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Schools don't plan to observe Gay History Month, officials say NEA denies it instructed teachers to celebrate


Baltimore area school officials and the National Education Association quashed rumors and a possible controversy yesterday by denying plans to celebrate Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual History Month in October.

A survey of Baltimore area school systems shows they have no plans to celebrate despite assertions from a conservative women's group that the NEA called on teachers to observe the event.

Parents prompted by a mailing from Concerned Women for America and by radio talk shows have been calling some area school systems asking whether plans have been made to observe the month.

School officials in Harford, Howard, Frederick, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties each said they have received from one to a dozen calls from people questioning whether the month would be observed. Baltimore and Carroll County school officials said they have not had any inquiries.

Dale Livingston, whose daughter is a first-grader in a Harford County school, said she heard on a radio talk show that the month would be celebrated in schools.

"I would have been extremely upset about it, because that is not an issue that the school board, the teachers or any administrators has a right to address," said Ms. Livingston.

Sean Casey, host of a morning show at WCBM, said the station received a facsimile of a CWA article, which he read on the air yesterday. The article included in a monthly mailing to CWA members states that the NEA passed an official resolution at its July convention "calling on teachers in every school district of the country to observe October as 'Gay/Lesbian History Month.' "

The observance could include "classroom and hallway displays, special viewings of films on homosexuality, and guest speakers" in kindergarten through 12th-grade, according to the article.

But that's not what the NEA said it wants. Its resolution on sexual orientation education applies only to training for educators, not to observances in schools, said Melinda Anderson, an NEA spokeswoman.

"The facts are the NEA resolution does not direct schools or our members to observe October -- or any other month -- as Gay and Lesbian History Month nor will NEA be distributing materials for school use during this month," according to an NEA statement released yesterday.

A Montgomery County elementary special education teacher, Bonnie Cullison, a member of the gay and lesbian caucus of the NEA, said gay and lesbian history "is an area of diversity that has just been completely ignored." The resolution was motivated by concern for the violence, intolerance and increased potential for suicide that gay and lesbian students face, Ms. Cullison said.

Concerned Women for America is opposed to any support for a Gay and Lesbian History Month, according to Christine O'Donnell, the organization's press secretary.

But observing the month in schools could help students who are struggling with issue of homosexuality, said Jack Travis, president of the Baltimore Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual History Month was founded by a St. Louis high school teacher and was first observed last October, according to Kevin Boyer, a member of the board of directors of the Chicago-based Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual History Month Project.

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