School officials won't apologize to second-grader

BY admin

December 05 2003 12:00 AM ET

The school superintendent in Louisiana's Lafayette Parish says a second-grader was disciplined
for behavior problems, not for saying his mother is gay, and that the district will not apologize. "An apology is not due," Superintendent James Easton said. "The child was not singled out because his parent is gay." The American Civil Liberties Union, along with Sharon Huff and her son, Marcus McLaurin, say that he was punished for saying his parent is gay. The ACLU sent a letter Monday demanding an apology and hinting that it will sue if Easton does not apologize.

In a prepared statement Wednesday, Easton wrote that, after reviewing papers and meeting with the principal, he had concluded that the disciplinary action "was unrelated to any judgment by school officials regarding sexual orientation or practices, or the student's discussion of that particular topic." Rather, he wrote, it "was related to ordinary student disturbances, which were hindering the classroom learning process and which were addressed in an appropriate fashion by the teacher and school administrator."

ACLU state director Joe Cook released a behavior report signed by teacher Terry L. Bethea. The report states, "Marcus decided to explain to another child in his group that his mom is gay. He told the other child that gay is when a girl likes a girl. This kind of discussion is not appropriate in my room,"
Bethea wrote. "I feel that parents should explain things of this nature to their own children in their own way." The ACLU also released a "behavior contract," sent to the mother about the child's punishment. At the top was written, "He explained to another child that you are gay and what being gay means."

Marcus was required to fill out a form, in which he wrote, "I sed bad wurds." In a space for "What I should have done," he wrote, "Cep my mouf shut."

Cook said he has not received an official response from Easton. But he repeated that unless the school system apologizes to Huff and her son and removes any mention of the incident from the child's record, he will consider a lawsuit or other action.

Easton strongly denied that the boy was made to write repeatedly "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again," as described in the ACLU complaint. Cook said the ACLU stands behind its statement. Easton told The [Lafayette] Advertiser on Tuesday that Marcus should not be
punished for using the term "gay," but added, "He could be disciplined for describing bedroom antics, something that was personal, that took place at home." Easton said Marcus was sent to a behavioral clinic a week after the "gay" incident because he was disrupting the classroom and not completing an assignment. However, the November 17 date for "behavior clinic" was on the behavior report signed November 11. Huff said no one told her Marcus was disruptive, and there was no paperwork
indicating he was being troublesome in class.

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