Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another Attack

I want to alert you to another fundraising letter by the American Family Association that, at best, misrepresents positions taken by the NEA at the recent annual assembly. Not only does this letter ask for contributions to their cause, it is also conducting a poll for the support of vouchers.

As one of your representatives in Philadelphia, I would like to give you the true account of what did, and did not occur. NEA and our state affiliates are committed to great public schools for every child. Contrary to what the AFA says, the delegates to the Representative Assembly, not the executive committee, did accept a committee report from the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Committee to address the needs of students dealing with these issues. The committee’s recommendation did not include making sexual orientation training a requirement for earning a license to teach nor did it include any recommendation to teach kids to support same-sex marriages as stated in the fund-raising letter.

We know that it is extremely difficult for children to learn if they are being teased, bullied, or harassed. Schools should be “safe zones”--- places where students should feel safe and comfortable. A 2005 national survey, “From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Teachers & Students,” illustrates a problematic chain reaction. According to the survey:

*Students who are harassed are more likely to miss classes. Missed classes can affect a student’s ability to learn.

*Two-thirds of teens say they have been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted in the past year. The most common reason is physical appearance. The next most common reason for frequent harassment is sexual orientation.

*Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students are three times as likely as straight students to say they do not feel safe at school.

*Ninety percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students report being harassed or assaulted during the past year.

Our members should have the latest in up to date research in order to provide our students with a safe school. The Assembly did accept a recommendation for the NEA to support passage of federal hate crimes legislation in order to protect members and students from harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

If situations arise in classrooms, our members can ask the NEA for resources to address issues, not causes. Our members are concerned about the welfare of their students and want to ensure all students and parents are treated with respect. Our members encounter students that come from diverse backgrounds, and our goal is to provide the right of every child to learn in school environments that are free from intimidation or harassment.

We will not allow people to profit financially or divert us from the important issues that we face. Adequate funding for our schools, keeping the promise to get us to the regional average in salaries, discussions dealing with merit pay, increased school calendars with no additional compensation, a stable and well funded retirement system, affordable health insurance for our members and their families, and providing a great public school for every child are the issues at the forefront of OEA’s agenda.

Please let me know if you have heard anything in your local, your school district or your place of worship. I will be glad to address concerns individually or at a local meeting.

Thank you for the great work you are doing. I appreciate your commitment to the children of Oklahoma, our profession, and our Association.

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