Last April, students at Emmaus High School in Pennsylvania were shown a number of pro-LGBQT videos.The short films, played during morning announcements in honor of Unity Week, were selected by the supposedly student-led Gay Straight Alliance club.
Although the supposed intention of showing the videos was to discourage bullying, concerned parents (and students) felt the real aim, and result, was indoctrination.
And when parents requested to see the controversial videos that had been shown to their children, the school district wouldn’t let them.
Now, Liberty Counsel--a non-profit law firm that focuses on issues related to religious freedom and the First Amendment--is demanding that for the district’s immediate release of the “four pro-homosexuality videos.”
The videos included the titles “9 Questions Gay People Have About Straight People” and “Show Your Pride. Share Your Love”, in addition to CBS News clips and footage from marriage equality celebrations.
Frustrated parents had initially taken their complaints straight to the school district.
“Since when does a public school in the United States of America have the right to block a parent and tell them they will not allow them to see the controversial partisan programming they are requiring their children to watch,” one parent wrote in a letter. “We have every right to expect that our children are not being subjected to partisan indoctrination in our public schools.”
But the school district disagreed.
East Penn School District Superintendent Michael Schilder claimed that, because the videos were put together by students and therefore part of a student project by the Gay-Straight Alliance, they are completely off-limits for parents.
“Student work and student expression must always be protected,” he told The Morning Call.“A parent or member of the public has no right to view or access a student’s term paper, speech, or multimedia project just because he or she objects to the topic.”
But Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, posed a fair question at the first in a series of heated school board meetings. “Would the school allow the opposite view to be presented to the students?"
Parents and students who’ve voiced concern about the videos have been accused of being homophobic. But for many, the issue is not so much about acceptance or equality as it is about parental rights. According to Liberty Counsel attorney Richard Mast, “The law is clear that parents, not agents of the state, including teachers, and certainly not GLSEN or its teacher or student affiliates with the GSA, have the right to direct the upbringing and associations of minor children.”
Mast alleges the videos are a matter of public record and, furthermore, notactually created by students. He also questioned whether, as the district claims, students even selectedthe films, pointing out that Gay Straight Alliance clubs are in fact initiated by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN)--which happens to be an LGBQT advocacy group.
According to Liberty Counsel, litigation may be necessary for parents to finally see the videos shown to their children.
Upwards of 2800 students are reported to have been exposed to the videos, without parental consent.