Pro-gay group seeks support at PTA convention

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The goal of safe-schools programs on behalf of children with same-sex attraction should be to “encourage them in their identity,” workshop presenters for a pro-homosexual group told delegates at the national PTA convention.

“Most gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) kids do not feel safe in school,” said Roy Gilbert-Higginson, deputy director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). “They stay away, they truant, they don’t get value of an education.”

The Rev. Lawrence Rezash, pastor emeritus of St. John’s United Church of Christ in Dayton, Ohio, said PFLAG has developed a program for school staff awareness and “interventions,” with the help of Centerville High School and Wright State University, to increase acceptance of homosexuality and eliminate harassment in schools.

“There are so many subtle ways that school administrators, counselors and teachers can let GLBT students know they are welcome and accepted,” Mr. Rezash said. “Put a rainbow ribbon on the school counselors’ bulletin board.”

Mr. Rezash said he makes school staff aware that students as early as elementary and middle school age are confused about sex and sexuality. He said some boys feel “transgendered” — that they are girls trapped in a male body, while some girls wish they were male.

To help address the issue, PFLAG in Dayton has run workshops for school staff “to increase awareness of GLBT students, their families and the issues pertaining to them in the school environment,” said Frederick Peterson, assistant professor at Wright State.

Goals are “to develop support for diversity,” he said, and “interventions to prevent harassment of sexual-minority students and how to effectively do that.”

Mr. Peterson also said he brings in a “transgenderite” friend who had “gender reassignment” surgery to turn from male to female 10 years ago, which the professor attended.

“This is a veteran, a world-class martial arts athlete who was made fun of and beat up as a young boy,” the professor said. “He comes in and makes a presentation that students will not forget in a long time.”

Teachers get one hour of continuing education course credit toward their master’s degree for attending the 20-hour two-day weekend workshop, “which is the part that brings people in,” Mr. Peterson said.

Mr. Rezash said PFLAG in Dayton sought support through a friendly assistant superintendent of public schools.

“We are targeting school administrators as champions,” he said.

Attendees at the packed workshop at the Greater Columbus Convention Center largely supported the presentation, but at the end, delegate Mary Sloan, PTA vice president in Mississippi, stood up to speak against the pro-homosexual effort until she was cut off.

“I don’t know why you need to teach this in the schools,” Mrs. Sloan said.

Afterward, Mrs. Sloan said the PTA in her state had lost 14,000 members — half its numbers — because of strife over school, cultural and political issues.

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