We’re about to enter the first school year after the Supreme Court’s sweeping redefinition of marriage, a decision that will deeply impact our children’s schools and education. Today I want to share a Q&A with Focus on the Family’s Education Analyst, Candi Cushman, where she’ll help explain how the legalization of same-sex marriage will affect the way we educate our children. –Jim Daly
Q: Give us the big picture: How will this court decision change the environment in our schools?
I believe our school system is exactly where this decision hits closest to home—it will be the most deeply felt on a practical level by millions of moms, dads, and kids. In particular, we’ll face challenges in three areas:
Parents’ rights to direct when and how their children are taught about sensitive topics concerning sexuality, family and marriage.
Students’ free speech rights to express a biblical point of view.
Private schools’ and home schools’ freedoms to set their own standards, regulations and curriculum. This, in turn, impacts the freedom of families to choose Christian education environments for their children.
Q: Let’s unpack this a little more. Taking the first point, how exactly will parental rights be impacted?
The best way to illustrate that is to describe the first warning signs we saw—a foreshadowing so to speak—when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Almost immediately, educators there who wanted to advance sexual activism in the classroom began to use that decision as cover to promote controversial, sexual topics in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity.”
For instance, during an interview featured on NPR, an eighth-grade teacher expressed her exuberance over her new-found freedom to describe homosexuality in the classroom. “In my mind, I know that, ‘OK, this is legal now.’ If somebody wants to challenge me, I’ll say, ‘Give me a break. It’s legal now,'” she told NPR. Disturbingly, the NPR reporter went on to explain that the teacher now discusses “gay sex” with students “thoroughly and explicitly with a chart.”
It was equally disturbing to watch what happened at the elementary level in that state. For instance, some parents expressed dismay – to no avail – that their kindergarteners and first graders had been familiarized with books promoting homosexuality and same-sex marriage without the parents’ permission.
The Associated Press reported on the school’s response: “Officials there say that since same-sex marriage is a part of life in Massachusetts, it comes up naturally and it’s impossible to notify parents every time the issue is discussed.” The issue eventually landed in court, where state judges ruled against the parents.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision is only going to open the flood gates wider for that kind of flagrant disregard for parents’ rights.
Q: But parents have historically had the right to exempt kids— “opt them out”— from controversial lessons about sexually related topics. Are you saying that right is no longer recognized?
That’s a key question! What a lot of people don’t realize is that many state education policies only make allowances for parents to opt their kids out of instruction that is categorized as “sex education” or “health.” So it becomes extremely difficult for parents to stay on top of these topics when they are moved out of “sex education” and re-categorized into more general “tolerance” or “family life” topics, which often can be brought up in any classroom subject.
That’s why the reaction of the Massachusetts school officials after their state legalized same-sex marriage was so disturbing. Essentially, they were saying it could now come up in class at any time and “it’s impossible to notify parents.”
We’ve been seeing this trend for a while now, and it’s only going to increase more rapidly with this court decision affecting all 50 states – whether it’s books promoting the redefinition of marriage, crossword puzzles introducing third graders to the idea of changing one’s sex, or the graphic promotion of sexual experimentation.
Q: That’s really sobering. How do you put that in perspective for people who might be feeling overwhelmed?
While we can’t ignore the serious consequences, at the same time, I do not believe we should despair. There are signs of hope. Consider, for instance, the nationwide reaction against Common Core. This is a parent-led movement, and it’s had a huge impact in stemming the national-standards tidal wave, even at the federal level.
That sends a strong signal that, at a fundamental level, there is still deep regard for parental rights in this country. It also demonstrates the power of passionate people to create change!
Consider also all the backlash we are currently witnessing against the atrocities within the abortion industry – even to the point where there is serious discussion of defunding Planned Parenthood. This is happening despite the existing Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. So clearly it would be a mistake to “grow weary of doing good” and lose heart at this crucial moment in our history.
Q: Is there anything parents, and other concerned citizens, can do right now?
We can work proactively to strengthen parental rights. A helpful tool is the model parental rights policy on Focus’ TrueTolerance.org action center.
We can also be proactive about strengthening the freedoms of families to choose the best education options for their children. There are many excellent groups on the frontlines of this movement. Just to name a few:
Focus on the Family’s state policy councils
The Home School Legal Defense Association
I trust you found this to be a helpful and informative interview, but we’ve just barely skimmed the surface. Candi will be back in the coming weeks to share how the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision will further impact education, especially in the area of students’ free speech rights.