By Alice Keesing
Advertiser Education Writer
A parade of Carol Gabbards critics has dogged her ever since she joined the Board of Education in November and, on Thursday, chairman Herb Watanabe decided hed heard enough.
"This thing will not be accepted henceforth," he said after more testimony both against and in support of Gabbard. "We do not want the board to be sitting out here having debate for one or another. This is not a place for that. If you want to take up issues that refer to education, wed like to have that done."
Watanabes request speaks to the boards concern that the situation could become disruptive. By law, the board can limit public testimony to subjects that are on the meeting agenda.
Gabbard has been a controversial figure since the run-up to the November election when she became embroiled in a heated debate about whether gay students should be given specific protection under the schools anti-harassment rules, referred to as Chapter 19.
There were street demonstrations both opposing and supporting Gabbard, and clashes with other candidates over the question of specifically supporting gay students.
Gabbard has said she believes all students should be protected, but asked whether homosexuality should be taught in schools as "a normal and natural lifestyle." Gabbard is the wife of Mike Gabbard, who led the successful campaign for a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage in 1998.
After Gabbard won election to the board with nearly 100,000 votes, her opponents vowed to attend every meeting and scrutinize her every move. Most of them just observe, often wearing anti-Gabbard T-shirts.
Gabbard has not responded to her critics during board meetings. In a written response to Advertiser questions yesterday, she said: "The continuing harassment and personal attacks against me by homosexual activists at three BOE meetings makes it clear that they are more interested in demonizing me than they are in our childrens education.
"Theyre essentially holding our childrens education hostage by wasting the valuable time and energy of the Board of Education members."
But Gabbards opponents say board member Denise Matsumoto asked for proof two weeks ago about their testimony that Gabbard had been hateful and harmful to gays and lesbians.
"So what were going to do is provide testimony that proves what were saying," said Nancy Roberts, a member of Stop Promoting Hatred Hawaii, which protested Gabbards candidacy.
Another member, Tracey LaGondino, said she objected to Watanabes request and said it wont stop the group from attending meetings.
"Would he prefer protests as opposed to testimony?" she asked. "Were going to be there every single time its a public forum and were interested in public education, particularly in the implementation of Chapter 19, and not just in what Carol Gabbard is doing."
Meanwhile, the Department of Education is putting together a group of people to serve on the task force that will determine how the revised anti-harassment rule is enforced.
[back to top]