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School disciplines students for using the term 'gay'

OneNewsNow.com | March 22, 2007
Allie Martin and Jody Brown

The president of the Pacific Justice Institute says officials at a California public school are having their free-speech rights violated in the name of "tolerance" for homosexuals. The school, he says, could soon find itself facing a lawsuit for telling elementary children they cannot use the word "gay" in a derogatory manner.

Last month, administrators at Gibson Elementary in Fresno informed parents that students would be disciplined for using the word "gay" in a negative fashion. A fourth-grader at the school has already been suspended for saying "that's gay" during a soccer game -- a phrase school administrators claim constitutes "sexual harassment" -- and another student was sent to the principal for a similar infraction.

Brad Dacus is president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), which recently sent a letter to school officials, informing them of the constitutional issues at stake -- and demanding they reverse the policy, or face the consequences. Dacus says the "broad, arbitrary approach" being taken in Fresno "seems more focused on normalizing homosexuality than on combating actual harassment."

"This amounts to not only a free-speech violation," says Dacus, "but a clear breech of parental trust, in that it engages an open endorsement of homosexuality and suppression of students who think differently."

Matthew McReynolds, the PJI attorney who wrote the letter to the school, says the anti-harassment policy "sounds a lot like the thought police are back on the prowl" in public schools. "It's one thing to teach kids to be respectful," says the attorney, "[but] it's something else entirely to enact a regime where only positive viewpoints of homosexuality are allowed -- and that is what we're concerned about here."

Dacus explains that the concern is valid; similar guidelines, he says, could soon be in place throughout the nation. "School districts often follow what California is doing," he laments, "and the teachers union organization [National Education Association] is in many states across the country -- and this is exactly the kind of thing that they inevitably support."

The PJI president says both the federal and state constitutions provide broad protections for student speech.

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