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Harvey Milk: OK For a Movie, but Not For the Classroom


When California sixth-grader Natalie Jones put together a research project about Harvey Milk, it received a near perfect grade. But, when it came time to share the Powerpoint presentation, Natalie's principal said parents would have to sign a permission slip before her classmates could see it during a special lunchtime period.

The principal explained that since Harvey Milk was gay, parents might object to their children learning about his life. But, Harvey's sexual orientation had nothing to do with Natalie's decision to research him. She said she chose Harvey as her subject not because of his gay activism, but because he stood up for all minorities. And while the school cited sex education policies for its decision, the ACLU says officials misapplied those guidelines and violated Natalie's freedom of speech.

Discussing the openly gay politician in California public schools might soon become less unusual (but probably equally controversial). State lawmakers are considering a bill that would declare May 22 "Harvey Milk Day." May 22 wouldn't be a holiday, but it would be an occasion for teachers to talk about Milk's fight for equal rights. Conservative groups are already mobilizing to urge Gov. Schwarzenegger to veto the bill that they say would teach students about "homosexual experimentation."

Do you think Natalie should have been able to present her project? Should public schools go even further and encourage teachers to introduce students to Harvey's life story?

To see video of Natalie discussing the controversy, read more.

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