Two parents who objected to a talk by representatives of a homosexual organization at Wilde Lake High School plan to take their protest to the county school board tomorrow.
James and Ann Sullivan, parents of an 11th-grader at the Columbia school, have been circulating an open letter criticizing a presentation by the Washington-based SexualMinority Youth Assistance League to Wilde Lake juniors. They plan toaddress school board members tomorrow at the board's meeting.
The Sullivans' letter is accompanied by a sample protest letter that can be used to: object to the presentation; request that it not be repeated at any other county school; ask for a second program at Wilde Lake that would "accurately express the traditional conservative family view on homosexuality."
The SMYAL presentation waspart of atwo-day "wellness" program last month for 11th-graders that featuredAIDS education on the first day and education about homosexuality the second day. The organization works with gay, lesbian and bisexual young people between the ages of 14 and 21.
"We thought it was appropriate because of the tie to AIDS . . . and we also had some in-house reasons, because of the name-calling students do," said Wilde Lake Principal Bonnie S. Daniel.
Daniel said she does not plan a follow-up program as requested by the Sullivans because she believes the original program was factual and informative. The principal said she received objections to the program from two sets of parents. Several other parents "had concerns, but were not of the same mind-set" as those who objected, she said.
Although the Sullivans' open letter claimed that parents were not notified in advance of the program, Daniel said a school guidance counselor distributed letters for the studentsto take home several days before the program.
Parents who did notwant their children to attend were asked to fill in and return a form to the school, the principal said. She said one parent barred her child from the program, but the student decided to attend.
Robert Warfel, director of training and education for SMYAL, said the talk atWilde Lake was a standard presentation that has been given successfully at other schools.
The protesters "make it out to sound like wewere advocating a homosexual lifestyle. That's not true," Warfel said. He said any young person who comes to SMYAL "can conclude whateverhe needs to about his sexuality."
Warfel said the lack of a support system for homosexual teen-agers may account for their high rate of suicide. Homosexual teens are believed to be two to three times as likely to commit suicide as their heterosexual peers.
"We show that all adolescents go through turmoil but it's compounded for a young person who is bisexual or homosexual because there's no support groupfor them," Warfel said.
Ann Sullivan said Monday that her appeal to the board will focus on school system policies. She said she couldnot discuss it further because of a severe case of laryngitis and added that her husband was unavailable for comment because he was working extended hours.
The Sullivans said in their open letter that the message to students appeared to be that homosexuality "should be embraced by law and conscience as normal" and that "suppression, control or efforts to change one's positive tendencies toward homosexualityare counterproductive to that person's well-being."
School board Chairwoman Deborah D. Kendig said Monday she had received about 12 letters from around the county, most very similar.
"The impression this has made on me is that of a chain letter," she said.
Kendig said she was annoyed that senders of the letters hadn't checked to see whether parents had in fact been notified about the presentation. "I'm offended when people say they're outraged that school officials would allow this presentation without notification when I have in hand the permission slips," she said.