Help for Parents Who Feel Powerless

What to do when your child’s school conducts a one-sided “diversity” day or other homosexuality promotion.

School officials in Deerfield, Ill., upset parents by including homosexual-advocacy speakers in a mandatory freshman advisory class for kids as young as 14. The officials then ignored the parents’ complaints.

So what do you do if a school board disregards your concerns? Give up, or take a stand?

The good news is, you have the power to make your voice heard—through federal and Supreme Court rulings that have outlawed “viewpoint discrimination.”

That principle is best explained in three U.S. Supreme Court cases—Lamb’s Chapel v. Ctr. Moriches Union Free Sch. Dist. (1993), Good News Club v. Milford Central School (1993) and Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (1995).

Though these cases didn’t deal directly with homosexuality, they clarified principles that have helped parents defeat unfair policies. First of all, the Court said that when public schools open their doors to speakers or written expressions, they have created a “limited public forum”—”limited” means some restrictions on speech are allowed. Even so, those restrictions must be “viewpoint neutral”—meaning they cannot allow secular speakers, and then censor others simply because they happen to have a religious perspective.

One-sided “Diversity” Days

That double standard is often on display during school “diversity” days—events that often portray homosexuality and things like gay marriage as worthy of celebration and being embraced, while attacking opposing viewpoints as bigotry.

Activists have tried to intimidate schools by arguing that allowing speakers with a different viewpoint—such as people who’ve left the homosexual lifestyle and often have deeply held religious convictions— would violate the Establishment Clause. But the U.S. Supreme Court has actually said the opposite: “More than once have we rejected the position that the Establishment Clause even justifies, much less requires, a refusal to extend free speech rights to religious speakers who participate in broad-reaching government programs neutral in design,” (Rosenberger).

In fact, such actions actually “risk fostering a pervasive bias or hostility to religion, which could undermine the very neutrality the Establishment Clause requires.”

This principle worked for Judeo-Christian parents in Wisconsin who cited viewpoint discrimination when they complained about the Diversity Day at Viroqua High School in Wisconsin. They insisted that the school balance out the forum by including an ex-gay speaker—rather than do that, school officials canceled the event.

Another important victory is the 2003 federal court opinion, Hansen v. Ann Arbor Public Schools, against a Michigan high school. As part of its Diversity Week, the school featured a “Religion and Homosexuality” panel of religious leaders who represented a homosexual advocacy point of view. To bring some balance to that panel, Betsy Hansen, a member of the school’s student Christian club, asked permission to include a clergy leader representing her club’s perspective — or be allowed to speak on the panel.

Her request was denied. But Hansen was vindicated when the court found the school had not followed the viewpoint neutrality principle, and thus violated both her free speech rights and the Establishment Clause. The court quoted the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines ruling: “In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism.”

Homosexual-themed curricula

The viewpoint neutrality principle can also apply to what’s being taught in your child’s classroom. For instance, parents in Maryland protested a homosexual-themed curriculum that was going to be piloted in eighth and 10th grade classes.

One of the accompanying worksheets listed as a “myth” the statement that “Homosexuality is a sin.” The curriculum even went so far as to disparage specific denominations — including Baptists and “Fundamentalists.” Not surprisingly, there was an uprising in the local community.

And in May 2005, a federal court halted the proposed curriculum, because it presented “only one view on the subject — that homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle — to the exclusion of other perspectives,” (Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum v. Montgomery County Public Schools). The court also ordered the school to give concerned parents and ex-gays a voice in curriculum selection.

How can parents and students use these legal precedents? If your child’s school insists on promoting homosexuality, pay close attention to how it handles religious topics. If the school presents pro-gay theology to the exclusion of other beliefs, it’s likely violating the Constitution.

Also, begin rallying the community to request the school to include other perspectives, citing court decisions like Hansen and Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum. If your child’s library is flooded with books promoting a one-sided perspective, donate books to represent another viewpoint.

Student-led events

Recent court decisions have also empowered socially conservative students to respectfully take matters into their own hands. In recent years, students in North Carolina, Oregon and New Jersey have challenged school policies and, in each case, won the right to respond to a national homosexual-advocacy event, the Day of Silence, with their own student-led event representing a faith-based point of view. For more information, visit DayofDialogue.com

And it’s not just on the issue of homosexuality that viewpoint-neutrality principles are winning. In one year alone, public school students won four legal challenges allowing them to celebrate a “Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity.”

The bottom line is, taxpaying parents and students have a right and a responsibility to request that their viewpoints be represented in their own local schools—as well as the backing of numerous federal court rulings. So parents and students should never buy into the deception that they have to be rendered completely silent by outside special interest groups.

Written by Candi Cushman, Education Analyst for Focus on the Family. Reposted from an article originally published on True Tolerance.org in 2009.