Carole Shields, President of People For the American Way, issued the following statement in reaction to the decision by a suburban Michigan school board to delete sexual orientation from its policy protecting students and employees from discrimination and harassment. The Wayne-Westland School District, outside Detroit, repealed its own policy.
"By deleting sexual orientation from its non-discrimination policies, the Wayne-Westland School Board is sending a dangerous message to bigots and the uninformed everywhere. Just earlier this summer, we saw a vivid example of the kind of harassment gays and lesbians face when anonymous anti-gay fliers appeared on the streets of Wayne County attacking Patricia Brown, the incumbent president of the school board. Such ugly anti-gay incidents are repeated every day at schools and in meeting rooms across the nation.
"At People For the American Way, we know that to be gay in America is to confront an entirely different environment from that which heterosexuals face. In addition to the all too real threat of anti-gay violence and the daily reality of prejudice, gays and lesbians also face a clear message of exclusion and rejection from many of the institutions of our society. The very least a school board could do to counter these messages which do harm to individual students is to provide protection from some of the most blatant forms of hatred -- harassment and discrimination. The Wayne-Westland School Board has instead chosen to reverse its own step in the right direction. We fear that the result of their action will be to make it that much more difficult for gay and lesbian students and teachers to learn and to teach."
People For the American Way is a national non-profit organization dedicated to defending civil rights; promoting the democratic values of religious freedom and respect for diversity; and developing a culture of opportunity and tolerance of individual difference. Last month, People For the American Way released Hostile Climate 1997, a state by state report of institutional anti-gay activity.