As the parent of a first grader, this story grabbed my attention immediately. A class of first graders was taken on a school-sponsored, school-sanctioned, school-funded field trip to San Francisco City Hall to attend the wedding of their female teacher. To another female. At taxpayer expense.
A number of thoughts went through my head initially. How could the school do this? Did their parents know? Is this a proper use of taxpayer money? Isn’t there something more educational these first graders could be doing? Were these kids being used as political pawns?
So I did some research. I discovered that that this public elementary school did indeed schedule a school funded field trip for this teacher’s first grade class to attend the wedding. I also discovered that the children’s parents were indeed advised of this field trip, and given the opportunity to opt out of the trip. Apparently the parents of two children did exactly that. I also discovered that there is a proposition on California’s November ballot seeking to ban gay marriage, and that a reporter (who just happened to be at city hall for this gay wedding) noted one of the first graders was wearing a button opposing the proposition to ban gay marriage. Unfortuantely I was not able to determine whether that child was supplied with that button by the school or by his or her parents.
These children are certainly being used as pawns, but the difficult part is telling who is moving them around the chess board. No matter whether it is their parents, the school district or this particular teacher, using children to advance a political cause is reprehensible. If the proposed action doesn’t have enough attraction on its own, proponents should resist the urge to involve children in something they can’t understand.
As I stated, I am the parent of a first grader. He has had a couple field trips already this year. One was to Bradley Farms on Maple Avenue in Elmira, NY to pet the farm animals and look at pumpkins. The other was to the West Elmira Volunteer Fire Department, where he learned about fire safety and developed a plan for exiting our house in the event of a fire. Both resulted in some wonderful family discussions around the dinner table. That should be the intent of field trips; to provide age appropriate learning opportunities which can be followed up at home with further discussion and learning. I don’t know that first graders attending a gay wedding would fall into the category of age appropriate learning opportunities. I would feel the same way if these kids were dragged off to a straight wedding.
I would probably be considered a traditional parent. My two sons know nothing of the birds and bees. They spend their free time engaged in sports and playing outside whenever possible. They still think girls are “icky” and I intend to keep it that way as long as possible. When, if, and how I decide to discuss human sexuality with my children is a decision that my wife and I will make. Whether and how same sex relationships will be addressed will also be our decision. I do not need or want the school district imposing its morality on my family. That is and always has been the responsibility and prerogative of the parents. Schools need to butt out of traditional parental roles, and concentrate on teaching. They have a hard enough time with math and science. I can’t imagine the mess they would make in attempting to teach the legality and morality of same sex marriages in contemporary America.
Now to get back to the legalities of it all. Could the parents of these kids sue? Probably not, as long as they were advised of what the field trip would entail. If they weren’t advised they could sue, but might have a hard time establishing damages.
Could the taxpayers of this school district sue for mis-use of school funds? That is an interesting question. Taking first graders to same sex weddigs, even if it is their teacher’s wedding, seems a bit outside of the school district’s mission. With test results of american school children lagging far behind other industrialized nations, it would seem that there are other, better uses of the schools limited resources and time. While I doubt any lawsuit would be effective, if may provoke the school board and administration to take action against the officials responsible for this field trip.
First grade is an important time in a child’s development. They are making sure their letters point the right direction, continuing to build on their reading skills and vocabulary, and trying to perfect their monkey bar technique during recreation. The last thing they need to worry about is whether our constitution guarantees the right to same sex marriage.
In summation, I have three thoughts on this issue. 1. Schools should teach children reading, writing and arithmetic. 2. Parents should teach their children morality. 3. Kids should be allowed to be kids as long as humanly possible. They will have the rest of their lives to decide these issues for themselves.
Thanks for reading, and I welcome your comments!
ZiffLaw Attorney, Esq.
NY and PA Personal Injury and Malpractice Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901