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Student's Harvey Milk report prompts district apology

School officials in the community of Ramona in northern San Diego County have apologized to a sixth-grade girl for refusing to let her deliver a report on gay activist Harvey Milk during class time.

Prodded by the American Civil Liberties Union, officials this week allowed Natalie Jones, 12, a student at Mt. Woodson Elementary School, to give her report.

In April, school officials decided that the Ramona Unified School District's sex education policy required them to notify parents about the report and allow them to keep their children from hearing it. As a result, Natalie gave her report during lunch time. Other students gave their reports during class time.

But after the ACLU threatened litigation, Ramona officials decided they had misinterpreted their own policy .

In a letter to Natalie and her parents, Supt. Robert Graeff and Mt. Woodson Principal Theresa Grace apologized and said they had acted out of an abundance of caution for the "tender sensibilities" of Natalie's fellow students.

"It is our hope that -- together -- we can all view this incident as a learning experience and emerge wiser from the entire experience," wrote Graeff and Grace, on behalf of themselves and the school board.

Natalie's mother, Bonnie Jones, said in a statement that, "I think if Harvey Milk were still here today, he'd be happy about how this all turned out."

Natalie said she decided to do a report on Milk, who as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was one of the first openly gay politicians to hold office in the United States, after seeing the movie about him starring Sean Penn.

--Tony Perry in San Diego

Comments () | Archives (12)

Well done Natalie!!! So Ramona Unified School District, kids aren't allowed to know gay people exist??!! Since when did public schools engage in "Don't Ask. Don't Tell"???

Natalie and Mama Bonnie....you both rock!!!!

Once again, are parents going to be warned ahead of time and have a choice to have ther children opt out of homosexuality subjects because of their core belief against such lifestyle? OR, is the homosexual community going to continue to sell us this B.S. notion of how their life won't affect straight people or their childrens' lives? Which one will it be?

good job young lady

Since when do Natalie, Mama Bonnie and the Ramona School District have the RIGHT to present sexual material to fellow school mates without notifying the school mates' parents? I suppose if Natalie and Mama Bonnie had chosen to write about Sasha Grey, she would have been able to show a few clips of Grey's movies or her website offerings.
Parental rights have been usurped by every governmental and quasi-governmental agency in this country to the point that they hardly exist any more. It is the parents' RIGHT to teach their children about sexual matters WHEN, WHERE, and HOW they please -- regardless of the desires of the ACLU and its pervasive intrusions into every aspect of our private lives. The people of Ramona should recall the School Board, fire Graeff and Grace and reclaim their Constitutional RIGHTS!

so what was the content of the essay? did it have references to sexual behavior? seems to me unlikely a 6th grade girl would add such references. no, it was merely the conservative christian community silencing something they didn't want to hear. good thing they got nailed for it. three cheers for the ACLU! now i know why we send them money.

I actually called and left a message on the school's answering machine when this first broke.

I told them that they should be ashamed of themselves, and that they needed to get out of the 1950's mentality that they were stuck in.

What a disgrace.

So are people who are against this girl being allowed to make her report saying that no person who is gay can be a legitimate role model, or a contributor to the good of the nation?

It also occurs to me that anyone assuming a sixth-grader's report is going to have anything resembling "sexual material" really needs to examine their own head. Straight or gay, the first thing I think about when I meet or hear about someone is not what they do when they have sex. Why are anti-gay people so obsessed with gay sex? Do they imagine straight people having sex too? Should they perhaps consider reading a book, or occupying themselves with something worthwhile?

Harvey Milk was a man of great courage who was murdered fighting for the civil rights of Americans. I'm glad young kids know who he was and respect the sacrifice he made.

I do not want my 12-year-old child subjected to gay propaganda about a deviant. If you want your child to learn about this kind of person, do it at home. I'm not interested in my tax dollars supporting gay propaganda.

I felt it important to denounce anyone who refers to "homosexual propaganda"... To denounce ones intimate design (which includes eye color, sexuality, skin tone) is inhumane and evil. All loving life expressions are real and everyone is as entitled as is the law of gravity. I understand aggressive ignorance is still taught and passed down to willing recipients - but peace is so close... Live your life as you are designed - and allow others to express (healthily) their lives as they were created.

The greater evil here is teaching our children intolerance and how to discriminate.

Thank you Jeff for your incitement commentary. For those of us who are tolerant let us remember this: Harvey Milk did not want to turn your children gay. He was not a manifestation of Satan hoping to drive our country into the seventh layer of hell. He was a man who wanted the same rights that applied to straight American citizens to apply to gay American citizens. He was a hero not just to homosexuals but to anyone who believes in the words "we the people." If it is wrong for homosexuals to live like you or I, Jeff, than may god strike me dead before I can post this.

I teach sixth grade humanities and my students and I used this case as an opportunity to express our concerns about free speech rights, censorship, and the misrepresentation and miscategorization of Natalie's project. Whatever your views on the case or on gay rights or on gay rights being taught in schools, I urge to visit the ACLU website and read all the documents that are available for the public to view - including Natalie's actual presentation, and all the accompanying letters to parents, etc. I think this will be especially enlightening to those of you who have posted ignorantly and aggressively that students should not be taught about sex or "gay propaganda" in school.

I showed my students her presentation and used it as a teaching tool to illuminate the historical life and political accomplishments of Harvey Milk as part of our school's Pride Week celebrations. After viewing the wonderfully detailed, thorough and accurate presentation, I asked my students if they knew who Natalie Jones was. Naturally, they didn't. I explained to them who she was and went onto to explain to them the details of how she was not allowed to give her presentation because it fell under the "sex education" category, thus requiring parental permission to view. I hope that you would all agree that the presentation has absolutely nothing to do w/ sex education. My students unanimously agreed that it did not have anything to do w/ sex, sex education, let alone gay sex.

We wrote letters to the principal explaining our views and were delighted to hear that Natalie was issued an apology and was allowed to present her report to the class.

That said, if you read the apology letter from the school to Natalie, you will not get the sense that the school district has made any true shift in what it believes in, but rather was covering itself from the potential legal and PR backlash it would continue to get from any further interactions w/ the ACLU. Similaly, the letter to the parents of students in Natalie's class did not show any shift in attitude or acceptance.

This is too bad. The feeling and tone from the lettes seems to be more a "phew, glad we're done w/ all this nonsense, and now we can move on. . ."

Bottom line is this: Should we not teach our kids about MLK because he was straight and had sex (he did, you know - he has children). His public and political life has nothing to w/ sex, just as Harvey Milk's doesn't. Both men were advocating advancement for historically underrepresented peoples in our society, and their importance in history should not be ignored and suppressed. It's silly, ignorant, homophobic and hateful to think otherwise.


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