This week I received a package from the Delaware Family Policy Council asking my opinion on several questions they posed. The four areas covered were Bullying Policy, Contraceptives and Sex Education, Social Media Policies, and Religious Liberty. I have sent my answers back to the group, but below is a transcript of my answers for those who are interested in my opinions:
With the growing epidemic of teen suicide, it is becoming increasingly important to have a
strong bullying policy. For several years, Delaware has benefited from a strong bullying law
that requires each school district to have bullying policy. Delaware’s law defines bullying
based on actual bullying behavior rather than any protected class status (such as race, gender,
and sexual orientation).
1. Delaware’s bullying law has comprehensive requirements for school districts. Some
school bullying policies, however, are not effectively implemented or do not meet the
requirements of Delaware law. Do you support or oppose an annual school board
review to ensure that your bullying policy is implemented legally and effectively? Support, Milford policy 5412 allows for an annual review in Aug/Sep time frame of all data pertaining to discipline and bullying would fall in that category.
2. Same sex marriage activists across the country have been championing policies that
define bullying based on protected class status rather than behavior. DFPC supports
policy that elevates protection from bullying for every student, and opposes elevating
protection based on protected class status or groups. Do you support or oppose the
current definition of bullying that protects all students equally? Support, a Bullying policy that is equal to all students. Milford policy 5404 states “District prohibits the bullying of any person”.
3. DFPC supports adding an explicit free speech clause to protect the free speech rights
of students and staff including the right to political, philosophical, and religious
speech. Do you support or oppose adding an explicit free speech clause to bullying
policies? Oppose adding language as it currently is included in Milford policy # 5311, and should be its own policy not limited to Bullying.
Contraceptives and Sex Education
The Delaware Division of Public Health has implemented a-three pronged approach for distributing contraceptives in public schools. The three prongs are Planned Parenthood, the Adolescent Resource Center (ARC), and Wellness Centers. All three are funded and promoted by the state. All three go into public schools and give contraceptives to students both inside and outside of schools & often offer abortion referrals as well. Tax payer funded contraceptives for ages 12 to 18 years are considered “confidential services” and therefore keep parents in the dark regarding the well being of their children.
1. Planned Parenthood and ARC are invited into many Delaware public schools as guest instructors. As guests, they are often able to avoid policies requiring parental notification. DFPC supports policies that notify parents of all the services provided by Planned Parenthood and ARC (especially abortion services, referrals, abortion causing drugs), and parents given the opportunity to “opt their children out” from the instruction. Do you support or oppose a policy that requires parents to be notified and given an “opt out” of controversial instruction, outside guest instructors, or materials related to reproductive health? Support and current board policy 1002 allows for parental involvement in decisions related to their children’s education.
2. Planned Parenthood and ARC promote their clinics outside of the classroom that offer abortions and abortion causing drugs. Parental notification of these contraceptive services and their use are not required. Do you Support or Oppose organizations that promote or offer Abortion services having access to children of any age in public schools? Oppose any group other then those approved by board, and currently the Wellness center operated by Bay Health will not offer services without consent of Parent, “NO services will be offered without parental consent”.
3. The traditional health-services offered in a-school based-wellness center do not include reproductive health services. Therefore, parents have knowledge of every service offered and used by their children. The Division of Public Health gives school boards the authority to offer confidential reproductive health services to children ages 12 to 18 in school based wellness centers. This includes all reproductive services such as condoms and birth control pill, SID testing, pregnancy testing’ and screening, and referrals based on test results. This option keeps parents in the dark if their children receive those contraceptive services. Currently, this option forces parents to choose between giving their children access to contraceptives and losing access to the wellness center entirely. DFPC supports the traditional option of services which does not violate parental rights. Would you support or oppose full reproductive health services being offered in the school based wellness centers in your school district? Support services that are only approved yearly by a parent or Guardian, and the Milford policy allows parents to choose only those services they will permit!
4. School Boards have the authority to decide what type of sex education will be taught.
DFPC supports proven abstinence based education as the safest and healthiest choice for children, as well as strategies that support and equip parents as the primary educator about such important issues. DFPC opposes contraceptive based programs that promote contraceptive use as an acceptable form of behavior and undermine abstinence as the expected standard for all students. Do you support or oppose abstinence based sex education? Support any program that teaches a healthy and safe lifestyle to include smoking prevention/cessation, individual and group health education, HIV and AIDS education, responsible decision making, health lifestyle habits, and health promotion.
Social Media Policies
School boards and government bodies across the country are reeling from the implications of social media for good and for bad. Many school boards are considering social media policies to promote and require responsible use of social media. DFPC supports and offers policy recommendations that protect teachers and students First Amendment rights to express their opinions about religion, sexuality, and marriage.
1. For example, one proposed policy would have allowed school employees to be fired for stating a position of disagreement about same sex marriage, deeming it as “negative comments” about groups of people based on “sexual orientation.” Such vague prohibitions ban constitutionally protected free speech and result in costly lawsuits. Do you support or oppose a social media policy that preserves religious liberty as well as allows free speech expression of opinions about religion, sexuality and marriage? Support a social media policy that protects 1st Amendment rights while protecting the students and teachers.
2. DFPC supports adding an explicit free speech clause to protect the free speech rights of students and staff including the right to political, philosophical, and religious speech. Do you support or oppose adding an explicit free speech clause to social media policies? Support policy that does recognize free speech protection.
DFPC supports the religious liberties of school board members, staff, and students. Unfortunately, first amendment rights in public schools are widely misunderstood. Fear of lawsuits can even cause administrators to make decisions that violate constitutional rights.
It’s important that administrators and teachers understand our first amendment rights.
DFPC works to increase understanding in this area as well as offer legal guidance, and referrals for free legal representation when necessary.
1. DFPC learned that teachers at a Delaware school currently have a Bible study before school starts, and were asked to leave the school property for Bible study. DFPC supports the right of teachers to engage in Bible study and prayer outside of their teaching responsibilities, including on public school property. Do you support or oppose teachers’ rights to engage in religious activities on public school property? Support any group’s right to meet as long as they follow the guidelines for separation of church and state. Milford has as student lead Bible group who meets before school starts, and it is a volunteer group.
2. Private Citizens in Indian River School District use the public comment section of school board meetings to have an invocation. Do you support or oppose prayers by private citizens during the general public comment section of school board meetings? Support, The public is free to use their public time as they see fit and within the time limit set by board. Students also can speak at graduations if they so desire.
3. DFPC represents many teachers in Delaware who are religious objectors to the
National Education Association (refer to 2011 NEA Resolutions). The NEA has taken positions on a wide range of issues unrelated to education, and many teachers oppose NEA positions on religious grounds. School Boards often determine whether or not to require something known as “fair share” which forces non-union religious objectors to pay a majority of NEA/DSEA union dues. Teachers should and do have the choice to participate in unions other than the NEA. When a teacher does not participate in the NEA due to religious objections, it is not fair to take a teacher’s pay and force their support of an organization that violates their religious beliefs. Do you support or oppose giving religious objectors the right to be free from funding the NEA teachers’ union? I support any individuals right to not have to support any organization they do not feel represents them equally, that’s Democracy!