First reported 5/18/2010 3:03 p.m.

A group of Beye School parents and their supporters are satisfied with a decision by Dist. 97 to limit access to a video related to same-sex families from general use. The parents group had deemed the video as inappropriate for elementary school kids.

The video, That’s a Family: A film for kids about family diversity, was purchased by Beye, along with children’s books about such topics as gender identity, for a staff development training last fall. The materials were recommended by The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, a support group for LGBT students and families. This group of Beye parents have maintained that the district has its own materials, policies and procedures related to the topics covered by the Alliance. They also insist that the materials purchased by their school are inappropriate for students in fifth-grade and under. The video was kept in the Multicultural Center at Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland, and the books at Beye’s library.

The parents requested that the purchased materials be pulled from the library and media center and reviewed. The district has maintained that the materials recommended by the Alliance were for teaching and staff development training and were never available directly to students.

Margaret Brown, one of the Beye parents, said her group asked the district repeatedly for a list of the recommended books but never received it. Brown said she never got a clear answer as to why their request was denied. The parents filed a Freedom of Information Request in order to receive the list.

Parents received the results of the district’s review of the materials last Friday. The recommendation by the district is for the video to be kept with Beye Principal Jonathan Ellwanger in his office. It can only be signed out by staff and used with specific small groups of students but not entire classes. Upon notice, parents can have the option of their children not viewing the video. The books, however, will remain in Beye’s library for general public use.

Brown said she’s satisfied with the recommendation concerning the video but hoped that the district would make parents aware of the sensitive nature of the books. She noted that the same books are available in the children’s section at the Oak Park Public Library but with a sticker on each one reading “Topics To Talk About.”

Brown said she hopes this matter is finally settled and urged the district to inform the Beye community of its review and recommendations. Wednesday Journal last Friday called Kevin Anderson, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, who oversaw the review, but the call was not immediately returned.

Michelle Brandt, Beye’s PTO co-chair told the Journal on Tuesday that she’s glad the district decided to keep the materials at Beye. She also disagreed with the decision to allow only small groups of students and staff to view the video.

“The materials should serve as a reference for the staff,” she said. “It seems unnecessary to break down into small groups if the opt out option is available to parents and guardians.”

Books under review

The list of books were examined and deemed to be useful within a school library and were retained.

  • Oliver Button Is a Sissy, Tomie dePaola
  • Of Many Colors, Gail Kaeser and Peggy Gillespie
  • One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads, Johnny Valentine
  • Heather Has Two Mommies, Leslea Newman
  • Pinky and Rex and the Bully, James Howe
  • Lucy’s Family Tree, Karen Halvorsen Schreck
  • Felicia’s Favorite Story, Leslea Newman
  • King and King, Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland
  • And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • The Daddy Machine, Johnny Valentine
  • Antonio’s Card, Rigoberto Gonzalez
  • The Sissy Duckling, Harvey Fierstein 

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