Fairfax County Virginia Schools fail in equal access
NEWS RELEASE February 8, 2005
Ex-Gay Support Group Urges Fairfax County, Virginia Schools to Give Equal Access to Ex-Gays
Contact: Regina Griggs, PFOX Executive Director, 804-453-4737, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fairfax, VA – In a letter to high school principals in Fairfax County, school board member Stephen Hunt has recommended that the public schools host ex-gay speakers. “The school board censured Mr. Hunt, but we support ex-gay speakers in our schools because Fairfax County public schools have a history of discriminating against the ex-gay community,” explained Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX).
Almost three years ago, then-Superintendent Dr. Daniel Domenech met with two activist groups, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) and PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays), to implement homosexual presentations and materials throughout the schools.
“The school superintendent agreed to designate a ‘contact person for issues concerning gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning youth,’ distribute PFLAG brochures, conduct ‘sensitivity training for staff,’ and help gay groups propose workshops and assemblies for students,” Griggs said. “However, the school superintendent refused to meet with ex-gay representatives. Perhaps he was influenced by GLSEN's policy of encouraging public schools to censor ex-gay materials.”
“As result, Fairfax County public schools have promoted gay issues while censoring ex-gays,” Griggs explained. “For example, James Madison High School invited a homosexual to address students on ‘the rights of gay adoption.’ The speaker was formerly married with children but is now living with a man. He and his male companion could not have children together, so he told the students that gay couples should be allowed to adopt children,” Griggs said. “Yet the principal refused to grant equal access to an ex-gay speaker.”
“In addition, history students could get extra credit by attending PFLAG discussions, but PFOX was excluded,” Griggs continued. “The principal did not notify parents about these speakers so parents were unaware of what their children were being taught, and this topic was not reviewed by the Family Life Curriculum Advisory Council.”
Robert Rigby, Jr., a gay Fairfax County teacher and a director of the local GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) school clubs and GLSEN, participated in a picket with students against an ex-gay conference being held at a church. “The picketers used bullhorns to shout hateful remarks and carried an effigy of a nude woman,” said Griggs. “The teacher, who is also a coordinator of the Fairfax County Safe Schools Coalition, opposes our attempts to include ex-gay books and presentations in the school curriculum, although he endorses gay books and gay presentations.”
“The ex-gay community deserves tolerance and equal treatment,” Griggs said. “Fairfax County public schools should not promote some sexual groups (gays, bisexuals and transgenders) while discriminating against others (ex-gays). Our ex-gay teachers should not be censored. We urge the school board to allow ex-gay speakers and presentations immediately.”
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FCPS Superintendent letter:
Daniel A. Domenech, Superintendent
Burkholder Administrative Center
10700 Page Avenue
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
May 31, 2002
Robert Rigby, Jr.
Fairfax County Safe Schools Coalition
P.O. Box 41745
Arlington, Virginia 22204
Dear Mr. Rigby:
Thank you for your May 1 letter in which you shared your understanding of the decisions that were made during our April 11 meeting. On May 28, I met with Alan Leis, Brad Draeger, Alice Farling, and Nancy Sprague to express my support that we make every effort to ensure that all students and employees are treated with respect and provided a safe learning and working environment.
Dr. Farling will be the contact person for issues concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LBGTQ) youth. She will assist you in distributing the final version of the Northern Virginia Resource Guide to guidance staff and school psychologists and distributing brochures from the Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to guidance staff.
With regard to sensitivity training for staff, our new employee orientation does address all forms of employee and student discrimination. Dr. Draeger will review the information presented at the orientations to ensure that the message is clear about our expectations. Additionally, Dr. Sprague and her staff will develop an academy course to address LBGTQ issues. As part of our mandatory updates for Leadership Team and school-based administrators during the Leadership Conference in August, the addition of sexual orientation to the SR&R's anti-harassment policy will be reviewed and reinforced.
You are certainly welcome to present LGBTQ-interest books to our school libraries and to propose workshops and assemblies for students; however, in both cases established procedures must be followed. For your convenience, I have attached a copy of Regulation 6760, Attachment N, which provides the guidelines that all schools must follow in developing the collections in school library media centers. Although the decision regarding which workshops and assemblies are presented in schools is strictly made at the discretion of the individual school principal, presentations on sexual topics must be reviewed and approved by the Family Life Curriculum Advisory Council.
Both Dr. Farling and Dr. Sprague will be in touch with you to discuss, in more detail, the issues related to their departments. By working together, I am confident that we can raise the awareness of our employees to these sensitive issues.
Daniel A. Domenech, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Maryanne C. Warrick