Nashville CARES class lands agency in front of school board

A Nashville parent’s concern that a safer-sex class led by Nashville CARES was too explicit has led to disciplinary action, and also has sparked the interest of an anti-GLBT conservative advocacy group.

As part of an eight-hour leadership class, Hillsboro High students recently took part in a course that teaches sexual anatomy, sexual practices and abstinence as well as safer sex. Because the material is explicit, a two-page parental consent form must be signed, according to Joe Interrante, chief executive officer at Nashville CARES, which sponsors the class.

Apparently one father didn’t sign the form, but his daughter attended the class and her parent was disturbed by its contents. He complained to the principal and subsequently the school board, which said through a spokesperson that some of the material was inappropriate and discontinued that portion of the class.

Nashville CARES also provided HIV testing to any student who asked; the school board says it didn’t know about that either, but by law parental consent is not required for anyone older than 13.

Several parents have said they wish to speak to the school board on the subject at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, April 13, and in advance of that the system has said that from here on in, updated policy will require teaching from an approved curriculum, and that all high-school principals will get remedial training on the system’s Family Life and Sexuality Education Policy.

This would appear to end the issue, but the Family Action Council of Tennessee, a conservative group with a history of opposing GLBT legislative and civil issues, has weighed in with an e-mail letter to its members from Pastor David Shelley of Smith Springs Baptist Church, linking the classroom issue to Metro’s September 2009 passage of an ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination policies. In an e-mail titled “Wave by Wave: How the Homosexual Agenda will soon Control the Schools and Churches in Nashville,” Shelley writes:

“Unbeknownst to most Nashville residents, the Metro School Board changed its employment policies too. The school board added sexual orientation and gender identity to its policies in the summer of 2009 (without any input from the parents) in order to cooperate with the requirements of the teachers union, the Tennessee Educators Association. In practice, this means that a man who is gender confused and dresses as a woman, can teach impressionable young children in our public schools.

The second wave of this rising tide is now washing ashore in the business community. Three of the co-sponsors to the original ordinance have asked the Metro Human Rights Commission to investigate whether there have been any instances of employment discrimination alleged against private businesses in Nashville. This means, for example, that the Metro government may begin investigating whether or not a Christian who owns a business in Nashville is guilty of employment discrimination for not hiring or firing a cross-dresser. To my knowledge there is no provision to exempt Christian schools, para-church ministries or even churches, mosques or synagogues from these investigations either.

The third wave of this rising tide is in the curricula of our public schools. Metro Council members Megan Barry, Ronnie Steine and Erik Cole wrote that "more can be done under existing laws" and have encouraged the Human Rights Commission to develop educational programs related to gender identity discrimination.

On April 8, 2010, Family Action of Tennessee began to receive calls from concerned parents whose children attend Metro schools. Parents have been calling to report that their children at a Nashville High School were instructed in methods of sodomy, the use of condoms with oral sex, and taught that homosexual experimentation is acceptable behavior. All without prior parental permission or notification.”

The group’s intrusion into a matter that has largely been resolved among the involved parties is troublesome, said Chris Sanders, board chair of the Tennessee Equality Project, which will likely ask its members and supporters to contact the school board in the coming days in support of Nashville CARES’ various outreach programs.

“For more than 20 years, CARES has been teaching risk-reduction techniques to all segments of the population, including youth,” Sanders said. “We want to make sure that’s not lost.”

The Family Action Council is taking the stand that this is a GLBT-related issue, he added,” When that’s not the way the mainstream media is reporting it at all. The issue is that graphic sexuality was being taught — it had nothing to do with homosexuality. It's interesting that no news outlet is connecting the class to anything [related to the GLBT [community],” Sanders added. “Nothing indicates that it was the focus of the service-learning class; Family Action is trying to say that it is.”

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