Focus on the Family

Is Your School Respecting Your Family’s Values?

by Candi Cushman

Well, it's finally happened. Your kids have reached the age when sex education is taught in their health classes. But you're feeling a little anxious: Will the school respect the values you're teaching at home — as well as the emotional and developmental sensitivities of your child?

Sadly, some families have found reason for concern — parents in the Houston area discovered their schools were planning to use graphic, age-inappropriate materials to introduce kids to all manners of sexual experimentation.

If you're concerned about how your child's teachers will handle these topics, it's best to be proactive. You can do your homework by perusing your school's or school district's official website for topics related to sexuality, drugs and other issues you are concerned about.

It's also a good idea to search the school's online library catalog, if one is available, since libraries generally reflect and support the school's curriculum and are often used by teachers to supplement classroom instruction. If disturbing materials start appearing, it could be a sign to start asking questions.

If you do decide to talk to the school, here are some do's and don'ts for approaching teachers and administrators: Read more

For more, see the other articles in this series.


Empowering Parents

Protecting kids’ innocence is more important—and more difficult—than ever. But Focus on the Family has some resources that will help.

by Candi Cushman

The sobering June 2013 rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage send a clear message that religious freedom in this country will face unprecedented attacks. Parents might wonder how long they can protect their children's innocence in this culture—especially when it comes to the impact on the public education system.

But there are some bright lights of hope in the midst of the darkness—like the courage of parents in Erie, Ill., a small town of about 1,500, who managed to resist a national pressure campaign waged by liberal media and one of the nation's largest homosexual activist groups.

"When parents are confident, they can do incredible things," observed Aaron Sweeney, a local youth pastor, who got involved after receiving phone calls from concerned parents. The controversy began when parents discovered plans to introduce materials from GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) at their pre-kindergarten through fourth grade elementary school. Of particular concern was a toolkit that encouraged teachers to "invite students" as young as kindergarten to "draw pictures of favorite TV or storybook characters and dress them in clothes that are different …. from what they would typically wear," such as "Cinderella in a knight's armor" or "Spiderman wearing a magic tiara."

The kit also encouraged educators to use storybooks that familiarized young children with same-sex marriage and transgender or cross-dressing behaviors. Suggested books included Uncle Bobby's Wedding, which features two male guinea pigs who get married.

When parents objected, the school board voted to remove the materials. That's when the pressure campaign began. "We've never experienced anything like this," explained Sweeny at the time. "People in our town have been called insulting names by angry bloggers. They've gotten phone calls to their home and hate emails from people who don't even live here."

At first, those tactics were intimidating. But then likeminded parents drew strength from one another. One of the resources that encouraged them most was Focus' website for parents, TrueTolerance.org, explained Sweeney: "The biggest thing was the confidence boost. Before we had Focus on the Family and TrueTolerance.org there was often a defeated attitude." But then "a lot of parents looked at TrueTolerance.org, and when they did, that's when they realized we cannot only fight this, we can win this."

Not only did the parents successfully make their voices heard in a grace-filled and reasonable way, which resulted in the school board maintaining its original stance, but one of the parents who spoke up later won an election to the school board.

While stories like this might be inspiring, parents or concerned citizens can still feel overwhelmed when it comes to figuring out what's happening in their local schools. Anticipating that need, TrueTolerance.org has unveiled a new resource—a free, downloadable "Empowering Parents" how-to guide. The guide provides easy-to-use tools, including: 1) a checklist that walks parents through simple ways to begin researching their schools system, as well as red flags that could indicate a problem, and 2) tips on what to do and how to respond if parents see something of concern on the checklist.

For instance, parents can "meet resistance with facts," rather than using emotionally loaded words, advises the kit. "It's hard to dispute visual, factual examples as mere parental overreactions." Alongside tips like these are clickable and scanable links to fact sheets that can help parents express their concerns, a "Parents' Bill of Rights," as well as examples of concerning materials that can crop up in schools.

"Our main goal behind this resource—and the website itself—is to give parents, grandparents and legal guardians the message that they are not alone and they are not powerless when it comes to safeguarding their children's innocence," said Candi Cushman, director of TrueTolerance.org and Focus' education analyst. "Their voice is backed by national groups like Focus on the Family who want to help give them the confidence they need to be proactive about speaking up for their family's values."

A shorter version of this article was originally published in the September 2013 issue of Citizen magazine.


Key Facts: The Need to Protect Parental Rights

Why do we support parental rights? Here's a quick overview based on academic data, as well as our nation’s Judeo-Christian and legal traditions.

by Candi Cushman

At Focus on the Family, we believe that children are a cherished gift from the Lord—and that parents are the ones primarily responsible for guiding and preparing them for a life of service to God and to humanity. Parents have a God-ordained right and responsibility to determine what is best for their children.

In the majority of cases, parents and legal guardians are the ones who are closest emotionally, mentally and spiritually to their children and the most in tune with their needs. Given their intimate knowledge of their children, they should have the protected ability to direct and give guidance concerning their children's educational experience.

This includes the ability to determine when, how and if their children are introduced to controversial sexual topics—as well as other educational philosophies that may conflict with families' deeply held Judeo-Christian values and principles.

Protecting parents' rights in education also protects a self-governing society by safeguarding against an intrusive government school system that could eventually infringe on religious freedom.

We also recognize that these rights have limits, and we would never condone the abuse of any child—whether verbal, physical, sexual or emotional—or parental neglect.

We believe these principles are rooted in legal history, social science data and Judeo-Christian traditions.

Judeo-Christian Tradition

Scriptures, such as these, remind us of parents' spiritual responsibility to guide and protect their children:

Legal History

Social Science Data

Research has shown that parents are one of the most influential factors in a child's academic success. Read more.


Capturing Children’s Minds

Can we really afford to teach the next generation that there is nothing distinctive or beneficial about having a mother and a father?

by Candi Cushman

What better way to capture a child's imagination than with a heart-warming story about cute, fuzzy little animals?

That's the latest method sexual advocacy groups are using in their efforts to reach the youngest minds in our public school system.

Whether it's stories about penguins, guinea pigs or even elephants, they've figured out how to use fun anecdotes about animals to familiarize children as young as preschool with the idea of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

After all, they know if they can capture the hearts and minds of the next generation, they can permanently change the culture.

Take, for instance, what happened to parents in Alameda, Calif., where the school board brazenly mandated a homosexual-themed curriculum for elementary kids. It told parents they could not opt their kids out of this teaching—even if it contradicted their most deeply held religious convictions. Or even if they believed their kids were too young to psychologically handle sexual topics.

The curriculum defined family as "a group of people living together and functioning as a single household." First-graders were to be introduced to this concept through a storybook called Who's in a Family? featuring images of same-sex couples interspersed with pictures of animals, including an all-male elephant herd depicted as another type of family. In the second grade, the kids would listen to And Tango Makes Three, a story about two male penguins who supposedly fall in love and hatch a baby chick.

But let's think carefully about this. Can we really afford to teach the next generation that there is nothing distinctive or particularly beneficial about having a mother and a father? That a family is nothing more than a group of individuals—no more unique than a herd of elephants in the jungle?

Haven't we already reaped enough of the consequences of cheapening the value of the traditional family and of man-woman marriage in this society?

But the latest news is that we've moved beyond penguins to guinea pigs: There's a new book cropping up in elementary classrooms called Uncle Bobby's Wedding. For kids as young as four-years-old, the book shows two male guinea pigs wearing bow ties, celebrating their "wedding."

To learn more about how books are being used in classrooms with young children, see Capturing Children's Minds.