Thursday, March 06, 2008

The anti-gay industry beats up on Deerfield High School (again)

Last year (last year this month in fact), members of the anti-gay industry attacked a high school in Illinois, claiming that not only was it "indoctrinating" students into homosexuality, but also that it was "forcing" students to sign a confidentiality agreement to keep said indoctrination from being found out by their parents. Here are the facts:

At Deerfield High School, there is a program that is geared to helping students adjust to high school. One component of this program is a panel discussion that includes speakers from the school's gay/straight alliance. These students talk about such things as being bullied because of their orientation.

Parents were able to opt their children out of the program.

The alleged "confidentiality agreement" was an agreement between the students that they would not discuss the program with other students who did not attend. The agreement said nothing about keeping details from parents. It is as follows:


Every person keeps what comes up in class confidential, unless it is dangerous to do so - that is unless a situation in class requires us to get outside help.

We do not repeat what someone says in class outside of class except if we have permission of the person that said it.

We will not continue a conversation outside of class without permission from all the people that were involved during the class.

Bottom line: What happens in our classroom stays in our classroom.

Exceptions to the confidentiality in which case (the teacher's name - I will not repeat it) will get outside help are:

If someone in the class reports being hurt;

If someone reports that they are hurting someone else; or

If someone reports that they are hurting or want to hurt themselves

The agreement was a part of a larger list of rules those participating in the program agreed to follow. Other rules included courtesy and respect for other expressed opinions.

Now omitting (who are we kidding - ignoring) these facts, Peter LaBarbera and other members of the anti-gay industry made a huge stink. As far as I know, their lies didn't get far.

So apparently they rested for a year and began attacking the high school again about another matter:

Deerfield High School outside Chicago Offers Homosexual Pornography To Students

And what is this pornography you ask?

Why it's the Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, and Emmy Award winning play by Tony Kushner, Angels in America.

Neither Peter nor the group he is supporting in this matter (North Shore Student Advocacy) is giving details as to what exactly is going on. All they are saying is that the school is giving homosexual pornography to students via English classes.

Which is ironic because they are encouraging parents and others to write in to complain based on the miniscule degree of information they are providing them.

And to back up their "claims," they have included graphic portions of the play.

It reminds me of what young girls used to do to Judy Blume's Forever when I was in middle school.

Angels in America is not pornography. It is a thought-provoking moving series of plays about the beginning of the AIDS crisis. And the only problem Peter and company have is with the gay aspect.

In digging more, I found the following information:

The books were part of required reading until NSSA filed a formal complaint with the school, asking the books to be reviewed by committee. The committee decided to remove the books from required reading but continued to offer them in the classroom as an optional title. “Optional Title,” according to the principal, means that the student may select the books to study with peers and be guided by the adult, male teacher. A parental permission slip will be required but without full disclosure of the sexually explicit content. This conclusion is unacceptable to the complaining parent and to NSSA. They are asking that this pornographic book be removed from curriculum completely.

After contacting the State’s Attorney’s office of Lake County, Illinois, they deemed the books “obscene” according to Illinois obscenity laws, violating the “distributing harmful materials to minors” statute. But, state and federal obscenity laws exempt schools and libraries under “affirmative defense” so it becomes impossible to prosecute a teacher or school.

So apparently Peter and company didn't let folks know that the books are optional titles. Can you say censorship?

What's next? To Kill a Mockingbird because it contains racism? Or how about The Chocolate War because of it's unhappy ending?

No doubt folks will try to use this to not only censor high schools but to attack lgbts yet again.

To me, that is the real travesty.

I commend Deerfield for standing firm last year and I hope that the high school will not be bullied this year.

UPDATE: I have just rejected a comment by someone who thought it was thought-provoking to post the graphic comments of Angels in America I alluded to earlier in this post.

I rejected it for two reasons. First, the attempt to get a viceral reaction from me is immature.

The second and most important - to illustrate just why the moral panic over this situation is not necessary. Just as I was able to reject those comments, students were not required to read Angels in America. It was an option.

Again, I repeat, no one was forcing the students to read Angels in America. That's the beauty of this country. No one can force you to do anything you don't want to do.

So to that poster who tried to leave the comment - nice try.


Anonymous said...

This conclusion is unacceptable to the complaining parent and to NSSA. They are asking that this pornographic book be removed from curriculum completely.

This is a curious statement given that most complaints like this are filed on the basis of "parental rights." By insisting that book be completely removed rather than making it an "optional title," these individuals are actually infringing on other parents' rights who might actually want their child to study such material.

It just goes to show how disingenuous the whole "parental rights" argument really is.

Joe Brummer said...

Peter seems upset that high school students are being exposed to this, but has no problem with those same students reading the bible which has far more gruesome stuff in it. Incest, murder, rape, slaughter, animal cruelty.

Angels in America - too graphic
Bible - just fine despite the violence, sex, murder, incest, baby killings,etc...

Anonymous said...

Alex, to what age group is the book made available? Is it only seniors/ over 17?

I followed the link to the text quoted from the book and I have to say, I found it very graphic. I would certainly be somewhat disturbed if my daughter asked me if she could read this text or any similarly-graphic heterosexual book at any earlier age.

There are many other books out there which deal with gay issues - I have read and wept at 'The Front Runner' and other such books - but I do cringe at the wisdom of such a n explicit choice of reading material in a school.

I say this as an avid reader and supporter of your blog, as well as Pam's Houseblend and Box Turtle Bulletin. My husband is preop transgendered, and we also have many friends within the gay community. The anti-gay industry certainly needs to be fought with all effort, but I am not sure that an issue like this is going to wash well with those who still remain on the fence.

A worried but supportive mom,


BlackTsunami said...

Hi! First, let me say thanks for the support.

I understand totally about the ponts you make. I think though that the issue has been pushed to the point of hysteria.

It's not enough for folks to say that Angels in America has some disturbing passages. They are calling it racist porn, which is just ridiculous.

That tendency to engage in hyperbole is not exactly going to help their cause. Lastly, from what I understand, the book is offered in A.P. Senior English, Level I; not exactly unintelligent freshmen being "forced" to read porn

Anonymous said...

Also, let's not forget that Deerfield High School actually accommodated parents who didn't want their kids reading Angels in America. Not only did they make it an optional title for study in the course, but they required that students who opt to do so get parental consent.

The NSSA and company just decided that wasn't good enough. They don't want any kid reading their book -- even though what other parents' kids read isn't their call. They want people to get fired over this.

In short, they got what they said they wanted, only to reveal that what they're really out for is blood.

I hope that people on the fence notice that fact.

BlackTsunami said...

I didn't know about the parental permission slips. That only makes things better. That needs to be added to my blog post.

I have a feeling that if this is the case, Deerfield's administrators and teachers can take a "we did everything we were supposed to do so you all can go to Hades" attitude.

And frankly, I don't blame them.

Lily said...

I am a proud DHS alum and studied Angels in America last year in the class in which it is currently being taught. No one made a fuss about it last year. In fact, it was one of the most thought- and discussion-provoking texts we read all year. It was only taught to the class in the Advanced Placement Senior English class (it was, I believe, an independent read in other classes), and as a result was only read by 17/18 year olds who had some intellectual maturity (not to say people who aren't in AP classes aren't mature, but in general, AP classes were very focused on the learning). It's disappointing to see such a great educational opportunity come under fire like this.

Anonymous said...

I am in the AP English class in question and have chosen to read the book.

Many of the articles make a fuss about how this book was "required reading." What they fail to point out is that there is ALWAYS the opportunity to opt out of reading a book if you or your parents are truly offended by it. It's not well-publicized, but it's there.

Some articles went as far as to say that forcing this book on us was "child abuse," which I think is patently ridiculous.

1. This cannot be child abuse because we are not children. Everyone in the class is eighteen or close to it. We can see similar things in R-rated movies; why can't we read about them in a class where we can discuss them in a mature and intelligent manner? If we are of legal age to vote for president and to die for the country, I should think we are capable of deciding what we believe and what we want to read.

2. If parents are trying to protect us from the issues discussed in the book, they must know that their efforts are doomed to fail. We all know that homosexuality and racism exist, and any parents who think their darling angel couldn't possibly have used or at least hear the "objectionable language" need to pull their heads out of the sand. These issues are out there, and refusing to let us read this book in class will not change that. If anything, more of us are likely to go out and read this book just to see what all the fuss was about.

For those have or are tempted to connect this to the SAGA Advisory pannel and say that the school is forcing homosexuality down our throats, I disagree. The freshmen are not asked to agree with the panel members and their decisions. They are asked to respect them, as we are asked to respect all of our peers. My English teacher has not told us his views on homosexuality, much less tried to convince us to agree with him. The hate mail he has received is unjustified.

Because we were not allowed to read the book without having a parent sign the permission form, I talked with my mom about the book. Our conversation was very short. She told me that I was eighteen and could make my own decisions. I wish all parents--not to mention the NSSA--had as much faith and respect for their children.

BlackTsunami said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BlackTsunami said...


thank you for your very mature letter. It's a shame that so many adults choose not the act the same way in this matter.