Tehachapi parents worried about gay education

TEHACHAPI, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Controversy is brewing again in Tehachapi over the issue of gay rights and education. Parents recently contacted Eyewitness News, saying they oppose new curriculum intended for their kids. The parents say they are concerned their kids will be forced to hear an agenda they don't agree with.

On July 30, the school board will vote on curriculum that will teach kids about tolerance and bullying, with a focus on homosexuality. But not all parents are in agreement with the teaching, hoping to get the board's attention with their concerns.

"They can agree to disagree agreeably, without calling names or throwing punches or throwing food at somebody," Bonnie Mata said. That is the philosophy on bullying that mother Mata believes children should be learning about at the Tehachapi Unified School District.

"In the resolution, they said the bullying needs to stop and that the curriculum needs to be all-inclusive. This is not, this is targeting one area," she said.

The resolution Mata is referring was agreed upon by the school district, the Department of Justice and the Office of Civil Rights. The resolution was mandated by the government after the suicide of a gay student named Seth Walsh.

Walsh had been bullied by kids at school, and the resolution found that the district did not do enough to protect him. Now, the district must follow specific guidelines in an effort to protect students from sexual or gender-based harassment.

But some parents think resolution is ineffective.

"This resolution is biased and discriminatory as it is written, period," said parent Beverly Smith. She believes the resolution focuses solely on homosexuality based bullying.

The resolution is being supported by other parents.

"It just shocked me that anybody would oppose this resolution. It says sexual based harassment then says gender based harassment, so it does encompass everybody," said Bonnie Mackenzie, who put three kids through the school district. Mackenzie says her son is gay and got bullied while attending school in Tehachapi. "He got harassed about being too feminine and wearing pink," she says.

The resolution will require teachers and students to attend classes about tolerance and homosexuality. In fact, a survey has already been given to students asking about their experiences with homosexuality and bullying. That survey, is stirring up debate.

"These questions are questions that i would ask my children in a private setting," said Smith.

Mackenzie believes the opposite, saying, "It's anonymous, so how's it hurting anybody."

Parents, including Mata and Smith, went to the last school board meeting asking that the resolution be revised or at least give parents the right to opt out of these classes and questionnaires.

July 30, the Tehachapi school board will vote on the new curriculum or send it back for further review. All members of the public are invited to attend that meeting and speak their mind. The district must do something to satisfy the resolution or risk the district being taken over by the state.