St Paul, Stillwater, Edina, Duluth, White Bear Lake and other Districts have the same program. "Tolerance means having a Man and a Woman for a Daddy and Mommy is Wrong." The Homosexual Way is the priority in teaching diversity.
The scene last Saturday at the Interdistrict Downtown School in Minneapolis was straight out of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. A group of black mothers and their supporters stood shoulder to shoulder, demanding what they called a decent education for their kids.
But the story has a 2006 spin.
Gena Bounds, a mother of three, described it this way: "On September 15 I gave my kids a big hug after school, but something was clearly wrong."
Bounds' 7-year-old daughter, Darriell, explained the situation to her mother. "She told me that her teacher had read the class a book about a girl with two moms," says Bounds. "Then he told them that he's gay and that he and his partner are adopting a child, and the child will have two dads. Now Darriell thinks the school is telling her she needs to believe that two daddies or two mommies is the same thing as a mom and a dad."
Was this just a little detour from reading and math? No. "Asha's Mums," the book that Darriell's teacher, Peter Sage, had read, is part of a diversity curriculum called the "Families All Matter" book project.
"I don't object to the teacher's sexual orientation," says Bounds. "But my 7-year-old is too young to understand these issues. I teach my children about family matters myself, and this isn't what we believe."Families All Matter" encourages children to "explore diversity issues through reading." It includes children's books on topics such as racism, disabilities and "GLTB family members," according to aMaze, the organization that sponsors it. Mary Ann Bradley, the organization's director, says that aMaze has sold curriculum guides to schools in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Stillwater, White Bear Lake, Edina, Duluth and many other districts.
She adds that she is often unaware of how they are used.
"Families All Matter" suggests that children should learn about homosexuality at an early age. For kindergartners, there's a book called "Daddy's Roommate." For first-graders, there's "King and King," in which a prince unsuccessfully searches the world for a princess. After he experiences "love at first sight" for another prince, they marry and live "happily ever after."
Laura Bloomberg, the school's principal, says that teachers choose the books they want to use from the curriculum, and may not read them all.
FeLicia McCorvey Preyer, who has second-grade twins at the school, was also incensed about "Families All Matter." Before the school year began, she told Sage and school officials that she didn't want her children reading books with homosexual themes, she says. "They knew my wishes and they defied them," she adds.
"Families All Matter" is supposed to teach tolerance. In fact, says Bounds, her daughter has learned that people who believe that a mother and father are best for a family are discriminatory.
After Sage read "Asha's Mums," he "told the class that his grandfather had believed that black people are stupid," she says. "He said that other adults had helped him see that his grandfather was a bigot." The implication? That parents who don't share Sage's views on family matters are bigots too.
Sage touched a nerve by claiming the mantle of the fight against racism for his own agenda, says Preyer. "I'm appalled that he, a white man, would use that tactic to push his views on African-American children."
But Bounds and Preyer are most upset at the school's message that kids don't need to listen to their parents when the school and the parents disagree. "The school is undermining my authority as a parent, at a critical, formative stage of my daughter's life," says Bounds.
School officials reacted with indifference, even "arrogance," to their concerns, say Bounds and Prior. Administrators failed to inform them of their legal right to review the curriculum, and refused to reassign their children to another classroom. Officials told them to consider withdrawing their children or enrolling them in a private school.
Bloomberg, the principal, says that data privacy concerns prevent her from commenting on individual family situations at the school. She said that the school has a diversity mission, and that she often assumes that families who choose the school are aware of it.
There's a real irony here. Bounds and Preyer are battling to instill a sense of respect for their authority as parents, and to pass on their sense of right and wrong to their children.
But they say the school does not appreciate that. Preyer puts it this way: "They treat me as if my beliefs are the problem."
Katherine Kersten • Star Tribune