New Law Redefines Gender in California Schools

Friday, 11 Jan 2008 08:26 PM

By Lowell Ponte

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Last Oct. 12, California’s Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a controversial Democratic-authored measure, SB 777, that subtly redefines how sexuality and gender may be taught and dealt with in public schools.

This law had been held in abeyance until this month while conservatives were given 90 days to collect signatures to qualify a June ballot referendum that would let voters approve or overturn it.

On Thursday, the referendum deadline, activists acknowledged that they had fallen short, gathering only 350,000 of the 433,971 signatures required.

With the new law in effect, said referendum supporter Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Family Impact, conservative groups will now advance a ballot initiative to replace the most troublesome language of the new law in California’s education code.

“San Francisco values should not be forced on every school district throughout the state,” England told Newsmax.

Previous California law made it illegal for schools to offer instruction or an activity that “reflects adversely upon persons” because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin or ancestry.

State Senate Bill 777 revises this protected list to disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. It also changes the words “reflects adversely” to prohibit instead any teaching or activity that “promotes a discriminatory bias.” The conservative ballot initiative, if qualified and passed by voters, would essentially restore the old legal language.

SB 777 critics claim that it could be used to prohibit, as discriminatory, textbooks that depict only a man and a woman as a married couple.

The new law erases the old definition of sex as entirely male or female and, say critics, could give students the right to decide for themselves what gender they are. This, say critics, could in theory allow a male who thought of himself as female to assert his right to shower with the girls.

Such concerns are “balderdash,” according to Democratic state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, chief sponsor of the new law. Kuehl, who succeeded radical Tom Hayden in this Malibu-Santa Monica legislative district, is one of five openly homosexual members of the California Legislature. In her earlier career as an actress, she became famous as Zelda Gilroy, madly in love with Dobie in the 1959-63 TV series “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”

“SB 777 certainly would not ban reference to ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ in the curriculum,” Kuehl wrote in a Dec. 29 op-ed article.

Kuehl is correct, as the Claremont Institute reported, because facing controversy last September she removed from her bill the “language that would have forbidden in public schools the use of ‘mom,’ ‘dad,’ ‘husband’ and ‘wife.’”

“SB 777 does not create a radical new definition of gender that will allow boys and girls to shower together,” wrote Kuehl, nor does it “change the content requirements for textbooks and other instructional materials.”

But, as legislative liaison Meredith Turney of Capitol Resource Institute testified last year, “Los Angeles Unified School District has already implemented a policy that states a boy perceiving himself to be a girl may use the girls’ restroom and locker room. He may also participate in girls’ sports and other female-only activities.”

According to Kuehl, her new law “simply lists the currently prohibited bases of discrimination” that have been the law since at least 2000 “and the current definitions for those terms in one place for easy reference by parents and school administrators.

But Republican California state Sen. Tom McClintock sees “a big difference” between old laws that prohibit things that “adversely reflect” on certain groups and the new law that makes it illegal for schools to “promote a discriminatory bias” towards certain groups.

The old law was not violated if a school elected a prom king and queen, or if a transgender student felt uncomfortable in the boys’ locker room, or if a school celebrated Cinco de Mayo but not Bastille Day, according to McClintock. But under the new law legal action might be brought to redress all of these as promoting discriminatory bias.

“SB 777 does open a door to vexatious litigation,” wrote Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters last December. He described the new law as “another troublesome step down the slippery slope of politics dictating what version of history and current events children should be taught…. [L]awsuit-leery educators may see it as forcing them to censor or repress anything that even indirectly touches on sexual orientation in a way that someone somewhere might consider offensive.”

Critics have described the new law as a way to impose “the homosexual agenda” on children as young as kindergarteners.

“Here’s a suggestion for the groups that opposed this new law: use it,” wrote Senator McClintock last October.

“After all, if courts begin ruling that exclusion is indeed a form of discriminatory bias – which is clearly the intent of this bill – there are no groups more excluded or less tolerated in the public schools today than evangelical Christians, orthodox Jews and traditional Catholics.”

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