Gay-inclusive material removed from W.Va. schools program

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 27 2002 1:00 AM ET

The West Virginia attorney general's office is revamping an antibullying program for public schools that drew the ire of parents and conservatives who claimed it promoted homosexuality.

The state board of education voted in October to halt the Civil Rights Team Project, pending an investigation. The investigation has not been completed, but earlier this month the board adopted a revised student code of conduct that prohibits bullying, intimidation, and harassment. The Civil Rights Team Project was designed to teach students to recognize and prevent bullying.

Deputy attorney general Fran Hughes said the revised program will not specify groups of children who could be bullied or harassed. "We just want to prevent children from being targeted, period," she said. "We won't focus on why, just that they are and we hope to do something about it."

Publications that referred to hate crimes against gay people or encouraged students to serve as support systems for gay students have been removed from the program, Hughes said. Some of the material that was removed was provided by the National Education Association; the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network; and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. "The materials were not prepared in our office, and as soon as they were brought to our attention, we studied them," Hughes said. "We decided to pull them out of the schools because we didn't think it was a matter our office should be involved in."

Hughes said she plans to include parents and groups such as the conservative American Family Foundation in discussions about the revamped program. "We want to emphasize how we are alike rather than how we are different," she said. "We all have a share in humanity and don't want to single out specific groups."