_and_Media/Newspapers/By_Region/U_S__States/

For a searchable database for US local TV stations, go to

http://tv.zap2it.com/tveditorial/tve_main/1,1002,585|||,00.html

OR

http://dir.yahoo.com/News_and_Media/Television/By_Region/U_S__States/

LGBT PRINT MEDIA

Bay Windows (Boston MA), phone= (617)266-6670 , fax= 1( 617)266-5973
631 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118

IN Newsweekly (Boston MA), 544 Tremont St, Boston MA 02116, fax= 1( 617)426-8264, email= INNEWS@aol.com or innews@tiac.net, phone= 617-426-8246

Return to the Handbook Table of Contents

Last updated 11/17/2003 by Jean Richter, richter@eecs.Berkeley.EDU

Copyright 1995, The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project.