Parents protest gay-themed school plays
By Ellen Sorokin
The Washington Times
February 21, 2002
A group of parents is suing a public school district in Novato, Calif., for allowing their elementary school-age children to see pro-homosexual plays at school without any prior notice or parental consent.
The parents charge that their constitutional and civil rights to the free exercise of religion and to direct the upbringing of their children were violated when their children saw the presentations at school assemblies in the Novato Unified School District last spring without their consent.
" It just seems like there's no room for any parents who don't agree with the school district's social agenda, " said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, a legal defense organization that is representing the parents in the lawsuit.
" That may be fine for Hitler's Germany or Stalin's schools, but it's not fine for schools that are in a democratic country, " Mr. Dacus said Tuesday.
The lawsuit is of particular importance in California, where state legislators in 2000 passed a law mandating that public schools there address homosexuality. The California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act required educators to revise state curriculum in such a way that students would be able to acknowledge homosexual, lesbian, transgender and bisexual historical figures and events.
The presentations exposed children between second and sixth grades to skits containing homosexual and lesbian themes. The skits were performed in February and March of 2001 at Pleasant Valley Elementary School and San Ramon Elementary School in Novato, a city in Marin County, Calif.
One skit, in which a boy named Jack wears a dress, talks about cross-dressing. Another skit deals with homosexuality, in which a female character runs off with a princess instead of a prince, according to lawyers who represent the parents.
School officials said yesterday they could not comment on the lawsuit or the program, called " Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry. " " Cooties, " an expression that in elementary-school circles refers to members of the opposite sex, are defined by the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang as " an imaginary microbe or repulsive quality thought to be transmitted by slovenly or obnoxious people. "
Dianne Pavia, director of public information for the Novato school district, said the Novato community suffered two hate-motivated incidents in 1998, one in which a racial comment was directed at a student during a sports event. The other incident involved battery against someone perceived to be homosexual.
" Providing a safe environment in our schools for everyone has and will always be our main priority, " Miss Pavia said.
The presentations were followed by question and answer sessions about what constitutes " normal " families and acceptance of those who choose the homosexual lifestyle.
Parents claim in court papers they had, at the beginning of the school year, signed " opt-out " requests that allow their children not to attend such presentations throughout the school year. But their children saw the skits anyway and the parents claim they were never notified of the Cootie Shots assemblies, Mr. Dacus said.
When the parents asked school officials why the school district had not complied with their opt-out requests, school officials said many of the forms were " missing, " according to court documents.
Mr. Dacus said his clients are not against homosexuality. However, he said, the fact that the school district ignored the opt-out forms steps on parental rights. " When the school board pushes an agenda that is in complete disregard for the rights of parents, then it becomes a principle of justice, " Mr. Dacus said.