by Cindy Beal
[about the author]
Uploaded on May 2, 2000. Last updated May 4, 2000.
An investigation into the allegations contained in the article
State sponsored conference featured detailed sexual material"
posted on http://www.massnews.com/maygsa.htm
Funded by Legislature and covered up by local school officials
The gay community 'having its way' with schoolchildren"
Available at http://www.bridges-across.org/ba/tidh/camenker_email.htm
This report is an investigation of the charges made by Brian Camenker and Scott Whiteman about the content of a workshop that was given at GLSEN conference on March 25, 2000 at Tufts University. Mr. Whiteman, Executive Director of the Parents’ Rights Coalition, subsequently wrote a letter/affidavit to the District Attorney of Middlesex County demanding that the three workshop leaders be investigated for the "corruption of minors" and alleging that the Department of Education had liability for said "corruption of children." (available at http://www.americansfortruth.com/glsen_affidav_final3.htm )
This report will address the following:
Although I have no way of knowing who is reading this webpage, the people originally intended as my audience are a number of conservative Christians with whom I am in dialogue. My request to you is that you read here carefully. You have all had more than a week to sit with the original article as distributed on the internet and be shocked and appalled with the picture drawn for you. The authors of the original article had defined the playing field for this discussion. In order to maintain clear and contextual accuracy, and to be sure that the reader gets a clear picture, (especially where my understanding of the playing field is that it’s nearly as different as an ice rink…) I need to be very detailed in my account of what I have discovered. Although this piece may seem long to the reader, I actually believe there may be sections that I have not devoted enough attention to. I am also uploading this document prior to getting every single question answered, so I recommend people return often for updates, clarifications, and more in depth information.
We currently live in a world where politics is done by making things
seem simple when they are actually quite complicated.
The article, "Kids Get Graphic Instruction In Homosexual Sex" is written with an exceptionally high level of inflammatory rhetoric that I am attempting to avoid in this response. However, I need to point out that without utilizing provoking rhetoric, it is relatively simple to miss the forest for the trees. I request that people closely examine the material presented here.
I fully expect that most conservative Christians reading this material will still find much to disagree with – I don’t think that correcting factual errors will lead conservative Christians suddenly say, "Oh, alright then, I didn’t understand…" I do however believe that it will enable us all to separate ourselves from the visceral reaction created by such things as 25 usages of the word "child" in reference to post-pubertal youth, and by statements such as that at the closing of the email version of the article.
"For the reporter and the music teacher, this "conference" was a shock that can barely describe. One wonders if it was like American GIs who first approached the concentration camps. People had heard stories and rumors. But no one could imagine it was like this. It was a mind-numbing experience.It is not my intention to address differences in values and understandings of sexuality education, but simply to provide as much factual information as possible for the context in which we can then discuss these value differences.
The Massachusetts News article states "On March 25, the Massachusetts Department of Education, the Governor’s Commission, and GLSEN co-sponsored a statewide conference at Tufts University called "Teach-Out."
This is inaccurate. It was not. It was sponsored by GLSEN and Project 10/East.
It was not sponsored by or funded by the Massachusetts Department of Education or the Governor’s Commission for Gay and Lesbian Youth. The conference was funded in total by registration fees and private donations and contributions. The mere fact of availability of professional development credits is not sponsorship. In addition, two of the presenters who are employed at the Office of HIV/AIDS Program at the Massachusetts Department of Education work there in a program wholly funded by the Centers for Disease Control.
I asked Margot Ables to recall for me what was involved in the workshop. The quotes are of her recollection.
The three presenters were invited by GLSEN to lead a workshop in which students would be able to ask questions they could not ask in their local schools. Given that for the most part sexuality education in schools is driven by a heterosexual definition of sex, and it is not safe for gay students to come out or even appear to be gay by asking questions specific to their own lives, this was intended to be that opportunity. A great part of "safer sex" education is providing youth with full information about sex and sexuality.
The overarching model of the workshop was a typical one recognizable by any of us who do any workshops for youth on any subject -- to have the youth bring up issues, let them answer the questions for one another as much as possible, and then correct misinformation or add crucial information.
A brief comment on how the workshop was "infiltrated."
The authors of the article state in the unedited email version of this article that they "infiltrated" the workshop. That’s not technically correct. The workshop had been listed as a closed workshop for youth only, but the youth present agreed to let the adults present remain. The adults who were present were present with permission, but the workshop was explicitly stated to be confidential, and the taping of it was neither requested nor permitted. GLSEN has subsequently sent Whiteman a letter demanding he "desist from any further distribution of the unlawfully obtained audio tape." The Washington Times article on the April 28 press conference held by Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth reports that Whiteman declined to desist, and warned, "These are dangerous times for your children in the public schools." The offer of the tape is not included in the Massachusetts News article.
The workshop leaders opened the workshop with some context of why such a workshop was necessary. A "small political piece about working with youth about getting their voices heard" to speak for themselves what they want to be taught in sex education.
The students were asked what was the climate and politics around sex education, and who did they think made the decisions about what went into sex education. It is rarely the youth themselves who are able to say what they want to learn. It’s adults who decide for them. The students were asked, "where’s your voice in this?" They discussed funding for programs, and the tremendous availability of funding for abstinence education, which is largely ineffective for promoting behavior change; and the few schools that will participate in inexpensive and effective condom availability programs.
The introduction told the students that because of politics of sex education,
and who controls the information, that they got "very few opportunities,
because of politics, to get your questions answered, and we want to give
you a chance to learn what you want to know."
Context – Gay Relationships and Dating
They were asked what of these things might be different for gay youth? The students responded that certainly finding out if someone liked you was harder, ‘cause you had to find out if they were gay without coming out or embarrassing them or anything. You might be really excited about it, but not able to talk to your family about your excitement or that you’ve met someone you’re interested in…
It was in the context of this conversation, when students were talking about kissing or being sexual at the end of a date that the students brought up the questions about, "How do you know if you've had sex? How do you know if you’re a virgin? (I pause here to mention to the participants of the Bridges-Across webforums that we engaged in just this discussion for one of our gay members who started a thread "What is sex?" since he wished to remain chaste until he established a lifelong committed relationship. It is a natural thing to ponder given the traditional definition of sex as penile-vaginal intercourse.)
The educational method utilized in this workshop was to put the question back to the students, and they responded, with support and prompting from Mr. Gaucher, who responded with drama and humor in helping them say out loud what they were thinking.
Role Plays -
Ms. Ables told me that they found the role-plays to be less successful than they had hoped. They asked for volunteers to play two characters - 1) a lesbian who wanted to become sexual and went to talk to 2) her GSA advisor. The young lesbian was played by a young man who didn’t know what language to use, or what "lesbians do." While he was trying to act the role of this young woman, he used the slang term "carpet munching." That term was later replaced with the proper technical and more respectful terms.
Ms. Ables reflection on the role-play was that it got "silly" and the students began to focus on silliness and theatricality rather than on the content. "The kids came to talk about questions they have that haven't yet been answered."
Anonymous Question Cards
Ms. Ables provided me with a list of the questions they asked, which she had typed up because the teachers who were present at the next workshop felt it important to know what gay youth wanted to know.
"These are typed as written originally by the students.
Ms. Ables described Michael as an actor, very dramatic and entertaining. She said that youth love him because he presents information in a lively and humorous manner. He did most of the education on about where and how to you get tested for HIV, the different kinds of tests there are for HIV, on HIV/AIDS treatment, and responded to questions about transmission risk for different people, sexual practices and lesbian sex. At one point he was writing on the board demonstrating the differences between the Western Blot and ELISA tests.
The youth seemed to have a good understanding of the importance of safety in sexual activity. One of the questions was, -- "Is it rude to spit after oral sex?" One of the students answered "whether or not it's rude, it's good HIV prevention to not swallow."
There was a long talk about how to make decisions around sex activity and how to decide when to begin sexual activity. They didn’t talk about abstinence in this context, but "postponement." They talked about not making a decision to enter any sexual activity until you're ready, and discussed how someone might know that they are ready. They discussed that for some people sexual activity has feelings attached to it, and for others, it’s just physical. They discussed the context of making decisions about sex, with knowledge about what those choices were about sexual activity and emotional maturity and other things. Ms. Ables reports that they asked the youths, "How do you make those decisions? As you think about it, you might find it’s not the right time for you."
There were a couple of subjects in which they purposely avoided making or implying value judgements. The questions when to become sexually active, what is fisting, and a question about sadomasochism were answered as factually as possible to avoid stigmatizing anyone in the room who participated in those behaviors, and to maintain the educational atmosphere that there is no shame in asking questions or talking about anything. Therefore, both Mr. Gaucher and Ms. Ables described the practice of "fisting" in an accurate way.
As with all the questions, they turned it first back to the students.One student said that fisting was "slamming your fist up into somebody." That is a factually inaccurate statement, and they didn't want that kind of judgement and image left in the minds of these youth, so they both answered it – "not to encourage it -- we gave them clear messages that some people like it and most don’t." That "it's not painful and we didn’t want people there or their friends to be judged" on the basis of inaccurate information.
They responded the same way when there was a question about sadomasochism. "We made it clear that for some people that's what they're interested in, and for many people it's not what they want to be doing. We didn't want people who engage in non-traditional activities to feel judged, but in no way did we say ‘go out and try this' because we wanted to make people who weren't interested in it to feel just as good and not judged [for their decision not to participate in these activities.]"
One question asked by the youth was "Is oral sex better with tongue rings?" Another youth answered, "I have one. My girlfriend has one. It is."
One young woman stated at one point that people don’t even know what vaginas look like, and jumped to the board to draw one. It was "anatomically inaccurate." The presenters made a joke about the size of the clitoris so as not to embarrass the student, and then corrected the misinformation.
They talked about at what age most gay kids have sex. They talked about the statistics from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey – (http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/survey99.htm ) and asked the students why they though gay kids had sex at a younger age than their heterosexual peers. The students primarily hypothesized that it might be because of the isolation, or ignorance, or acting out, only one student said that she became aware of her desire, thought it was a good thing and wanted to try it.
"One kid asked about resources – he said he was sexually active at 14 and now at 15, he was thinking that he was disconnected from people as people" and was thinking that he needed to not be sexual. He asked after about dating, how to find a community, how to find a boyfriend. He was supported in choosing to not be sexual, and "after the workshop Mr. Gaucher went with him to the table and connected him with peer support groups for gay youth."
THE WORKSHOP ENDED BY ENCOURAGING THEM TO FIND ADULTS THEY could talk to and ask questions to.
Ms. Ables responds to charges that this is gay activists infiltrating our schools by telling me that in 7 years working for the Department of Education this is the 3rd time they’ve done a workshop with youth. This kind of workshop would not be done in a Massachusetts classroom with any sex education curriculum – in fact that is why this workshop was done.
The most glaring overall error in Camenker and Whiteman’s article is the combining of programs, government departments, and private advocacy organizations in misleading ways.
Although the article says, "the Massachusetts Department of Education,
the Governor's Commission, and GLSEN co-sponsored a state-wide conference
called "Teach-Out,"" "state-sponsored conference," and "taxpayer-funded
conference for educators" (internet version) in fact, this conference was
NOT co-sponsored by the Department of Education. Continuing education
credits were provided, and three presenters worked for government agencies,
but no funding money or sponsorship was provided.
Who were these presenters, and what is their intention and why
Two of the presenters of the two workshops mentioned in the article
are employees of the Massachusetts Department of Education AIDS/HIV Program,
which is not funded by Massachusetts taxpayers, but by the CDC.
This is what they do :
"The HIV/AIDS Program is funded by the Centers for Disease Control to support local school districts in providing effective K-12 HIV, STD and pregnancy prevention in the of comprehensive sexuality education. The HIV/AIDS Program provides training and technical assistance to health coordinators, teachers, nurses, counselors and administrators on a wide range of HIV- sexuality-related topics. Some of these include: HIV education policies; confidentiality; parental notification; condom availability; how to support HIV-infected students and staff; HIV treatment and prevention updates; targeting students at high risk; program planning, implementation and evaluation; curriculum development; classroom strategies; and building support for HIV and sexuality education .
The Program oversees a number of contracts aimed at developing strategies for reaching students at high risk for HIV and to bring HIV-infected speakers into classrooms to share their personal experiences. The AIDS Advisory Panel and AIDS Program Advisory Panel (made up of school personnel, youth experts in the field of HIV prevention) give input into the Program's planning and activities."
"We focus on giving messages to meet the unique needs of youth who are at greater risk"
Ms. Ables informed me that in her 7 years with the Program, this is probably the third training she has done directly with youth. Her work is primarily comprised of working with educators and administrators around policy and implementation of educational material. She informed me that "the work we do is targeted HIV prevention with groups of youth that the CDC tells us to [target], based on Surveillance Data and the populations the CDC determines to be at greater risk. We focus on giving messages to meet the unique needs of youth who are at greater risk. Gay youth is only one population we work with." She discussed the importance of doing education that was age appropriate, "we would never do a workshop like this with elementary children."
The targeted youth groups currently assessed to be at greater risk of contracting HIV, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are currently ranked FIRST in risk level by the Massachusetts HIV Prevention Planning Group (MPPG), a CDC mandated advisory body, which annually prioritizes populations most at risk for HIV infection.
Adolescents at Risk (age 13-24)
Michael Gaucher, as a consultant for the Department of Public Health
HIV/AIDS Bureau, has a responsibility to act in accordance with the following
mission statement. "The HIV/AIDS Bureau assists in preventing the spread
of the AIDS epidemic and the development of appropriate, cost - effective
health and support services which will maintain patients in the least restrictive
setting. In order to accomplish these goals, the Bureau is comprised of
four programmatic units:
The Prevention and Education Unit’s "purpose is to develop supportive
relationships with a network of community based providers in order to deliver
targeted, effective, sustained, and theory-based AIDS prevention interventions
to individuals at high risk of HIV infection. The overall goal is
to reduce the levels of HIV risk behavior among these individuals, to reduce
the incidence of new HIV infections, and to address the factors that contribute
to risk in those communities." http://www.state.ma.us/dph/aids/overview.htm
According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all new HIV infections are occurring in people under the age of twenty-five. While great progress has been made since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, every half-hour another young person contracts HIV. Also, about 3 million teens contract an STD each year.
The CDC also reports that 7.2% of American youth initiated sexual intercourse before age 13.
Ms. Ables describes her job as to "encourage schools to use effective up to date curricula - based on behavior change data" – curricula that actually results in youth engaging in fewer risky sexual behaviors.
Adults are often uncomfortable with the kinds of information youth already have, and therefore with the kinds of information they seek – as well as our discomfort with how young youths are beginning to be sexually active. I recall being appalled three or four weeks ago as I flipped channels at 3 p.m. to see NYPD Blue in re-run with a heterosexual sadomasochist accidentally strangled while doing auto-erotic self stimulation in restraints hanging from the ceiling. I recall being appalled when a friend who is a counselor at a school in Massachusetts told me of the discovery that 7th grade girls were regularly attending parties with 8th, 9th and 10th grade boys, getting drunk and having group sex.
The level of sexually explicit material, sexist portrayals of women, and violent material that is available to children and youths in prime time and on MTV is unacceptable to me. I join some of my conservative friends in boycotting advertisers on The Howard Stern Show.
It is not gays who are sexualizing our culture. It is not gays who are creating media messages that avoid mention of safe sex, and it is not gays who choose to advertise Viagra on television but not condoms.
The Media Research Center released a study of sex and violence on television,
and only one of their markers was about sexual orientation. Others
included "On a per-hour basis, sexual material was, overall, more than
three times as frequent in '99 as it was in '89." "References to genitalia
were more than seven times as frequent in '99. The rate of
foul language in '99 was more than five and a half times higher than that
of '89." "In '99, UPN aired more offensive content on a per-hour basis
than any other network. One UPN show alone, WWF Smackdown!, was responsible
for more than 11 percent of the combined sex, cursing, and violence in
the '99 study period."
Adults are often comfortable assuming our youth remain child-like innocents well into adolescence. We don’t want to know that by 12th grade ½ of all our youth will have become sexually active. We want to provide them with sex education curricula that we are comfortable with. This tends to be either not much information, or using curricula that gives information as scientific facts in a detached, scientific manner. The reality is that more than scientific information is needed in order to lead to behavior change.
An example of the facts not influencing behavior would be police DARE programs. They have been proven to not effect the drug use that youth choose, yet as a society we continue to fund these ineffective programs. I believe it is because they are non-controversial programs. They don’t make us uncomfortable, and therefore, we are happy supporting them.
Effective HIV/AIDS Education
"Most adolescents in this country know a considerable amount about the
risks of unprotected sexual intercourse and the methods of preventing those
risks. For example, nearly all youth know that unprotected sexual
intercourse can lead to pregnancy or STD, and most know that condoms can
be obtained at stores and provide protection against pregnancy and STD.
They learn that and other information through a variety of sources, such
as their school sex and HIV education programs, the media, their parents
and other adults, their peers, and others. Indeed, innumerable studies
have demonstrated that sex and HIV/AIDS education programs do increase
There is an easy to reference summary of what kinds of HIV/AIDS education
leads to actual behavior change titled, "What Are the Characteristics of
HIV Education and Prevention Programs that "Work" and "Do Not Work""
Early AIDS education was primarily clinical facts presented in a scientific context, but not a sexual one. In 1989, "a random survey of 860 Massachusetts adolescents 16 to 19 years of age, Strunin and Hingson report that 70% of the respondents indicated they were sexually active, yet only 15% reported changing their sexual behavior because of concern about contracting HIV. Indeed, only 20% of those who changed their behaviors had used effective methods for risk reduction. (Strunin L, Hingson R: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and Adolescents: Knowledge, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behaviors, Pediatrics, 79:5, 825-828.).
Abstinence-based programs work for people who remain completely abstinent, but they do not work for people who choose not to take that advice, which we now know is nearly 50% of our youth by 12th grade. Teaching abstinence-only does not prevent HIV/AIDS.
It hsas been found that one common denominator of effective sex education is that "the behavioral goals, teaching methods, and materials were appropriate to the age, sexual experience, and culture of the students. For example, programs for younger youth, few of whom had engaged in intercourse, focused on delaying the onset of intercourse. Programs designed for high school students, some of whom had engaged in intercourse, emphasized that students should avoid unprotected intercourse, either by not having sex or by using contraception if they did have sex. And programs for higher-risk youth, many of whom were already sexually active, emphasized the importance of using condoms and avoiding high-risk situations." (School-based Programs to Reduce Sexual Risk-taking Behavior, Douglas Kirby, Karin Coyle, Children and Youth Services Review 19, no. 5/6 (1997): 415-36)
"Individual practice of risk reduction behavior is the primary avenue for prevention of HIV/STD." ("Creating HIV/STD Education Messages for Adolescents," The Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, #6, 1996) at http://www.indiana.edu/~aids/fact/fact6.html
The Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention has a useful and brief
"AIDS Risk Reduction Model. Drawing from previously suggested behavior change theories and human sexuality studies, this model characterizes people's effort to change sexual behaviors related to HIV transmission. The model is comprised of three stages: (1) recognition and labeling of one's sexual behaviors as high risk for contracting HIV, (2) making a commitment to reduce high risk sexual contacts and increase low risk activities, and (3) seeking and enacting strategies to obtain these goals."(other effective models are also listed at http://www.indiana.edu/~aids/fact/fact3.html )
Another model of HIV/AIDS education included these four components :
In my analysis of the workshop, at least these three issues were
Although this workshop applied valid HIV/AIDS prevention methods, it is vitally important to remember that this workshop was a workshop. It was not a comprehensive sex education or HIV/AIDS curriculum. It was a supplement to the current sex education curriculums that don’t answer these types of questions for gay youth.
In fact, Ms. Ables informed me that when working with teachers, she never expects them to teach this kind of material because they "never encourage teachers to go beyond their own comfort level or beyond the policy of the school they teach at." This workshop was defined explicitly as information that students wanted that they were not going to get from their sex education and HIV/AIDS education classes at school. It would naturally then, include more graphic and explicitly gay material.
This is true for several reasons. Firstly, gay youth rarely are safe to ask questions about gay sexuality in their schools. For the most part, GSA’s aren’t doing sexuality/HIV/AIDS education. In fact, of over 170 Gay Straight Alliances in Massachusetts, only 6 are currently testing a GSA specific HIV/AIDS prevention curriculum (funded by the CDC). Even in schools that are supportive enough of lbgt students to support a GSA, there is rarely any formal opportunity to ask questions about gay sexuality/HIV/AIDS prevention and risk reduction in an explicit and factual way.
Contrary to "The gay community 'having its way' with schoolchildren,"
the subheader on the email version of this article, these youths came to
this workshops with an incredible lack of understanding of the facts of
life for gay youth. Even youth who expressed that they are currently
sexually active asked questions that belied their actual experience.
In addition, the version of this article which circulated on the internet for a week before publication in the Massachusetts News listed some workshops;
It read, "Some of the other workshops at this taxpayer-funded conference
for educators are more unusual, and even frightening." It then went
on to make a partial listing of workshops.
People of good will have very different opinions about sexuality, sexuality education and many other subjects. It is vital that we discuss our different opinions in the context of complete information.
4. Who wrote the article, what is their agenda, and brief commentary on the inflammatory language that was used
I wouldn’t be so concerned with this particular part of the CONTEXT THAT MATTERS except that the article was written as if the authors were surprised to find sexuality discussed. I wouldn’t be so concerned if it weren’t for their apparent disregard for accuracy, in their spin being topsy turvy, and by the ways that the disparate organizations of GLSEN, the Department of Education, and Gay Straight Alliances were lumped together as an image of a gay conspiracy to manipulate the government in order to " "have its way" with school children."
Scott Whiteman is a law student, Executive Director of the Parents Rights Coalition and former Field Coordinator for Howard Phillips’ U.S Taxpayers Party. He left that position to marry and move to Massachusetts with his wife. http://www.supremelaw.com/sls/email/box018/msg01808.
Whiteman has been quoted in the Massachusetts News.
"Whiteman says his group (Parent’s Right Coalition) may end up challenging the Governor’s Executive Order too. "The Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth", he argues, "has been given free reign to support homosexual youth." Massachusetts News, Jan 27The Parents' Rights Coalition's Statement on Homosexuality
March 24, 2000
"this "conference" was a shock that can barely describe. One wonders if it was like American GIs who first approached the concentration camps. People had heard stories and rumors. But no one could imagine it was like this. It was a mind-numbing experience."Prior to their shock and surprise at attending this conference, Mr. Camenker made several similarly inflammatory statements during his opposition to sexuality education in general, and homosexuality in particular.
"Over the years the homosexual activist community has invented a whole series of lies and half-truths to use in their propaganda campaign to force everyone else to accept this dangerous and (can I say it?) perverted behavior as a normal way of life." [Internal link to extended quote and reference]It is my belief that the choice to write an inflammatory article was a conscious one, not one that arose naturally from sudden shock or horror. I suggest that Mr. Camenker and Mr. Whiteman went to that day-long conference looking for something to appall them. They found it in the carefully excerpted quotes.
Clearly Mr.Cameker opposes sex-education, LBGT awareness days and Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs). However, in his zeal to encourage fear about what's happening in Massachusetts schools (using selected quotes from a workshop, the purpose of which was to provide answers to questions that remain unasked in a school setting), he incorrectly cited a Boston Herald article, confusing GSAs with a Gay Awareness Day.
In the Massachusetts News article about the GLSEN workshop, Camenker and Whiteman write:
"School officials use several arguments to deflect criticism of GSAs. In a Boston Herald article last month, Newton assistant superintendent Jim Marini brushed aside a parent’s questioning of Newton’s GSA activities. "This is not about sex. This is about human rights," he said. The school counselor, Linda Shapiro, added that, "the purpose is to make gay students feel safe..." http://www.massnews.com/maygsa.htmA review of the Boston Herald article, makes it appear that it was Camenker himself who was the (prospective) parent who felt brushed aside. Although in his Massachusetts News article Camenker writes of "a parent's questioning of Newton's GSA activites," in fact GSA's were not even mentioned in the Herald article he cites titled "School's gay awareness day ripped."
"It's basically homosexual activism . . . and I think it's psychologically reckless,'' said Brian Camenker, a parent whose daughter will attend Newton North next year. "They're trying to tell children that these kinds of behaviors are not only normal, but you should consider trying them.'' http://www.bostonherald.com/news/local_regional/gay04052000.htmThis quote is followed in the Herald article by Mr. Marini's response and an explanation of the awareness day activities from the head of the highschool's counseling department.
This is not about sex. This is about human rights,'' said Jim Marini, assistant superintendent of high schools. "These students are going to talk about the discrimination they have felt as a person who has this orientation.''Using this quote in such a way to make it appear that Mr. Marini was speaking of GSAs in general, and then linking it to the GLSEN sexuality education workshop is one example of how Camenker's article misleads people into improperly blending the disparate events and organizations involved in this subject.
I will end this section with a listing of some of the past opinions of Mr.Camenker. His tendency to sweeping generalizations and inflammatory rhetoric seems typical of much of his political work.
"The plea was put out by local political gadfly Brian Camenker and his civic group Stand Up Newton. Camenker is known in the city as being an outspoken conservative. He formed Stand Up Newton to fight an ordinance that would allow the partners of gay city employees to share their employment benefits. Camenker also has been a critic of the school system's extensive sex education courses and what he calls its ''liberal'' teachings on homosexuality." Boston Globe, 7/16/99In the "Special Report" put out by Massachusetts News Editor Edward Pawlak, An Intelligent Discussion about Homosexuality : Will Massachusetts Listen, Camenker is quoted extensively -- In the section titled, What Is Being Taught In Massachusetts Schools?
"On August 28, 1998, Acting Governor Paul Cellucci announced that he was quadrupling the amount of money going to provide "support" for homosexual students, from $250,000 per year to a record $1 million. ( Boston Herald, August 28, 1988.)A Massachusetts News article on Homosexuality and Pedophilia reported this:
"it became apparent to our publisher, J. Edward Pawlick, that he had stumbled into the area of pedophilia.Report:
Citizens Are Concerned About 'Gay/Straight Alliances' Wirthlin Worldwide Poll is not Surprising[Begin extended quote referenced earlier.]
Over the years the homosexual activist community has invented a whole series of lies and half-truths to use in their propaganda campaign to force everyone else to accept this dangerous and (can I say it?) perverted behavior as a normal way of life. In addition, they use the most cruel and outrageous methods of intimidation against anyone who dares to disagree with them.[End extended quote -- return to section that points here]
On Domestic Partner benefits :
""This is only the beginning," says Brian Camenker, President of the Parents’ Rights Coalition. "If we allow this to happen, we will, in effect, have destabilized the basic institution of our society, which is marriage between a man and a woman — which has served us for thousands of years for the protection of women and children." http://www.massnews.com/gaymar.htmOn the doubling of the budget of upcoming state budget for the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, Camenker wrote,
"What seems to irk parents most is that most of the legislators, both Republican and Democrat, privately told them that they were against the funding and appalled at how the money was being spent. But they were afraid of retribution by homosexual activist groups if they did not vote correctly, …" He wrote in the same article in the Mass News, "[They] are among thousands of parents, grandparents, and citizens from across Massachusetts who have been pleading with legislators on Beacon Hill not to spend public money on homosexual programs in the public schools aimed at children." And "Moreover, each part [of the budget] was labeled as a "gay teen suicide prevention" grant in order to further deflect criticism. Homosexual youth advocates have long used the "suicide prevention" argument as a vehicle to force their programs into the schools. This tactic, however, was based on a 1989 San Francisco study which has officially been discredited by the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychological Association, and many others. Nevertheless, homosexual activists continue to use "suicide prevention" and "safe schools" as an effective club for promoting legislation." http://www.massnews.com/bhcow.htm
Mr. Whiteman and Mr. Camenker oppose Gay Awareness Days, Gay Straight Alliances, and sexuality education in our public schools. Such opposition is their right in a free society. Mr. Whiteman and Mr. Camenker actively work, in our democratic society, to stop those activities and curriculums they believe are harmful, as is their right and responsibility. However, it is also their responsibility to oppose these programs on a political playing field bounded by accuracy and truth.
Mr. Whiteman and Mr. Camenker taped a confidential workshop without permission, they improperly assigned sponsorship for this workshop to those government programs they personally oppose, they took quotations out of context in order to inflame the passions of those who might be considered on their political "side," and they utilized a level of persuasive rhetoric that appealed to the basest fears of their audience.
Sexuality education, HIV/AIDS education, our culture's sexualization of younger and younger children -- these are real issues that all adults grapple with. However, we need to address these issues slowly, carefully, and with great attention to accuracy and truth. This article portrayed a conspiracy between government and GLSEN to pave the way for the "gay community [to have] its way with children." No such conspiracy exists.
What exists is that people of good will and concern for the physical well being of our youth work tirelessly to ensure that they have safety in their schools, and in their sexual lives.
What exists is that people of good will both in and out of government have worked for years to study and determine what kinds of sexuality education actually lead youths to change their behavior -- either postponing sexual involvement, or choosing sexual behaviors that hold less risk for pregnancy, STD's, and HIV/AIDS.
What exists -- for all of us -- on all sides of the issues involved -- is a concern that our youth deserve to live long and fruitful lives. Where we differ is in how to help them achieve that long life, and how we engage in discussion about it.
I challenge Mr. Whiteman and Mr. Camenker to let go of the rhetoric and misrepresentations in their article and to speak directly to the concerns they have. They are opposed to sex education. They are opposed to Gay Straight Alliances. When they resort to this kind of factual misrepresentation it appears that they are not seeking truth about those subjects, or the lives of those affected; but they are seeking to outrage in order to gain political allies in their fight. If they are opposed to sex education, if they are opposed to Gay Straight Alliances, then they would be better served to address those subjects directly. We could then have a reasoned dialogue.
Massachusetts Department of Education AIDS/HIV Program
According to the 1997 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, large numbers of Massachusetts’ students are engaged in behaviors that put them at high risk for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. The Massachusetts Department of Education’s AIDS/HIV Program has developed a strong network of collaborations with other state-level Departments and with a broad spectrum of community-based agencies to provide HIV/STD prevention education, policy and curriculum development, technical assistance and training to local school districts.
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