June 2005 – Most people would immediately recognize the significance of common abbreviations, like FBI, IRS or CIA. But there is another abbreviation with which parents might want to become familiar, because more than likely the organization it represents will be coming soon to a public school near them.
That abbreviation is GLSEN (pronounced "glisten"). It is the acronym for Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Begun a decade ago by homosexual activist Kevin Jennings, a former Massachusetts history teacher, the group has relentlessly pushed the gay agenda in the public school system.
One of GLSEN’s major annual campaigns is the "Day of Silence," held this year on April 13. On this day, the organization’s Web site said that homosexual and sympathetic, heterosexual students "take a vow of silence to bring attention to the bias and harassment experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) students and their allies." Instead of talking out loud, students merely hand out cards that explain what they are doing and why.
GLSEN claims that 450,000 students in over 4,000 schools — in all 50 states — participated in this year’s silent protest.
Many parents might find it amazing that these students, with the full support of their school administration and faculty, are allowed each year to refuse to verbally participate in classroom activity and, essentially, stage a protest.
GLSEN insists, however, that the Day of Silence is necessary to prevent the harassment and abuse of gay and lesbian students by their own classmates.
In fact, this is the justification for GLSEN’s entire existence. According to the organization’s Web site, GLSEN is "an education organization ensuring safe schools for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students."
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, isn’t buying that explanation. He said, "These events [like Day of Silence] are about persuasion. They are efforts to change attitudes and beliefs concerning homosexuality cloaked in rhetoric concerning safety."
Throckmorton notes that the Day of Silence guidebook specifically highlights the political side of the event. It says: "The Day of Silence enables participants to show, in a highly visible way, everyone they encounter, that they support LGBT rights."
"This is political activism, pure and simple," Throckmorton said. "Agree with gay rights or not, let’s understand this clearly: the purpose of [the Day of Silence] is to advance a civil rights agenda in the public schools."
Who must remain silent
In reality, it is an agenda that will allow no rebuttal to its "gay is OK" message. People who do object often discover that they are the ones silenced.
At South Windsor High School in Connecticut, for example, the GLSEN-orchestrated Day of Silence found plenty of willing participants. According to the Journal Inquirer, a local newspaper, students not only remained silent, but wore signs in support of current state legislation that would legalize civil unions for homosexuals.
However, later that same week, four students were sent home from school for wearing T-shirts that said, "Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve" — a reference to the signs worn in support of same-sex civil unions. Their T-shirts also contained Bible verses about homosexuality.
Steven Vendetta, one of the four, told the Journal Inquirer, "We felt if they could voice their opinions for it, we could voice our opinion against it."
He was wrong. Members of the South Windsor Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) complained to the principal, who told the four students that some of their classmates were becoming "emotionally distraught" over the messages on the T-shirts. Vendetta and his friends were told they could either change shirts or go home. They chose the latter.
Ironically, the core message of the Day of Silence — safety — was used as a bludgeon against those who opposed homosexuality. In response to the T-shirt messages worn by her classmates, Diana Rosen, who helps lead the South Windsor GSA, complained, "I didn’t feel safe at this school today."
According to the Journal Inquirer, another GSA member, Alex Goldberg, said Vendetta and his three comrades had a right to their opinions — but crossed the line with their T-shirts. "School is supposed to be a safe zone for everyone. It’s crossing a line when you target other people," he said.
GLSEN’s activism goes beyond the once-a-year campaign by silent students. Across the nation, GLSEN promotes and supports more than 3,000 GSAs in high schools.
Again, these groups are purportedly all about safety because they claim to teach classmates that homosexuality deserves tolerance and respect. But Throckmorton said there is no evidence that GSAs and such efforts as the Day of Silence make anyone safer.
"In fact, GLSEN is aware that there are no data suggesting that such activism prevents bullying [of homosexual students]," he said. "I have asked GLSEN for the evidence supporting training programs including sexual orientation, and they have had the integrity to admit that there is none."
The lack of such evidence doesn’t seem to faze GLSEN one bit, and schools that refuse to allow GSAs can expect to learn their lesson as quickly as the four students at South Windsor.
In Kentucky, the Boyd County Board of Education resisted the formation of a GSA, but were promptly slapped with a lawsuit in 2003 filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of students who wanted to start the club.
In 2004 the school board settled out of court with the ACLU and the plaintiffs. Under the oversight of U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, Boyd County agreed not only to allow the GSA, but also to require school staffers, middle school students and high school students to attend tolerance training beginning in the fall of 2004.
Training for students includes a video that states that if one student speaks out against homosexuality to another student — who happens to be gay — that is considered harassment. The offending student would then be punished.
Parents were informed that they were not allowed to opt their own children out of the instruction, and the entire policy has led some of them to file their own lawsuit against the school district, alleging that their children are being subjected to pro-homosexual indoctrination.
Kevin Theriot, an attorney representing some of the parents of students in Boyd County, told Baptist Press, "Obviously, we’re not advocating that students have the right to bully someone because they’re homosexual. But they certainly have the right to express their disagreement with them and say to them that they believe homosexuality is harmful to people who practice it and harmful to society as a whole. As Christians, we have an obligation to reach out to people that we think are hurting themselves."
According to the Education Reporter, hundreds of students defied the Boyd County tolerance training requirement, either by not showing up on the day the video was to be shown or by refusing to watch it.
The article said the ACLU was threatening to seek a court order to force the students to attend.
Confronting GSAs in your school
Concerned parents need not resign themselves to defeat when activists demand that the local public school promote acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle to students.
David Williams, a mid-Oklahoma representative of the Christian Educators Association International (CEAI, www.ceai.org) decided to fight the establishment of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma.
Last December, Williams discovered that the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network was attempting to form a GSA at his son’s school. When told that the school could not legally stop the formation of a GSA, Williams decided to use whatever avenues were open to him.
After much prayer, he began publicizing the GSA via the local newspaper, local television station and the local AFR station in Lawton, KVRS Radio. Williams also summoned into the battle as many people as possible: school officials, school board members and church people.
But there was a sticking point. No matter how many people disagreed with the establishment of a GSA at Lawton, the law was on the side of homosexual students. The courts have established an "equal access" requirement, meaning that schools must allow equal access for all student groups. This requirement is why an increasing number of schools have felt pressured to allow GSAs on campus.
Williams, however, used that policy to his advantage. He argued that, if homosexual students were free to establish a club that normalizes their lifestyle, then students who believe that gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation must also be allowed to start a club.
"I approached it from an equal access [perspective]," Williams said. "If they were going to promote one view of the gay agenda and not include the ex-gay agenda — which means that people can change their perspective — then that would be unfair."
The strategy succeeded. After the equal access push, the student government itself voted not to have a GSA. "To make a long story short, after hundreds of E-mails, phone calls, prayers, [and] actually getting some ex-gay literature through churches into the hands of students at the school … it was voted down by the students," he said. "We have to praise the Lord for that."
Williams has since developed some materials for parents who are confronted by a similar challenge, all of which are available at the CEAI Web site (www.ceai.org). Included is a 10-step plan for confronting GSAs, a sample letter to the editor, a sample policy requiring equal presentation of both sides of the debate over homosexuality and a sample resolution requiring parental permission for student participation in school clubs.
The latter strategy — requiring parental permission before a student can join a club — may slow the push to start GSAs at some schools. In many cases, parents don’t even know their children want to join a GSA, and the extra step of parental approval may be enough, in many communities, to derail plans for a pro-homosexual group.
"My mom, she knows I’m gay," said Fiorella Soto, who founded and heads a GSA at Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County, Georgia, "but if she knew I was running this club, she would take me out."
If school officials balk at allowing students to form an ex-gay outreach or present the other side of this issue, parents are encouraged to contact the attorneys at the AFA Center for Law & Policy at 662-680-3886.