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 Op-ed: Back-to-School Could Be Better Than Gay Parents Think

 Op-ed: Back-to-School Could Be Better Than Gay Parents Think


Before Carter and Ammon started pre-school last year, Ray and I had researched the school climate, spoken with and shared our expectations with the school's director, and went through orientation with the teachers. By the time the first day arrived, we all understood each other. And Ammon and Carter had an excellent school year. Neither they nor we were ever discriminated against.

For same-sex parents, the thought of our children going to school for the first time can come with anxiety. Not only are they growing up and away from us, but also the school they attend might discriminate, teaching our kids they are different in a way we never would ourselves.

But LGBT parents have more support out there in the school systems than we think.

In the autumn of 2009, Principal magazine estimated that between 8 million and 10 million school-age children are living with a gay parent. And that reality has brought with it an evolution in the mindset of educators in how they look at families.

I spent close to 20 years in public education, and earned a doctorate in educational leadership, so I've experienced both sides of the first-day jitters. Educators who deal with same-sex parents know that these parents want children. These couples know who they are and where they are going as a family unit. Some of the parents waited months and sometimes years to physically have or adopt a child, and we have matured enough to put the wants and needs of our children ahead of our own.

Wanting children makes a parent do several things. From an Independent School magazine survey from Fall 2008, a whopping 84% of the LGBT parents reported that when they felt comfortable with their children's school, they volunteered at the school. These parents value education.

And loving homes with stable parents create children who are respectful and disciplined. Teachers and administrators crave learning environments that are not plagued by classroom interruptions, so students can learn. Parents in stable homes also want to help their children with their work. (Not do it for them.) We ensure homework gets done, projects are completed, books are read.

I was never a teacher who gave homework every night, but I did on occasions. Most of the time, the students received grades for completion and not for correct answers. I knew that many students did their homework because their parents were checking. Stable home environments where education is appreciated make a difference.

A good school will see the children of those parents as ambassadors of love, diversity, and tolerance, and that is what the whole world needs, not just the classroom.

When we applied to a school, we were plain that our children are coming from a home with parents who are of the same sex. Relationships always matter. And if it's at home, work, school, sports, or wherever, they're are all about expectations.

It just so happened that our new church had a pre-school with a great reputation. Of course, Ray and I discussed sending Carter and Ammon to the church's pre-school. But it was on one Sunday morning, when we saw the director after church, that it became a sure thing.

The director chatted with Carter and Ammon, eventually asking, "When is their birthday?" We knew it was time for the "Carter and Ammon Story." She stood in the foyer with a huge smile on her face while we went through the ritual of explaining that they are half siblings who were six days apart, and when we finished she didn't bat an eye.

"That's fantastic!" she said. "They are such happy children! Do you want them enrolled in our pre-school?" Ray and I exchanged glances, gave each other our now patented "we're-so-blessed-that-our-family-is-accepted" look, and I said, "That would be great!"

Two weeks later, Carter, Ammon, and I did a "walk-through" of the pre-school, and I paid their tuition. We all understood each other. And Ammon and Carter had an excellent school year. Neither they nor we were ever discriminated against.

Haven Caylor is a Doctor of Education who has taught for more than 20 years. He and his husband, Ray, live in Tennessee with their son, Carter, and daughter, Ammon.

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