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Md. school district pulls bullying curriculum with ‘ex-gay’ references

P.G. County approved materials last spring; developer ‘shocked’ by reversal

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Richard Cohen, gay news, Washington Blade

Prince George’s County Public Schools earlier this week stopped using an anti-bullying curriculum that included references to “ex-gay” organizations.

A 21-minute video the Washington Blade obtained from Christopher Doyle, director of the International Healing Foundation who developed the Acception curriculum, features four students who are assigned a project on anti-gay bullying.

The video contains a number of short clips that include a group of students — one who receives the aforementioned assignment from his teacher — who shout an anti-gay slur at a classmate before pushing him into a locker. Another features a group of students who use a cell phone to record a teenaged boy changing inside a restroom stall before gym class.

A black student who said her classmates bullied her because she is a lesbian discusses how she accepted her sexual orientation, while a Latina claims her “sexual feelings for girls gradually went away.” Another clip features a gay teenager who said his former science teacher helped him come out to his parents and friends.

The video also includes cartoons of cavemen who explain the causes of bullying and a scientist discussing the science behind homosexuality to gay identical twins. One of the students who receives the assignment from his teacher also points out he has a cousin who said she became straight.

Both the curriculum and the website for Acception Productions, which produced it, lists Exodus International, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays among a list of resources for “questioning and/or youth with unwanted same-sex attraction.”

Doyle told the Blade the district’s School Health Committee unanimously approved the curriculum last spring. A source familiar with it who requested anonymity said a staff training took place on Oct. 18 and seventh grade health teachers had the option to use it with parental permission.

Briant Coleman, spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Public Schools, confirmed teachers first used it this school year. He said it was removed this week.

“We reviewed the video that was being used by six of our middle school health teachers,” Coleman said. “We determined that there was not enough information about bullying prevention to justify using it as a supplemental resource for our anti-bullying program.”

Doyle said the school district told him on Tuesday that it would no longer use his curriculum.

“This really came to me as a shock,” he said, noting he has yet to meet with district officials. “I don’t know exactly why they’re pulling the video. All I know is the health education supervisor told me on Tuesday that the video was being pulled for further review because of the controversy surrounding some of the messages.”

Doyle acknowledged Richard Cohen, whom the American Counseling Association permanently expelled in 2002, is the founder and former director of the International Healing Foundation. He stressed he had “nothing to do with the film” other than “he’s a colleague of mine” who told Betsy Gallun, who recently retired as supervisor of health education in the district, about it.

Richard Cohen, gay news, Washington Blade

Richard Cohen (Photo public domain)

Cohen is a member of the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ School Health Committee. Gallun is also listed as a “health education consultant” in the credits at the end of the Acception video.

“We believe in true tolerance, real diversity and equality for all,” Doyle said. “I love the entire LGBT community. I once lived a gay life. I have friends that are gay and lesbians.”

He further stressed gay-specific references are “only a small segment” of the Acception curriculum.

“Most of the curriculum does not focus on sexuality at all,” Doyle said. “The film focuses on it, but only in the realm of sharing true stories of young people … who’ve experienced bullying because of their sexuality or non-acceptance.”

This controversy is not the first time Prince George’s County Public Schools has faced questions over its connections to anti-gay officials.

The Blade reported in October that Christian Hope Ministries, Inc., the Beltsville church led by Bishop Harry Jackson, who campaigned against marriage rights for same-sex couples in Maryland and D.C., rented 35,000 square feet of office space to the school district. Copies of leases obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request indicate the church received more than $3.4 million in rental income from the Prince George’s County Public Schools from Sept. 2007 through Aug. 2012.

“Anybody involved with him [Cohen] we would consider an extremist,” Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, told the Blade. “Richard Cohen personifies extremism in the ex-gay industry and Christopher Doyle was his close associate.”

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Norman Dostal

    February 8, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    this is beyond ridiculous.

  2. Larry Esser

    February 8, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Wayne Besen is quite right to call Richard Cohen an extremist. After seeing him perform a number of times during hearings on pro-gay rights bills in Annapolis, calling him certifiable would not be too far off, either.

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Comings & Goings

Umana named associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

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Wolfgang Umana (Photo courtesy of Umana)

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

Congratulations to Wolfgang Umana on being named an associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN). He has been with them for more than five years and is currently its D.C. studio’s office manager. 

“I am honored to become GGN’s newest Associate,” Umana said.I have the glorious privilege of supporting GGN’s continuing dedication to progress, inclusion, social justice, sustainability, and beautification of the world we live in.”

Umana also works with NBR Computer Consulting as an LLC Computer Technician consultant. He has experience in social media, communications, outreach, and technical services, and provides a dynamic approach to the fast-changing world of technology. NBR Computer Consulting, LLC is a gay-owned business. 

Umana has also served as D.C. Army National Guard Director of Environmental Affairs and with EMS Consultation Services. 

He has his bachelor’s in Environmental Science & Public Policy, Human and Ecosystem Response to Climate Change, from George Mason University. 

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Capital Pride bids for D.C. to host World Pride 2025

International event draws thousands of visitors

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Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. D.C. organizers hope to host the event in 2025. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, announced on Sept. 21 that it has submitted a bid to host 2025 World Pride, the international Pride event that draws thousands of participants from throughout the world to the host city.

The announcement by Capital Pride says its bid to host the event in D.C. notes that the event, among other things, would commemorate the 50th anniversary of D.C.’s first LGBTQ Pride event in 1975, which began as a block party near Dupont Circle.

World Pride is licensed and administered by the international LGBTQ organization InterPride. The World Pride events themselves, which usually take place every other year, are organized by InterPride’s member organizations such as Capital Pride Alliance.

The Capital Pride announcement notes that World Pride “promotes visibility and awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) issues on a global level.” The announcement adds, “World Pride events include parades, marches, festivals and other cultural activities often enjoyed at Pride celebrations, along with other components such as a human rights conference and large-scale opening and closing ceremonies.”

The InterPride website says the deadline for submitting a bid for the 2025 World Pride has passed. It says D.C.’s Capital Pride and Kaohsiung Pride, located in the large Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung, are the only two remaining cities in competition for hosting the 2025 World Pride.

Ryan Bos, Capital Pride’s executive director, said InterPride was expected to make its decision on which of the two cities to select sometime in November of this year.

“A recent study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton revealed that the annual Capital Pride Celebrations, during normal years, result in approximately $371 million in positive economic impacts to the region, a number that may be doubled if the organization is awarded the prestigious event,” the Capital Pride statement says.

The 2021 World Pride took place earlier this year in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 2019 World Pride was held in New York City to commemorate the 50th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall riots, which many activists consider the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

InterPride says the 2023 World Pride will take place in Sydney, Australia.

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Va. county supervisors back resolution against ‘required’ pronoun questions

Unanimous vote in Stafford County allows school defunding

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What's Your Pronoun? review, gay news, Washington Blade
(Image courtesy of Liveright Publishing)

The Stafford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that gives it the authority to deny funds to schools that require students to give their pronouns and teach the 1619 Project and critical race theory.

The resolution denounces “the teaching of the 1619 Project and critical race theory (CRT) and related principles in Stafford County Public Schools,” and states the board does not support Stafford County Public School students “being required to identify their chosen pronouns.”

The approved document had been updated to change “requested” to give pronouns to “required.”

Republican Supervisor Gary Snellings told the board he brought the resolution forward, which passed by a 6-0 vote margin, in response to communication from parents. One supervisor was not present.

Snellings called critical race theory “racism.” He also called the New York Times’ 1619 Project published on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to the Virginia colony a “theory.”

Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia public schools, but a state law passed in 2020 requires local school boards to adopt policies that are more inclusive for transgender and non-binary students that follow, or exceed, guidelines from the state’s Department of Education.

Snellings said the problem with preferred pronouns was in requiring students to give them. He said that was not in the governing Virginia law.

“This (resolution) does not eliminate anything. It just follows state law,” Snellings said.

A Virginia court in July dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Department of Education’s guidelines for trans and non-binary students. Equality Virginia and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia were parties to the amicus brief in support of the protections.

“We are deeply disappointed that these adults made such a hateful decision for kids in the community,” tweeted the ACLU of Virginia in response to the board’s vote.

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