Over a four-day period in April of 2018, students attending Emmaus High School in Emmaus, Pennsylvania were made to view videos picked by the Gay-Straight Alliance, an organization led by students.
One of the videos educated students about the concept of gender fluidity, which refers to the assumption that the categories of male and female don’t exist. Other videos included “9 Questions Gay People Have About Straight People” and a series of clips promoting “marriage equality.” Despite receiving requests to receive links to the pro-LGBT videos from disturbed parents, administrators at the school district have refused to do so.
In a letter to the school district, one parent wrote, “My son expressed to me that he felt bullied by the administration for being a heterosexual man and being forced to listen to LGBT advocacy on a daily basis.” In another letter, a different parent said, “Since when does a public school in the United States of America have the right to block a parent and tell them they will not allow them to see the controversial partisan programming they are requiring their children to watch? We have every right to expect that our children are not being subjected to partisan indoctrination in our public schools.”
On May 2, 2018, Principal Kate Kiers issued a letter of her own. The Emmaus High School Principal remarked that the school board solicitor informed parents, “these videos cannot be sent to you, because they are part of a student project.”
But, according to Kiers, students didn’t even make the videos. They reportedly found them online. In her letter, the principal stated, “They were not created by the students in the communications class, but were pulled from YouTube and other online sources by the students in our GSA club and sent to the TV studio as part of their ‘Day of Silence’ project…I also learned that this practice was not new this year. Similar videos have been shown during the week leading up to the ‘Day of Silence’ for at least the past four years.”
On June 12, 2018, Michael Schilder, East Penn School District superintendent, informed The Morning Call, “Student work and student expression must always be protected. A parent or member of the public has no right to view or access a student’s term paper, speech, or multimedia project just because he or she objects to the topic.”
Richard Mast, a lawyer with the Liberty Counsel, a non-profit litigation, education, and public policy group that concentrates on First Amendment and religious liberty rights, disagreed with Schilder’s remarks. In a June 22, 2018 letter addressed to Schilder, Mast wrote, “This is a gross violation of parental rights. It does not pass the straight face test for the District to claim it need not provide parents with the actual video links, although the District required more than 2,800 students to view these videos, with no prior notice to parents, and no opportunity to opt-out.”
Mast insisted, “the Pennsylvania Administrative Code requires that the District provide parents the opportunity to review all instructional material shown to their children, prior to it being shown. This is particularly important where the material discusses matters of sexuality, as the videos in question did. Parents have the ‘right to have their children excused from specific instruction that conflicts with their religious beliefs, upon receipt by the school entity of a written request from the parent or guardians.'”
“It would be convenient indeed if school districts could bypass all public records laws and parental notice and consent requirements for objectionable content, by finding a willing ‘student group’ to ‘select’ the material for them,” the attorney added.
During a recent school board meeting, Aidan Levinson, the high school student who vetted the videos, stated that the multimedia presentation wasn’t forcing a homosexual lifestyle on anyone. However, Diane Gramely, President of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, inquired, “Would the school allow the opposite view to be presented to the students?”
It’s really something to think about.
~ 1776 Christian