The Evesham Township School District board has voted 7–1 to stop using a film showing diverse types of families, including those with same-sex parents. This decision came after an intense community-wide controversy over the film that has been going on since last winter.
The film, That’s a Family, was shown to third graders in an effort to encourage tolerance for children from diverse families.1 Families with step-parents, adopted children, mixed race parents, and bilingual parents were all shown. However, it was the inclusion of families with same-sex parents that caused a furor among some residents in the school district.
The controversy broke in January 2007 after some parents, angry that their children had seen the video, complained to school administrators. In response administrators held a forum for parents to voice their concerns. Local media outlets covered the event, which was sometimes less than civil. One parent screamed that homosexuality was a “horrible concept” and as such had no place in the Golden Rule—doing unto others as one would do unto oneself. Another called the depiction of same-sex families in the video “absolutely appalling.” And a third claimed that the school district did not have the right to show something that she felt was morally wrong.2
District officials initially defended the video as an important tool in teaching tolerance of diversity.3 The curriculum director said, “The video makes no judgment about lifestyles… the video is to teach respect for the diversity of all children.”4 Another parent agreed with the school board, saying, “You have to acknowledge that these different kinds of families exist.”5
The argument over the video continued through the summer until the school board’s most recent vote to stop using it. The board reasoned that the video had simply created too much controversy within the community.6 One board member said, “I look out here and see a community tearing itself apart. It’s obvious that this video is a lightning rod.”7
Despite the school board’s ruling, Garden State Equality, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights group, says that it will push to reverse the decision. “This saga is very far from over,” said group chair Steven Goldstein.8
While the video is not mandated by the state, New Jersey law does stipulate that second-grade students should have the ability to “identify different kinds of families and explain that families may differ for many reasons.” The state also gives legal rights and recognition to same-sex couples under civil union legislation.
- “School Video Featuring Gay Families Riles N.J. Parents,” 365Gay.com, 31 January 2007, accessed 1 February 2007,<http://365gay.com/Newscon07/01/013107video.htm>; “Parents Upset Children Shows Diversity Take on Gay Parenting,” NBC10.com, 22 January 2007, accessed 31 January 2007, <www.nbc10.com/news/10817119/detail.html>.
- Todd Quinones, “Parents Outraged By ‘Family’ Video Presentation,” CBS3.com, 31 January 2007, accessed 31 January 2007, <http://cbs3.com/topstories/local_story_030235258.html>.
- “School Video Featuring Gay Families Riles N.J. Parents”
- “Parents Upset Children Shows Diversity Take on Gay Parenting.”
- “School District Bans Diversity Video Because It Includes Gay Couples,” 365gay.com, 3 September 2007, accessed 4 September 2007, <www.365gay.com/Newscon07/09/090307video.htm>.