Web Extra! Audio of Beye parents speaking at the board meeting

A group of Beye School parents and their supporters stood in solidarity during last Tuesday’s District 97 Board of Education meeting in opposition to a pro-gay group that they say provided inappropriate teaching materials to their school.

In all, 20 people, including parents and family members of students, showed up at the meeting to oppose the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, an organization that supports gay students and same-sex parents. Shannon Sullivan, the organization’s director, conducted a training session last August with Beye teachers related to support for same-sex families. Beye’s School Improvement Team invited her speak.

But some Beye parents have maintained that their kids are too young to be exposed to the topics of homosexuality and same-sex parentage. Mark Daniels, one of five from the group who addressed the board, said he and other parents expressed their concerns to Beye Principal Jonathan Ellwanger, and to the school’s PTO and SIT leaders. They also asked that the Alliance’s training materials be removed and never used again in the district. Daniels said that request was denied.

One of the materials the parents object to is a video used by the group concerning same-sex families. Daniels said that and other materials violate a board policy governing the use of “controversial issues” related to instruction.

“We now come to the board and respectfully request a review of ISSA training and related tools in relationship to District 97 board policy 2240,” he said, while others from his group stood in the audience. “We believe the ISSA training and materials violate this policy because they are not appropriate for the level of maturity of our students, and intends to indoctrinate and persuade our staff and students to a particular point of view.”

Supt. Constance Collins said she has met with the parents about their concerns. As for the Alliance’s training materials, Collins said it was meant for teachers only and that no students were exposed to the information, nor should they be.

“It was part of educating the staff so that they would feel comfortable in working with parents and students who come from different family types and from diverse backgrounds,” Collins said.

A sample of Policy 2240 governing controversial issues

The Board of Education believes that the consideration of controversial issues has a legitimate place in the instructional program of the schools. For purposes of this policy, a controversial issue is a topic on which opposing points of view have been promulgated by responsible opinion and likely to arouse both support and opposition in the community.

The Board will permit the introduction and proper educational use of controversial issues provided that their use in the instructional program:

A. is related to the instructional goals of the course of study and level of maturity of the students;

B. does not tend to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view;

C. encourages open-mindedness and is conducted in a spirit of scholarly inquiry.

Controversial issues may not be initiated by a source outside the schools unless prior approval has been given by the principal.

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