- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Education Secretary Margaret Spellings urged 1,700 National PTA members yesterday to lead the way toward increased parental involvement in schools, but sidestepped the PTA’s embrace of a pro-homosexual advocacy group at its yearly convention here.

“The PTA is an organization that can help tackle negative issues head-on,” Mrs. Spellings told state delegates in the gathering’s keynote speech.

Asked at a meeting with reporters whether increased parental involvement was encouraged or discouraged by the National PTA’s taking sides on the sticky issue of youth sexuality, Mrs. Spellings said, “Those are issues that local community and state officials deal with. The federal role must be about the neediest kids and raising the level of academic achievement.”

Linda Hodge, the National PTA’s outgoing president, also declined to comment on whether the organization’s embrace of a group called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which holds a convention workshop today on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender issues in schools, was appropriate.

The PTA rejected the exhibitor application of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), which recently won a ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr. against a Montgomery County sex education program that PFOX claimed “discriminates between religious sects in that it prefers those sects that are friendly to the homosexual lifestyle.”

The PTA’s board of directors on Thursday voted to ratify exclusion of PFOX from its formal convention program, but the group rented a conference room in the adjoining Hyatt Regency Hotel for a teach-in about its differences with PFLAG’s encouragement of middle- and high-school students to adopt a homosexual identity, if that is their choice.

Mrs. Hodge would not explain why the National PTA embraced PFLAG’s positions but was unwilling to include discussion of views on youth homosexuality by both PFLAG and PFOX. “We think that PTA’s position is to work for all children,” she said.

Warren Throckmorton, a clinical psychologist and professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, moderated the PFOX teach-in, which was attended by PFLAG Executive Director Ron Schlittler.

“A 10-year-old who is experiencing confusing new [same-sex] attractions and [is] out of the mainstream is going to be frightened and want guidance” in school, Mr. Schlittler said. “Kids need a safe place to sort through their questions.”

Mr. Throckmorton said it was wrong to encourage young students into a “gay identity” track. “Young people are very confused about their sexuality,” he said. “A great deal of change occurs between middle school and adulthood.”

He said if sexual orientation issues are to be taught in school, “then opinion should be distinguished from fact and all opinions should be considered.” He called on the National PTA “to reconsider its choice to present only one point of view to its delegates and members.”

Erika Henderson, who runs a PFOX chapter in Iowa, said her son struggled with same-sex attractions, but at school “he was only referred to gay-affirming organizations and he was never offered ex-gay resources and that it was possible to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.”

Greg Quinlan of Dayton, a former homosexual and founder of Pro-Family Network of Ohio, attended the meeting with his wife, Cheryl, a former lesbian.

“The Parents and Teachers Association decision to snub PFOX and deny them exhibit space at their convention here in Columbus is a direct assault on myself and to those who have left homosexuality,” he said.

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