Equity & Diversity

Calif. Parents File Suit On Gay-Themed Skits

By Joetta L. Sack — March 06, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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


Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
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.
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls
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.
School & District Management Webinar
Modernizing Principal Support: The Road to More Connected and Effective Leaders
When principals are better equipped to lead, support, and maintain high levels of teaching and learning, outcomes for students are improved.
Content provided by BetterLesson

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 A School Openly Discusses Race in a State That Bans It
At Millwood High School, discussions on race are everywhere, and students say the lessons are essential.
7 min read
Students pass through the halls in between classes at Millwood High School on April 20, 2022 in Oklahoma City.
Students change classes at Millwood High School this spring in Oklahoma City.
Brett Deering for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion The Buffalo Massacre Is Exactly Why We Need to Talk About Racism With White Students
Too many white people are receiving their information about race from racist media rather than their schools, writes David Nurenberg.
David Nurenberg
4 min read
On May 15, people march to the scene of a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.
On May 15, people march to the scene of a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.
Matt Rourke/AP
Equity & Diversity Native American Children Endured Brutal Treatment in U.S. Boarding Schools, Federal Report Shows
Deaths, physical and psychological punishments, and manual labor occurred at the more than 400 federal boarding schools.
5 min read
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks at the Cherokee Immersion School on Dec. 3, 2021, in Tahlequah, Okla. The Interior Department is on the verge of releasing a report on its investigation into the federal government's past oversight of Native American boarding schools. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Wednesday, March 16, 2022, the report will come out next month.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland speaks at the Cherokee Immersion School in December, in Tahlequah, Okla. Her agency's report documents harmful conditions, deaths, and physical punishment for Native American students forced to attend federal boarding schools.
Michael Woods/AP
Equity & Diversity Early Transgender Identity Tends to Endure, Study Suggests
Children who begin identifying as transgender at a young age tend to retain that identity at least for several years, a study suggests.
2 min read
Conceptual picture of transgender flag overlaying shadows and silhouettes of anonymous people on a road.
iStock/Getty Images Plus