On July 4th, 1993, the New York Times covered the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth which laid the groundwork for the Gay and Lesbian Student rights law which I later advocated for through the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.
More from “Gov. Weld Asks Schools to Aid Gay Students” in the New York Times:
Gov Weld Asks Schools to Aid Gay Students
Boston, July 3 – In an effort to make Massachusetts high schools safer for homosexual students, Gov. William F. Weld has announced what is believed to be the first statewide effort to train teachers to help those students.
Each school will have the option of adopting the program, which calls for training teachers to prevent violence and harassment against homosexuals and to prevent suicide. Schools are asked to adopt anti-discrimination policies to protect gay students and to form support groups to promote communication between gay and heterosexual students.
The concept of schools as safe haves must apply to all students, including gay and lesbian students,” Governor Weld told a group of teachers and homosexual students in the Arlington Street Church, where he announced his plan on Wednesday.
The recommendations, approved by the state Board of Education in May, were made by the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. Mr. Weld, a Republican formed the panel after reading a 1989 Federal report that said nearly a third of all suicides by the young were by homosexuals.
“This is not about a different way of life; it is about life itself,” the Governor said. “We can take the first step toward ending gay-youth suicide by creating an atmosphere of dignity and respect for gay youth in our schools.”
Before the Governor spoke, two homosexuals described their experiences in Massachusetts schools.
Troix Bettencourt, 18, hid his homosexuality two years ago at Lowell High School. He was a student leader and he had a girlfriend. He often heard slurs and epithets about homosexuals.
“Maybe they weren’t directed at me but I heard them all around me,” he said. “I wanted to be normal.”
Stacey Harris, 24, said she had attempted suicide five times. Six years ago, she attended Lexington High School, where her sexual orientation was no secret. “We got comments in the hallway,” Ms. Harris recalled. “We had rocks thrown out the windows at our cars.”
The chairman of the Governor’s commission, David LaFontaine, said: “The approach we’re taking in Massachusetts is very different from the one taken in New York City with the Rainbow curriculum. If we had tried to force a particular curriculum on the school system, I think the results would have been disastrous.”
The New York program, which ran into strong opposition, would have put a new curriculum into the schools to promote tolerance. The Massachusetts program focuses on training teachers, but makes no changes in curriculum.
Range of Reaction
While some objections to the Massachusetts program have been raised the reactions of advocates for gay rights and the state of Republican Party have largely been favorable.
C. Joseph Doyle, the executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a not-for-profit, independent lay organization, said, “We are witnessing another sordid attempt to use public education to promote the homosexual agenda.”
But Torie Osborn, the head of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, said: “This is very, very pioneering. I’ve never known anything on a statewide level with the imprimatur of a governor.
Frances Kunreuther, the executive director of the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a not-for-profit New York organization that helps young homosexuals, said, “I applaud it – I’m thrilled by it – but there’s more to do.”
But she added: “It needs to be mandated. To be able to opt out of something that really is a life-and-death issue is not acceptable.”
Gene Hartigan, the executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said that party members believed that the Governor “has been forthright in his willingness to take on issues that others think are too sticky to touch.”
“Extremely conservative voters extremely conservative interest groups will always feel that any kind of assessment of gay and lesbian issues is offensive,” he said.