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Sunday, August 11, 2013
Re: “Defending against discrimination” (commentary by Joe Ivers, Aug. 4):
A correction concerning a quotation inaccurately attributed to me has been issued (and I understand the mistake was due to an editorial slip). However, I feel my position has been muddied.
As I carefully explained in my July 7 commentary (“School board vote on orientation challenged”), sexual harassment rules already protect against discrimination. Montgomery County Publc Schools attorney Brad King reported this in the June 18 school board meeting; according to King, adding language on sexual orientation or gender identity would not provide further protections for employees.
Ivers reveals the true nature of this discussion when he writes that “she [referring to me] showed her desire not to accept certain differences” and that “this is sad commentary on the misinformation Skinner and others have.” Ivers frames his statements under the rubric of what he terms “[expanded] focus and efforts around diversity and social justice” in Montgomery County Public Schools.
Well, I’m afraid Ivers is the one who is misinformed, and a recent court case lays out what is really at stake here: free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.
In October 2010, a high school junior attending Howell High School in Michigan was removed from a classroom by a teacher for stating that his faith and morals did not accept homosexual behavior and condoning of the gay lifestyle.
The student, Daniel Glowacki, sued the school district, and the case was decided this summer in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Judge Patrick J. Duggan ruled that Glowacki was improperly punished and that “students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Duggan also wrote, “While the Court certainly recognizes that schools are empowered to regulate speech to prevent students from invading the rights of other students, people do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or, for that matter, their way of life.”
Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, said, “This case points out the outrageous way in which homosexual activists have turned our public schools into indoctrination centers and are seeking to eradicate all religious and moral opposition to their agenda.”
Attorney Erin Mersino, lead counsel for Glowacki in the lawsuit, noted, “This opinion has reached national attention and is being used as a model for how teachers should react to a student exercising his/her First Amendment rights.”
MCPS should re-examine its Social Justice Initiative in light of this ruling; when school board members voted for a new theme of “Moving beyond tolerance toward acceptance,” it’s obvious that they overstepped. Forcing “acceptance” of a viewpoint runs counter to the First Amendment and, in fact, eviscerates tolerance. Ivers and everyone in our school system should respect the beliefs and rights of students and individuals throughout the entire community.
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