A Focus on the Family spokeswoman told The Denver Post, as noted at TPM, that, "We feel more and more that activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints, while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled."
But GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, maintains that students' free speech rights, which are limited in public schools primarily because public schools are not wide- open public forums and the federal courts have consistently held that educators have great discretion in controlling the curriculum and ensuring safety of students, are not the issue here. Instead GLSEN says too many gay students are the victims of bullying and supports local and federal efforts to curb the incidents. A 2005 GLSEN and Harris Interactive report showed nearly 65 percent of middle and high school students had been subjected to bullying and a 2007 GLSEN report revealed that a little more than 86 percent of LGBT students were victims of bullying at school.
The group is urging Congress to pass a bill introduced earlier this month by Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey called the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), which would include protections against bullying of gay, lesbian and transgender students.
"Our nation has failed to address the pervasive problem of bullying and harassment in schools for far too long. Countless youth are denied access to education every day because they do not feel safe in school. Passing the Safe Schools Act would go a long way toward laying the necessary foundation of support lacking in many American schools," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said in a press statement.
Byard told The Denver Post that GLSEN's efforts to stop bullying of LGBT students do not subvert the religious speech of other students. She noted that, "The word ‘faggot' is not part of any religious creed," and that her group has worked with other organizations, such as the Christian Educators Association International and the First Amendment Center, on sexual orientation issues in the public schools.
[image via Flickr]