Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Harassment

March 2006

On March 9, The First Amendment Center will release its latest guidelines to help public schools deal with cultural and religious conflicts.  This one, Public Schools and Sexual Orientation: A First Amendment framework for finding common ground is designed to help schools deal with sexual orientation discrimination and harassment without undermining those parents, students and staff who have moral objections to homosexual behavior.

Wayne Jacobsen of BridgeBuilders helped Dr. Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center broker this agreement with representation from educational, gay and lesbian, as well as religious groups, a product of nearly six months of discussion and negotiation.

This new tool states the issues and the challenges:

In recent years, many public schools have increasingly become a front line in the escalating debates over homosexuality in American society. Conflicts over issues involving sexual orientation in the curriculum, student clubs, speech codes and other areas of school life increasingly divide communities, spark bitter lawsuits, and undermine the educational mission of schools.

The advice in this guide is built on the conviction that we urgently need to reaffirm our shared commitment, as American citizens, to guiding principles of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The rights and responsibilities of the First Amendment provide the civic framework within which we are able to debate our differences, to understand one another, and to forge public policies that serve the common good in public education.

Under the First Amendment, a school is both safe and free when students, parents, educators and all members of the school community commit to address their religious and political differences with civility and respect. A safe school is free of bullying and harassment. And a free school is safe for student speech even about issues that divide us.

Mr. Jacobsen, along with others who worked on the brochure will release this new publication nationally on Thursday, March 9 at a press conference held at the National Press Club at 9:00 a.m. EST and followed up with a forum discussion on CSPAN’s Close-up, which will be aired on Friday evening at 7:00 EST. 

It was an honor to work with so many people on guidelines that didn’t fight for the prevailing view of any one group at the expense of any other, but sought the common ground that would guarantee public schools to be a safe place for all staff and students, regardless of our disagreement on the cultural issues. No one should be asked to participate in a public school education that is biased against one’s self. Use the links below to find out more about these guidelines and read them yourselves.

For more information contact: Contact:  Wayne Jacobsen, President; BridgeBuilders; www.bridge-builders.org; 7228 University Dr.; Moorpark, CA  93021;  (805) 529-1728;  waynej@bridge-builders.org


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