Equity & Diversity

Calif. Parents File Suit On Gay-Themed Skits

By Joetta L. Sack — March 06, 2002 3 min read

A group of parents is suing a California district for authorizing what they call pro-gay skits for elementary-age children without notifying parents.

But the Novato Unified School District says that the skits, part of a larger program to discourage bullying and name-calling, have been taken out of context.

The skits, called “Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry,” were performed by a San Francisco-based group, Fringe Benefits, last spring. The group designs performance skits on a wide variety of topics, including tolerance of homosexuality and cross-dressing.

District officials said two schools invited Fringe Benefits to perform skits after receiving recommendations on the group from the Bay Area Discovery Museum for children. One of the skits chosen, they said, centered on a girl who was being teased because her brother was gay. It was shown to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

The skits were chosen “in light of some tragic things that have happened in schools,” said Dainne Pavia, a spokeswoman for the 7,500-student district just north of San Francisco. “Kids do get bullied in schools, and we have to make sure our schools are safe. It was not a pro-acceptance agenda.”

Brad W. Dacus, the president and chief counsel of the Pacific Justice Institute, a Citrus Heights, Calif.-based group that filed the suit on behalf parents on Dec. 10, said school officials did not notify parents of the performance.

A group of parents went to the school at a later date and asked why the district had not complied with the parents’ “opt out” requests kept on file for keeping their children out of such performances, but the parents were told that “many of the forms were missing,” according to the group.

“This is a case of parental rights,” Mr. Dacus said. “If school districts are going to go down the path of controversial social engineering, they need to be willing to pay the price for stepping on the rights of the parents of children who attend that school.”

Protection vs. Promotion

Mr. Dacus said the institute is also concerned that a school-safety law passed by the California legislature in 2000 could lead districts to adopt pro-homosexual and pro-transsexual instruction.

That law requires districts to protect students from harassment and discrimination, including abuse related to homosexuality, said Bill White, the director of safe schools for the California education department.

But the law does not require schools to teach about homosexual practices, he said, adding, “Novato is charged with doing what is necessary to keep kids safe.”

One parent praised the school district for addressing such issues. Grace Bartee, whose daughter was in the 5th grade last year, decided to attend a performance after seeing an advertisement for the event in the school’s weekly newsletter.

“This wasn’t about sexual education, this was about anti- discrimination education,” Ms. Bartee said. “What impressed me was that the skits were not only very age appropriate, they were very diverse.”

The skits touched on a range of topics, from racial and gender discrimination to students with disabilities, she said.

For instance, one skit, called “Double-Dutch,” showed a boy and two girls skipping rope at recess, she said. Two other boys who were playing football taunted the boy, and refused to allow the girls to play football. In the end, Ms. Bartee said, all the children decided to try out the others’ sports.

Another skit was based on true stories of a boy with autism who was being teased by classmates, she said, noting that the skit was written by his mother.

“I didn’t see anything about sexual practice or sexual preference,” Ms. Bartee said of the program.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as Calif. Parents File Suit On Gay-Themed Skits


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion Are Our Schools Any Closer to Equity?
Schools are trying to focus on equity, but a slew of new legislation is preventing that focus from becoming a reality.
Sean Slade & Alyssa Gallagher
4 min read
E20D8BC6 ED5F 43B7 817C 5FA00DCA5904
Equity & Diversity Spotlight Spotlight on Critical Race Theory
In this Spotlight, learn what critical race theory is, what it isn't, and how it's a practice, not a curriculum.
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion I Am an Indian American Man. I Had Anti-Racist Work to Do
When adults reflect on who they are and where they come from, their awareness leads to better learning outcomes for their students.
Anil Hurkadli
5 min read
Abstract drawing of the profile of a head, clouds of thoughts and radiance from the eyes.
Elena Medvedeva/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Equity & Diversity American Indian Mascots Will Soon Be Banned in Colorado Public Schools
Colorado would become the fifth state to get rid of derogatory mascots.
Saja Hindi, The Denver Post
2 min read
Students walk into Loveland High School, past a sign at the entrance bearing the image of the school mascot, a Native American, in Loveland, Colo. on Sept. 11, 2014.
Students walk into Loveland High School, past a sign at the entrance bearing the image of the school mascot, a Native American, in Loveland, Colo.
Brennan Linsley/AP