Administrators at a school district in Pennsylvania are refusing to provide parents with the links to pro-LGBT videos shown in April to roughly 2,800 students.
East Penn School District superintendent Michael Schilder received a letter from the Christian legal group Liberty Counsel in June, asking him to share the links to four videos shown to students at Emmaus High School as part of the school district’s LGBT “Unity Week” in April.
The videos were sponsored by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club and shown on the nationwide “Day of Silence” sponsored by the LGBT advocacy group GLSEN.
In a letter dated May 2, Principal Kate Kieres revealed one of the videos was titled “9 Questions Gay People Have About Straight People.” Another was a clip from a CBS News story about individuals who identified as “gender fluid.” The third and fourth videos were about “celebrating marriage equality” and ways to “show your pride.”
Despite the intense controversy surrounding the hotly debated topic, school administrators have made it clear they will not be sharing the videos with parents. Kieres stated that the school board solicitor told parents “these videos cannot be sent to you, because they are part of a student project.”
The videos, though, were not even created by students, according to the principal; they were pulled from the internet.
“They were not created by the students in the communications class but were pulled from YouTube and other online sources by the students in our GSA club and sent to the TV studio as part of their ‘Day of Silence’ project,” Kieres wrote. “I also learned that this practice was not new this year. Similar videos have been shown during the week leading up to the “Day of Silence” for at least the past four years.”
The school, though, is standing its ground.
Schilder previously told The Morning Call that “student work and student expression must always be protected,” adding, “A parent or member of the public has no right to view or access a student’s term paper, speech, or multimedia project just because he or she objects to the topic.”
But Richard Mast, an attorney with the Liberty Counsel, argued the school’s policy is a violation of the state’s Right to Know laws, which guarantee the right to access public records held by any government agency.
“It would be convenient indeed if school districts could bypass all public records laws and parental notice and consent requirements for objectionable content, by finding a willing ‘student group’ to ‘select’ the material for them,” Mast said, calling the policy a “gross violation of parental rights.”
Student Aidan Levinson, the high schooler who vetted the videos in question, said during a recent school board meeting that the videos weren’t forcing a homosexual lifestyle on anyone and served as an “anti-bullying effort more than anything else,” according to WFMZ-TV.
Parents, however, still aren’t buying it.
“Would the school allow the opposite view to be presented to the students?” Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, asked.