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The PTA Chooses Sides


Warren Throckmorton, PhD
June 13, 2005


For years, the National Education Association has taken teacher’s dues money and pursued left of center social advocacy objectives. And now, another acronym in the American educational establishment, the National Parent Teacher Association has joined the NEA in choosing sides in the cultural debate over homosexuality in the schools.

As detailed by George Archibald in the Washington Times (but ignored by the rest of the national media), the PTA last year invited the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to exhibit at their convention and to make a presentation. This year, the Parent and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) wanted to share its perspective on homosexuality and school safety but was denied exhibit space at the upcoming annual convention, being held in Columbus, Ohio, June 23-26. Specifically, the PTA defended its decision by saying that PFLAG was being invited to present information concerning school safety and PFOX wanted to talk about homosexuality. This reasoning is questionable since PFOX was also going to present information about school issues.

One thing is sure, PFLAG and PFOX differ in their approaches to the issues. In the Washington Times article, Ron Schlittler, PFLAG’s assistant executive director lauded the PTA for excluding PFOX and added, “Our beliefs are superior.” Apparently, the PTA agrees.

Mr. Schlittler and the PTA believe his views are superior but what are the views of PFLAG? A sampling of positions PFLAG taken this year may cause mainstream folks to question the PTA’s wisdom.

For starters, PFLAG distributed an alert this week calling for families with “gay children” from the ages of nine through 15 to be a part of a documentary produced by a company called World of Wonder. Gay children? I am not making this up. I verified the email and found that it was sent by assistant executive director Schlittler. So here are two beliefs: PFLAG believes that children can be gay at age nine and that they should go on camera to talk about it. Are these beliefs superior? You decide.

PFLAG’s support for this film project demonstrates that ideas have consequences. PFLAG’s policies are driven by the belief that homosexuality derives exclusively from nature with no room for theories that put any emphasis on environment. Why else would you believe it was ethical to encourage children to view themselves as gay at such a young age? Is this the message we want in the nation’s elementary schools?

Another consequence of PFLAG’s beliefs is that people have no rights to pursue change in sexual identity if they desire. According to the Times article, PFLAG’s Schlittler belittled those who believe in such self-determination by calling it “snake oil.”

Another PFLAG belief reveals an irony of their involvement in the PTA conference. PFLAG does not support anti-bullying legislation unless the terms “sexual orientation” and “transgendered” are in the bill. The PTA conference is being held in Ohio where legislation is under consideration that would require all school districts to implement anti-bullying policies. However, House Bill 276 would provide protection for all students not just those bullied for reasons relating to their sexual identification. PFLAG is on record as opposing such legislation.

So let’s recap: PFLAG believes children can self identify their gayness by at least age nine; children should go on camera to discuss it; homosexuality is fixed and hardwired; and school anti-bullying laws are inadequate without reference to sexual orientation.

Now where does PFOX come down on these matters. Did the PTA choose well? Are the views of PFOX inferior to those of PFLAG?

PFOX also planned to exhibit material regarding school safety and homosexuality. The perspective of PFOX is that all students, including those who identify as gay deserve a safe learning environment. Furthermore, students at an appropriate developmental level deserve to hear all perspectives regarding homosexuality, including the view that sexual orientation is not a fixed trait. Nine year olds should not be burdened with such matters.

Brothers and sisters, we have here the starkest contrast of perspectives on an educational matter as I have ever seen. Faced with these different perspectives, the PTA could have invited both groups to the conference and let the parents attending decide what approach best fits their schools.

Many parents may not realize that when it comes to parent teacher collaborations in public school, they also have a choice. Look into the PTA versus PTO discussion on www.ptotoday.com; parents can choose sides too.
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Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of College Counseling at Grove City (PA) College. His academic work has been published by journals of the American Psychological Association and he is the producer of the documentary, I Do Exist about sexual orientation change. He has appeared on the O'Reilly Factor and numerous other TV and radio talk shows. His columns have been published by over 60 newspapers nationwide.

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