- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2002

A bill that would bar teachers from teaching about homosexuality in Vermont's public schools has been stalled and will most likely die in the state legislature.
Some bill supporters say the measure's demise was arranged by state legislators who felt it would be politically incorrect to stop such teaching.
The bill was stalled in the state's Republican-controlled Education Committee when last week its members informally voted 10-1 against moving the legislation forward for debate before the state House of Representatives. The committee has six Republicans and five Democrats.
Sponsored by a Republican state representative, the bill would forbid any school district employee to encourage, promote or sanction homosexual or bisexual conduct, or instruct, counsel or advise a student that a homosexual or bisexual orientation is innate or unchangeable.
The bill's primary sponsors, state Reps. Nancy J. Sheltra and Carl J. Haas, and several other legislators blame the stall on Republicans whom they say feel this year would not be an "appropriate time" to stop schools from promoting "a homosexual agenda."
In 2000, Vermont passed a civil-unions law that granted homosexual couples all the rights and benefits of "marriage."
"Forget political correctness," Mrs. Sheltra said. "Let's take advantage of the opportunity that we have on hand now that can do away with this agenda. We don't want vulnerable young children to be inundated with this type of agenda."
Rep. Neil Randall, a Republican who supports the bill, said those legislators who support the bill are afraid to express that support publicly, especially during an election season. All of the Republicans on the committee are up for re-election in November.
"It's all about politics and being re-elected," Mr. Randall said. "Everybody in our state is upset about this. What's sad is that this has nothing to do with the majority. This is about a small group of very vocal people who have got a good machine going to stop this bill from going forward."
But bill opponents said they oppose telling local schools what to teach.
"This has nothing to do with politics," said state Rep. Howard Crawford, a Republican who is the Education Committee chairman. "I just believe that curriculum issues should be dealt with on a local level. All curriculum should be left to local control."
Members of homosexual rights groups such as Outright Vermont said the bill never had "any feet to stand on."
"It would only be damaging to young people, and it would encourage harassment of gay students at schools," said B.J. Rogers, the group's executive director.
Mrs. Sheltra began working on the bill two years ago after she learned that some school districts, with help from homosexual groups, have been promoting an agenda that helps students deal with their sexuality.
There are also four Health Education Resource Centers, which get part of their budget from federal funds, where teachers can go and obtain materials to educate schoolchildren about homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism.
Jason Barney, a Republican who opposes the bill and is the committee's vice chairman, said he is also concerned about some of the material in the centers. But he said that material is not easily accessible to students.
According to Mrs. Sheltra, a number of schoolchildren as young as 6 have already been exposed to such material. In one case, a first-grader brought home a book called "Heather Has Two Mommies." In another case, a high-school teacher asked one of her students if he was homophobic and whether he thought he may be gay when the student disagreed with her that homosexuality was "an inherited trait."
"Children aren't taught how to smoke and drink in school," Mrs. Sheltra said. "Why should they learn about behavior that can ruin or even end their lives if they get sick with AIDS?"



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