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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is This Some Sort of Joke?

SWANTON, Vt. — Plans for a high school workshop by a gay advocacy group are getting a lot of scrutiny in the northwestern corner of the state.

A conservative radio talk show host has criticized Mississquoi Valley Union High School officials for allowing the two-day series of panel discussions with a group dedicated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. It's scheduled for next month.

Paul Beaudry — host of radio shows on WRSA in St. Albans and WDEV in Waterbury — has called for the invitation to the group Outright Vermont to be revoked. That group wants to discuss ways to combat bullying and violence.

"I don't think this should be in the schools. If you go to their Web site, they're all about recruiting children into the homosexual lifestyle," said Beaudry, whose child attends the school.

The upcoming workshops were one of the subjects of a School Board meeting Thursday, which drew a crowd of about 75 that was nearly evenly divided between supporters and opponents. Neither the school board nor the superintendent indicated the workshops would be canceled.

Several parents questioned the nature of Outright Vermont's work. They said they worried the group's message conflicted with many families' Christian beliefs.

"I know the gays have their rights, but what about the other children?" asked Tammy Rowell, a parent from Highgate. "There's got to be some other way."

Outright Vermont was invited to the school in January by the Gay Straight Alliance, said Outright executive director Lluvia Mulvaney-Stanak.

MVU senior Josh Mashtare, president of the school's Gay Straight Alliance, said the goal was to broaden students' education.

"We want to have a different view of bullying, to open up the school and make it more diverse. Having Outright Vermont here is going to make the school so much better," Mashtare, 18, said.

The school sent letters to students' families in preparation for the workshops offering to let students stay home. The same arrangements were made at Williston Central School last year when there were similar complaints.

"The school's been incredibly cooperative," Mulvaney-Stanak said.


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