Residents and students continue to support the inclusion of materials defining the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered in the Indian River School District’s health curriculum.
The Monday Board of Education meeting was not as well attended as the October meeting, which drew about 100 protestors. However, this most recent meeting continued to be dominated by people speaking against board member Shaun Fink, who wants the material to be removed.
The health curriculum subcommittee has reviewed about two-thirds of the materials that could be considered controversial. At a recent meeting, officials said they would need to make a decision on the inclusion of the LGBT terms in the next few months, or else fail to meet state standards for students currently taking health class.
The most emotional speaker was Milton resident the Rev. Michael Smith, minister for the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware.
“Removing language because it refers to sexuality once again casts too many back into the shadows of misunderstanding and prejudice and bigotry. It strips many of their inherent worth and dignity. It invites bullying,” Smith said. “I don’t get it. I don’t get how any of you can sit there and look at children who are victims of such bullying, knowing that this is what’s going to happen to them unless people can talk and learn about each other.”
Smith talked about the values portrayed when Indian River High School’s color guard presented the flags and the audience said the pledge of allegiance at the start of the meeting. The district’s board would not be staying true to that promise of freedom and justice for all if they cut the LGBT material, he implied.
“We put our hands over our hearts. Some warm hearts,” he said, focusing on Fink. “Some very cold hearts.”
In September, Fink said at a health curriculum subcommittee meeting that teaching students that being gay is normal is unacceptable, and has since repeated that sentiment at multiple public meetings. Fink, pastor and founder of Cornerstone Bible Church in Millsboro, said he is motivated by his Christian faith, in addition to claims that homosexual sex carries a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases than heterosexual sex.
Fink also opposes a portion of the curriculum on STD, HIV and pregnancy prevention, supporting abstinence-only education instead.
Fink said he was happy people are coming to the meetings.
“I’m happy people are coming out to express their views. I’m saddened by the lack of biblical knowledge,” Fink said.
The importance of the separation of church and state was also stressed during public comments. A prayer, typically offered through the public comment period at the start of each meeting, was notably missing.
“The idea that someone can be in a position of power and discriminate against a group as large as that of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and asexual community is outrageous,” Sussex Central junior Bryce Molnar said. “It not only makes the school a dangerous place for a student of the orientation to be in, but also puts that student to shame. Whatever your beliefs may be, your intentions good or bad, if they interfere with the equality amongst students, then they should not be those which influence the educational process.”
Molnar commented that “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” a book with a homosexual protagonist that drew criticism in the Cape Henlopen School District, has been removed from the Sussex Central Library.
In October, officials said a person filed a formal materials complaint with the district asking that the book be removed. The book being removed from the Sussex Central library is related to the complaint, Superintendent Susan Bunting said.
A committee examining that complaint met last week, Bunting said. LouAnn Hudson, who led the committee meeting, said she is currently writing up the committee’s findings, which will be given to Bunting, who will make a recommendation to the board at either a curriculum meeting Dec. 8 or at the next regular board meeting.
Hudson could not comment on the committee’s decision, but Bunting said she thinks they were in favor of dismissing the complaint, therefore allowing the book in the library.
“I think the recommendation of the committee was to not object to the book,” she said.
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