• Does mentioning a person’s sexual orientation in a school report merit censorship?

    Date: 06.17.09 | by Judge Tom.

    In April, 2009, 12-year-old Natalie Jones prepared a report and a power-point presentation about gay activist Harvey Milk.*  She decided on her subject after watching the movie “Milk” and seeing actor Sean Penn win an Academy Award in 2009 for his portrayal of Harvey Milk. But the Mt. Woodson Elementary School student was prevented from giving her report in class because her California school misinterpreted their sex-education policy.

    harveymilk2

    Harvey Milk - from Wikipedia

    When the school became aware of her topic, they required her classmates to obtain permission from their parents to see her presentation. Then she was limited to giving her talk at a lunch recess, not during class time. Natalie and her mother questioned the school’s action taking the position that reporting on a gay historical figure who advocated for equal rights is not the same as talking about sex.

    The school reconsidered its position and on June 4, 2009, apologized to Natalie for their error. They wrote her a letter stating in part: “We recognize that the mention or acknowledgment of a person’s sexual orientation is not sufficient to require parental permission to participate in a class or view a student’s presentation.”

    Arrangements were made for Natalie to give her original presentation to her class before the school year ended. To view Natalie’s power-point, visit: http://www.aclu.org/milk.

    *Update:  In October, 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California signed a bill creating a state day of recognition in honor of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in a major U.S. city.

    To read more about gay rights, see:  http://askthejudge.info/rights-for-gay-lesbian-bisexual-teenagers/94/

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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