MADISON, Wis. (BP)–The Madison, Wis. School Board Feb. 26 voted unanimously to hire a full-time advocate for homosexual and lesbian students in the school system.
Board members voted 7-0 in support of the position after hearing testimony from roughly 50 or so on both sides of the issue — including Sol-Kelley Jones, 14, the middle school daughter of Madison therapist Sunshine Jones and her partner JoAnn Kell, according to CNSNews.com.
“All the way through my elementary school years, the burden of constantly educating teachers and other school staff was on me and, of course, my parents,” Jones told the board, adding the hiring of such a professional advocate will help. “Tonight we can go home with hope in our hearts.”
CNSNews.com reported opponents of the move called the position a bad use of tax dollars and a means of facilitating people to engage in a particular lifestyle. “That’s not healthy for heterosexual or homosexual teens,” resident Margie Reffue testified.
The district will move immediately to hire an advocate, with the goal of having the person in place before the end of the 2000-2001 school year. According to the resolution, the administration is “encouraged to work closely with GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) community in developing the job description.”
Plans call for the homosexual advocate to be a teacher or guidance counselor who will be expected to “improve the academic achievement, emotional security, and personal acceptance,” of students, while being a source of information about homosexuality for staff as well.
The vote makes Madison the ninth school district nationally to add such a position, according to information on the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s Internet web site.
The proposal had become a heated topic in local media prior to Monday’s vote, with people on both sides of the issue raising concerns.
Terrell Smith of Madison wrote in a letter to the editor of one Madison newspaper that the resolution goes “beyond tolerance and diversity to one of advocacy of a destructive lifestyle.”
But homosexuality advocates cited the need to better understand children who are, or think they may be, homosexual.
“It is unconscionable for us as a community to be silent about this issue any longer, while countless youth are verbally or physically tormented, often to the brink of suicide,” Drs. Paul Grossberg and Patricia Kokotailo of the pediatrics department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School wrote in a guest newspaper editorial.
The board’s vote came the night before a Madison appearance by Judy Shepard, whose homosexual son Mathew was murdered in 1998 in Wyoming. She was scheduled to speak on the University of Wisconsin campus Feb. 27.
Haas is a correspondent with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.