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presentation postponed after Vermont parents complain

presentation postponed after Vermont parents complain

Administrators at the Williston Central School in Vermont will ask the school board at a special meeting Monday for permission to reschedule an antibullying talk by a gay rights group. Presentations by Outright Vermont to seventh- and eighth-graders were abruptly canceled March 23 after a group of parents complained. School principal Walter Nardelli said he and other administrators will ask the board to approve new ground rules for a future visit by Outright Vermont representatives. The new plan would have students attend at least one of two sessions devoted to preventing bullying and harassment based on real or perceived sexual orientation. One would be led by Outright Vermont, and the other by school counselors. Parents would have to consent to have their kids attend the Outright session. The board also will be asked to review the planned curriculum to see that it is age-appropriate and in keeping with school content standards. "We're trying to be respectful of everyone, but we want this training to move forward," Nardelli said. "We've heard the issues, and we're trying to address the various beliefs that exist within Williston." Outright co-executive director Kate Jerman and volunteer Connor McFadden, a gay Burlington High School student, were to meet with students on March 23. But at a breakfast meeting before those sessions, several parents criticized the plan, and Nardelli decided to cancel the sessions and get more comments from community members. In the ensuing days, Nardelli said he had received about 200 e-mails from around the country, most supporting the plan for the antibullying talks, but some not. "It's a very sensitive issue, and people have incredibly strong feelings about it, and there doesn't seem to be too much looking for understanding before looking to criticize." He added that "this has been the toughest issue that I have ever addressed personally" in his 39 years in education. (AP)

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