JANESVILLE, Wis. – Janesville school board member Bill Sodemann fully supports all efforts to curb bullying in public schools, regardless of who’s being bullied or for what reason.
But someone in one of the district’s high schools managed to turn an anti-bullying theme into a pro-gay marriage theme, and Sodemann thinks that went too far.
Sodemann and the rest of the school board were aware that Craig High School planned to have a so-called “Day of Silence” April 12 to protest the bullying of openly gay students, or those suspected by classmates of being gay.
The day was sponsored by the school’s Gay, Straight and Lesbian Alliance, a student-based organization.
But Wednesday morning Sodemann learned that most of the students in the school had spent their Advisory class time on that day watching a video called “Kids Respond to Gay Marriage,” which clearly promotes the concept of gay marriage.
The 15-minute piece features K-12 students of various ages being interviewed about their thoughts on gay marriage, with the vast majority saying they approve. Several of the students also mocked people who disapprove of gay marriage and suggested they are somehow out of step with modern culture.
The video included written captions at the bottom of the screen promoting the idea of gay marriage. It was clearly intended to convince young audiences that gay marriage should be legal and accepted.
The problem is that gay marriage remains a political issue very much in dispute in many states across the nation, and there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue.
A written statement at the beginning of the video even acknowledges as much, saying gay marriage “continues to be an issue not just in the United States but around the world.”
Yet somehow the video was cleared to be played for the entire student body, without any response from those who have a different point of view.
This is yet another example of progressive educators using their classrooms to promote what they call a “social justice” agenda. Many have been trained in college to believe they have a responsibility to teach students the “correct way” to think about certain issues, regardless of what parents think.
This is a problem that occurs every day in public schools across the nation. It’s further exacerbated by teacher union contracts that give teachers a great deal of “academic freedom” to teach the topics they choose any way they choose.
Sodemann believes that the video goes too far in promoting gay lifestyles to children, and thinks parents should have been alerted about the presentation, so they could have decided whether they wanted their children to see it.
He also believes that political issues should be kept out of the classroom unless both sides are equally represented.
Sodemann said he talked to district Superintendent Karen Schulte and she agreed that the video should not have been shown.
“Supposedly the purpose (of the special day) was to call attention to bullying, and we have no objection to that,” Sodemann told EAGnews. “People shouldn’t be bullied no matter what their beliefs are. The ironic part is that this video bullies those who hold traditional views on marriage.
“It appears that the administration agrees with me and will ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Sodemann and other board members learned about the video when they received a copy of a letter sent by an angry grandparent to Dr. Alison Bjoin, principal of the high school.
The grandparent, Jo Yungerman, had apparently already met with Bjoin to discuss the video and was not satisfied with the explanations she heard. Yungerman offered the principal a video with a different point of view on gay marriage, but apparently it was not accepted for use by the school.
“When news of this video came to my attention, I found students with families that have no church or religious affiliation were upset about this” the letter said. “These families believe gay marriage to be wrong … This fact brought other questions to mind. What about Muslim students? Do you know what their faith believes about homosexuality? … What about students of other faiths?
“Even this is overshadowed by the fact that you continually commented about how strong and active the (Gay Straight Alliance) is at Craig High School. Is that the philosophy of Craig High School – the strong and powerful clubs can run with their agenda while the quiet and weak have no say?
“I have continued to contact teachers within the school and have been told by some that this is a video that they would not want their own children to see. Some chose not to show the video in their Advisory (classes) – still it was shown by most. You and I discussed this when we talked and when I asked why this happened, you did not answer.
“I would also like to express my regret at my request to show a video that counters the view of the pro-gay marriage video. I was wrong. Two wrongs would not make this right and it would further divide the students. I hope the goal of the administration is to unite students – something this video did not do. A letter or some other form of communication is in order. Parents have a right to know what their children have been exposed to – especially at the approval and hand of the school administration – that is when critical thinking and learning will take place.”
EAGnews left a detailed message with Principal Bjoin and Superintendent Schulte Thursday morning seeking comment, but neither returned the call.