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Janesville School District apologizes for showing same-sex marriage video

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Nick Crow
May 13, 2014

JANESVILLE—The Janesville School District made a mistake by showing the video “Kids React to Gay Marriage” at Craig High School on April 11, Superintendent Karen Schulte said Tuesday.

“Once I viewed the video, I felt like it was biased to one side of the (same-sex marriage) issue,” Schulte said. “It's not something we would typically do. When looking at controversial issues, we need to look at both sides.”

The video on same-sex marriage was shown during advisory periods during a Day of Silence observance at the school, according to a news release by the district. The day was intended to be a call to action to protest the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their supporters.

Students from the school's Gay/Straight Alliance Club selected the video, which was then approved by club advisers and the school's principal.

Three parents wrote letters complaining that students shouldn't have been shown the video, but the majority of parents didn't have an issue with it, Schulte said.

“It's part of my job to look at board policy and see if it's being upheld,” Schulte said.

She said board policy 6021, which regulates controversial issues in the classroom, was not followed in this instance because both sides weren't presented. The video focused on same-sex marriage but didn't make a connection to harassment and bullying, Schulte said.

WATCH THIS
Kids React to Gay Marriage (15:58)
Craig High School officials showed this video to students on April 11 during a Day of Silence observance at the school, according to a news release from the district. Superintendent Karen Schulte said the video was inappropriate because it was biased to one side of the same-sex marriage debate.

“The national website states that the purpose of the Day of Silence is to call attention to the harassment and discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth,” Schulte wrote in the news release. “In the School District of Janesville, the focus of the Day of Silence is also to eliminate bullying and harassment toward all students.”

Schulte said the video “certainly didn't show support for the other side” that opposes same-sex marriage, but she believes the student group who chose the video was “well intentioned” and that this is a “teachable moment” for those students.

“We always try to find balance,” Schulte said.

Board member Bill Sodemann said the district made an “obvious error” by showing the video but was pleased a public apology was issued.

“The video goes against our policies,” Sodemann said. “We can't use the schools to promote political agendas.”

Sodemann said the district showed transparency Tuesday by letting the public know it had made a mistake just as it does when it notifies the public of an accomplishment.

“It was supposed to be an anti-bullying message but didn't do anything but promote gay marriage,” Sodemann said. “When dealing with these issues, you need to have balance and can't promote political issues.”

Board President Greg Ardrey said the board wasn't aware of the video until May 6 and took appropriate action upon finding out from a parent. He said it is important for the district to acknowledge when it makes a mistake.

“The No. 1 piece is we recognized a violation in policy had occurred,” Ardrey said. “In this case for certain, there weren't two sides of the video expressed.”



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