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Student's Harvey Milk report prompts district apology

June 11, 2009 |  2:54 pm

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