Federal Federal File

Open Letter

By Vaishali Honawar — March 01, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

It’s been more than a month since controversy erupted over the “Postcards from Buster” TV show’s episode featuring two Vermont families headed by lesbian couples. But Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who objected to the “lifestyles” that children would be exposed to in the episode, continues to hear from Buster’s supporters.


In one of the highest-profile responses, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of only a few openly gay members of Congress, wrote to Ms. Spellings and accused her of “meanness.”

“I am sorry that young people all over this country who happen to be gay or lesbian have now learned that the person who has been picked by the president of the United States to help with their education has such a fundamentally negative view of their very existence,” Mr. Frank wrote in the Feb. 11 letter.

In January, Ms. Spellings wrote to the Public Broadcasting Service to express her concerns about the episode of “Postcards from Buster,” a children’s show that receives federal money under the Department of Education’s Ready to Learn program. (“Federal Grant Boosts Educational Television, Faces Fresh Scrutiny,” Feb. 9, 2005.)

She requested, in strong terms, that if PBS aired the episode, it should remove the Education Department’s seal and return the federal funds used to produce it.

PBS decided not to distribute the episode to its member stations and said it would use the money to make another episode. WGBH, the Boston public-television station that produces the show, aired the episode, as did several other public-TV stations.

Rep. Frank said the “strong implication” of Ms. Spellings’ objection to the episode was that the existence of same-sex couples “is something from which young children should be shielded.”

He went on to note that he has shared his own personal relationships with his three “loving siblings” and their children and grandchildren.

“My nieces, nephew, and great-nephews at early ages have in no way been harmed by knowing that I have shared my life with another man,” Mr. Frank wrote. The secretary’s attitude, he argued, endorses the idea that gays and lesbians “ought to be shunned in various ways.”

“For the secretary of education of my country to hold such an attitude is of course profoundly disturbing not just to me, but to many, many others,” Mr. Frank wrote.

An Education Department spokewoman declined to comment on whether Ms. Spellings had read the letter or intends to respond.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 02, 2005 edition of Education Week


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.
Data Webinar
Working Smarter, Not Harder with Data
There is a new paradigm shift in K-12 education. Technology and data have leapt forward, advancing in ways that allow educators to better support students while also maximizing their most precious resource – time. The
Content provided by PowerSchool
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
Deepen the Reach and Impact of Your Leadership
This webinar offers new and veteran leaders a unique opportunity to listen and interact with four of the most influential educational thinkers in North America. With their expert insights, you will learn the key elements
Content provided by Solution Tree
Science K-12 Essentials Forum Teaching Science Today: Challenges and Solutions
Join this event which will tackle handling controversy in the classroom, and making science education relevant for all students.

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

Federal Miguel Cardona Should Help Schools Push Parents to Store Guns Safely, Lawmakers Say
More than 100 members of Congress say a recent shooting at a Michigan high school underscores the need for Education Department action.
3 min read
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the residence of parents of the Oxford High School shooter on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the Crumbley residence while seeking James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP
Federal In Reversal, Feds Seek to Revive DeVos-Era Questions About Sexual Misconduct by Educators
The Education Department's decision follows backlash from former education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other conservatives.
4 min read
Illustration of individual carrying binary data on his back to put back into the organized background of 1s and 0s.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal Biden Administration Lays Out Its Top Priorities for Education Grants
The pandemic's impact and a diverse, well-prepared educator workforce are among areas the administration wants to fund at its discretion.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on Aug. 5, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a White House briefing.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal Opinion How Uncle Sam Writes the Rules for Schools
Former Education Department adviser Michael Brickman explains how negotiated rule making works and why educators should pay close attention.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty