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Posts for February, 2008

Anti-Gay Activist David Parker Loses Appeal

Timothy Kincaid

February 1st, 2008

who-family.bmpDavid Parker is a cause célèbre for anti-gay activists.

They love to claim that he was arrested protecting his child from a “homosexual curriculum” in his kindergarten class. Here’s the real story:

In January 2005, Jacob Parker brought home a diversity book bag from his kindergarten. Included in the bag was books about other cultures and traditions, food recipes, and a book called Who’s in a Family. The illustrations included various family constructions: single parents, mom-dad-kids, grandparents, mixed-race families, and same-sex parents.

David Parker, his father, decided that young Jacob was entitled to ignorance of the existence of same-sex headed families. He set out to change school policy so that his child not be exposed to that fact. He extended his demands to include any discussion of same-sex parenting, regardless of the context or setting – including any conversations of children of gay or lesbian parents.

Because the school district has a large number of same-sex families, many with children attending the school, the administration deemed Parker’s request to be nearly impossible.

This resulted in a string of emails and eventually Parker showed up in the administrative offices and refused to leave until his demands were met. At the end of the day, police were called and, when Parker refused the police requests to leave, he was arrested for trespassing.

Dr. Paul Ash, superintendent of Lexington Public Schools, said the school tried to be accommodating.

“The school department said, ‘Look, we’ll work with you, but we cannot assure you what a child is going to say and that we can immediately stop a discussion that you find objectionable,'” said Ash. “One of the central units in kindergarten is the discussion of families and we show families of all different types.” Ash says the discussions “ended up in an irreconcilable difference.”

In June 2006, the Parkers sued the school in federal court for civil right violations.

They were joined by the Joseph and Robin Wirthlin, parents of a second grader in the same district. On a day in which the school discussed marriage, a teacher read King and King, a book in which a prince doesn’t fall for a princess but for another prince instead. Although marriage laws in Massachusetts include same-sex couples, the Wirthlins believe that such marriages should be excluded from discussion about marriages in the classroom.

A few days after filing their suit, David Parker’s credibility came under question. He spread a story that his child, Jacob, was beaten by students for David Parker’s anti-gay stance and suggested that school teachers or the administration were behind the beating.

After much press in the anti-gay conservative Christian media, the facts were released. It turned out to be nothing greater than a schoolyard scuffle over who sat next to whom in the cafeteria.

In February 2007, U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf dismissed the lawsuit.

In his 38-page decision, Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf of US District Court said that under the US Constitution, public schools are “entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.”

“Diversity is a hallmark of our nation,” he said.

The Parkers and Wirthlins appealed the decision. Yesterday the three judge appeals panel unanimously upheld Judge Wolf’s decision.

“Public schools are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them,” the court said in its ruling.

As we have seen recently, anti-gay activists object not only to any positions taken publicly that are favorable to gay individuals and couples, but to even the acknowledgment of their existence. The court addressed this issue.

Writing for the Appeals Court, Judge Sandra L. Lynch said the parents did not have the legal right “to be free from any reference in public elementary schools to the existence of families in which the parents are of different gender combinations,” according to the ADL statement.

The Parkers and their attorneys are preparing to take the case to the US Supreme Court.

Manufacturing A Double Standard

Jim Burroway

June 19th, 2006

The conservative Christian web sites Agape Press and LifeSite are reporting that Jacob Parker, the son of Massachusetts anti-gay activist David Parker was beaten up by a group of eight to ten kids in the playground of his Lexington elementary school.

David Parker, if you remember, was arrested last year for refusing to leave the school after a meeting with the principal in which he demanded to be notified when any topic touching on sexual orientation (including same-sex marriage, which is legal in Massachusetts) is brought up in class. He is now suing the school system.

According to the Agape Press, David Parker’s son was attacked on May 17th, on the two-year anniversary of gay marriage in Massachusetts. Mr. Parker claims that other parents put their kids up to beating up his son because they are upset with his opposition to homosexuality. He also complains of a double standard in how his son’s case is being handled:

If the assault against his son had been perpetrated on a child of homosexual parents, “lessons teaching tolerance and diversity or homosexual behavior normalization would be forced upon the young children,” he contends.

But the local newspaper, the Lexington Minuteman reports a very different story. Paul Ash, the Superintendent of Schools, doesn’t know anything about what happened, but he’s going to look into it. Meanwhile he notes that if a student were assaulted, it would “trigger a whole series of actions,” including notifying parents, staff, the school psychologist, the Department of Social Services, and the police.

But the Lexington police department says it doesn’t have a complaint on file and there’s no ongoing investigation. Why?

Neil Tassel, the Parker’s legal counsel, spoke for the Parker family saying that had hoped to keep the incident private. Due to the age of the students involved, they had opted not to go to the police.

So if there is a double standard, it’s of Mr. Parker’s doing by not allowing the authorities to address the problem — according to what his attorney is telling the local press.

David Parker has the prerogative to decide whether or not he should avail himself of the services of the local police department to protect his son. But his actions certainly raise some interesting questions concerning his motives for going public now. Is issuing a press release on a very prominent web site the best way to “keep the incident private?” And how strange is it to complain of a double standard when he short-circuits the very process that he complains would be performed if it had been the son of a gay parent that was beaten?

Maybe it’s just more convenient to manufacture a double standard.

Update: The Lexington Public Schools issued a press release. The fight, it turns out, was over who got to sit where in the cafeteria. What’s more, the Parkers didn’t complain when they were told about the actions the school took in response to the fight, and “following the incident the boys were observed arm in arm at school and subsequently the child who was hit went to the house of the child who hit him for a play date.”