Focus on the Family has a message for gay rights activists: stay off the playground.
Candi Cushman, an education analyst for the James Dobson-founded group, told The Denver Post this weekend that gay rights advocates have inserted their agenda into anti-bullying efforts, at the expense of Christian values.
“We feel more and more that activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints, while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled,” Cushman told the Post.
In an email to TPM, Cushman expanded her argument. “Listing certain categories creates a system ripe for reverse discrimination, sending the message that certain characteristics are more worthy of protection than others,” she said.
Cushman’s argument has two levels: first, she says anti-bullying efforts wrongly put the focus on the “characteristics of the victim” instead of the “wrong actions of the bullies.” Second, she thinks that gay rights activists are using the whole issue to sneak their agenda into the nation’s schools. She denounced the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
“In many cases, these politicized bullying policies are being used as tools to undermine parental rights,” she said, “and censor or marginalize students and parents with differing viewpoints.”
Cushman cited a “back to school guide” published by GLSEN and books titled Two Moms, the Zark and Me and The Full Spectrum as examples of GLSEN’s tactics in action.
“I could give you many more examples of how this reverse discrimination is playing out in books, curriculum and schoolwide initiatives, all promoted in the name of ‘tolerance’ and ‘anti-bullying,’” Cushman said.
According to the Post, about 30 percent of sixth- to 10th-graders in the U.S. report being involved in bullying, either as a victim or bully.
Late Update: Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director, sent the following statement to TPM in response to Cushman’s comments:
Focus on the Family has tried to discredit GLSEN’s efforts to make schools safe for all students since our founding in 1990. These most recent attempts show that, once again, Focus on the Family either doesn’t know what it is talking about or simply don’t care about addressing bullying, or both. The policies we support - which, by the way, include protections for bullying based on religion - have been shown by years of research to make a difference in young people’s lives. That is why nearly 70 national education, youth service and civil and human rights organizations endorse the Safe Schools Improvement Act. In terms of LGBT youth, we certainly hope that Focus on the Family agrees that the current environment in which nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experience harassment each year in school is simply unacceptable. But we won’t hold our breath.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com