A coalition of education and mental-health organizations is mailing out a new booklet that it says will help teachers and administrators create a safer school environment for gay and lesbian students. The booklet takes direct aim at therapy- and religion-based programs that seek to change individuals’ homosexual orientation.
The 12-page booklet, “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel,” was mailed last week to superintendents in the nation’s nearly 15,000 public school districts. It outlines the “factual and scientific information” on homosexuality endorsed by major health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association, and urges school administrators to deal openly with issues of homosexuality.
The mailing was produced by the Just the Facts Coalition, which includes the AAP and the APA, as well as the American Association of School Administrators, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers.
The booklet describes the isolation felt by many homosexual teenagers, and those confused about their sexual identity, and their increased risk of failing in school or becoming the target of threats and violence. The booklet also denounces “reparative therapy” and “transformational ministries,” whose proponents believe that homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be reversed through counseling and prayer.
Guide Draws Criticism
“I think that people who understand that homosexuality is part of society, that there are gay kids, and that they have significant health and safety risks [know] we need to do something positive,” Clinton W. Anderson, an officer for lesbian, gay, and bisexual concerns for the APA.
But the Family Research Council, a Washington-based organization that promotes traditional family values, and other conservative groups have condemned the booklet.
“We don’t want the classroom to be turned into a political diatribe,” said Janet Parshall, the chief spokeswoman for the council. Ms. Parshall said that because many religions teach that homosexuality is wrong, teaching acceptance of gay and lesbian lifestyles tramples on the religious beliefs of some students.
Mr. Anderson of the APA said districts should use the information in an appropriate manner.
A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 1999 edition of Education Week as Group Issues ‘Facts’ on Gay Youths