Wisconsin Teacher’s Anti-Homophobia Class Horrifies Christian Right

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday January 20, 2009

A high school teacher is Wisconsin gave students assignments designed to encourage critical thinking about homophobia and diversity. To the religious right, however, the curriculum represented a "regimen" of "homosexual indoctrination."

Anti-gay religious-right Web site LifeSiteNews.com reported on the story in a Jan. 16 article titled "Wisconsin High School Features In-Depth Homosexual Indoctrination Regimen," in which the site reported that educator Sarah Arnold, who teaches at Elkhorn High School, a public school in Elkhorn, WI, was inspired to create a program of learning to combat homophobia for her 11th grade class after she overheard exchanges between students that smacked of anti-gay prejudice.

Such language is not uncommon in schools, according to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), an organization that provides teaching materials to schools nationwide to help educate teachers, administrators, and students about homophobia.

GLSEN has helped establish more than 4,000 Gay-Straight Alliances, which are clubs in which students of all sexualities stand against prejudice, in an effort to promote safe schools and decrease instances of harassment, physical attack, and intimidation aimed at students who are, or who are perceived to be, GLBT.

GLSEN also conducts research into the roles played by GLBT parents in their children's education, and the levels of hostility that GLBT students, or straight students mistaken for GLBT, encounter.

In one recent report, GLSEN documented that nearly 9 out of 10 GLBT students suffer harassment at school.

In the case of high school teacher Sarah Arnold, the educator took the initiative herself to develop a curriculum to examine the phenomenon of homophobia and to instill in students critical thinking faculties to assess homophobia consciously and with deliberation.

The lesson plan, called "Exposing Hidden Homophobia," reportedly lasted 38 days and resulted in a reduced degree of anti-gay hostility, the article said, citing a source article that was published by the Southern Poverty Law Center an organization that monitors extremist groups, takes legal action against white supremacist groups, promotes protections for guest workers, and works to diminish human trafficking.

Not everyone lauds the efforts of groups like GLSEN and teachers like Arnold, however.

The LifeSiteNews.com item reported that some parents objected to the curriculum, citing their Christian faith as a reason for their opposition.

The article also quoted the Illinois Family Institute's Laurie Higgins as declaring herself to be "speechless" over news of the anti-homophobia curriculum.

The article quoted Higgins as writing in an article for the Illinois Family Institute, "Wisconsin public schools are permitting radical ideologues to use public money to promote their subversive, unproven moral conclusions and political goals about homosexuality."

Added the article by Higgins, "These propagandists, who should be teaching history or literature or writing, are instead pursuing their illegitimate goals of transforming the views of other people's children on the contentious issue of homosexuality."

Writing about the teacher who created the curriculum, Higgins added, "Arnold, like countless other English teachers, bases her text selections on whether the ideas conform to and advance her socio-political goals and her particular moral convictions.

"And she's doing this with public money."

The LifeSiteNews article provided contact information for Elkhorn High School's principal, Tina Bosworth.

The address and other contact information listed by the article were:

482 E. Geneva St.
Elkhorn, WI 53121
[Tel] (262) 723-4920
[Fax] (262) 723-8092

At the conservative chat site FreeRepublic.com, one contributor asked, "Just how does an individual teacher get to create and implement their own 38 day curriculum?

"Doesn't this school have an approved curriculum meeting state standards?

"Where is the school administration and the school board in this?"

Wrote another, "How do you stop these things? You never will but putting back some of "the old laws" and a moral conscience sure would help."

Quipped a third, "More reason for seperation [sic] of school and state."

Another conversant offered, "Gays say their lifestyle isn't a choice, that they're born that way. If I'm 'homophobic' it's because I was born that way, I don't chose to be that way.

"I'm the victim here!!! Just let me be who I am!! Where's the tolerance?!"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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