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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 14, 2001

Panel split over policy on gay kids

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

More than a year after it adopted an anti-harassment rule, the Board of Education last night continued to hear testimony about its lack of enforcement and the perception that the schools would endorse homosexuality by teaching tolerance of gay students.

A committee appointed to recommend how the Department of Education could protect gay students from harassment has come to loggerheads.

"We may have a policy on paper, but it is not yet implemented," said Bob Bidwell, a pediatrician who serves on the committee. "If it doesn't get implemented, it doesn't exist, in my mind."

Bidwell and others asked the board to adopt a report that was written by a majority of committee members, who have worked for two months on a plan to implement the anti-harassment rule.

But Devin Bull, a committee member, called the recommendation a fake report because the full committee has never reached consensus.

"Their agenda is to teach homosexuality in the schools," Bull said.

The DOE has no plan yet for implementing an anti-harassment rule designed to protect gay students.

But Superintendent Pat Hamamoto yesterday said the department will look at the majority report, and any other reports that come from other individuals or groups on the committee, and come up with an implementation plan. The proposal will be given to the board in January.

The board found itself immersed in the intense debate over sexual orientation when it rewrote its so-called Chapter 19 rule to bar students from harassing others because of gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, among other things.

Opponents said they feared the wording would require tolerance training that would be tantamount to endorsing homosexuality.

Supporters said gay students need specific protection because they are targeted by students and staff.

The board passed the rule change in November 2000, then the department appointed community members to a task force charged with creating a plan for implementation.

Among other things, the majority report wants mandatory annual training for school personnel, students and parents.

According to the report, the training should focus on all protected classes of students, but a "significant portion" should focus on gay students, "given the long-standing historical neglect, pervasive societal nonacceptance and the continued obliviousness of the existence of harassment for this protected class of students."