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California Conservatives Call for School Boycott on Harvey Milk Day

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Monday May 20, 2013

A conservative group is raising hackles in sunny California by urging parents to keep their children home from school this Wednesday on Harvey Milk Day, commemorating the first openly gay lawmaker.

The group, which is affiliated with the ultra right wing Campaign for Children and Families, is running 60-second radio ads in Sacramento and Los Angeles calling for parents to prohibit their kids from learning about the slain lawmaker.

"Children belong to the parents, not to the state, and to force a sexual agenda and a political agenda upon children, that's highly inappropriate," said spokesman Randy Thomasson, who called Milk a "sexual anarchist" as reported on local television news station KCRA.

Parents found the group's proposal "ridiculous," as noted by Jennifer Postlewaithe, who told a local Sacramento CBS affiliate that, "I would be happy if my daughter would learn about Harvey Milk at school." Others, like Matt Bolton, said he was shocked it was even an issue in this day and age.

The holiday has been on the books since 2009, when the group led statewide battle against "Harvey Milk Day" before California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed S.B. 572 on Oct. 12.

S.B. 572 states, "Perhaps more than any other modern figure, Harvey Milk's life and political career embody the rise of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights movement in California, across the nation, and throughout the world."

The bill designates May 22 -- Milk's birthday -- as a date of "special significance" and encourages all California public schools to "conduct suitable commemorative exercises remembering the life of Harvey Milk and recognizing his accomplishments as well as the contributions he made to this state."

It requires no parental consent for student participation. But Thomasson said parents should have the final say about what their children learn, saying, Since S.B. 572 has no opt-out, boycotting Harvey Milk Day and pulling their children out of the imploding government school system is the only way for parents to protect their girls and boys."

But parents are concerned about the boycott. Even in school districts in traditionally conservative areas, teachers are allowed to promote Harvey Milk Day, with a report by the Santa Clarita Signal saying, "Teachers will be encouraged to conduct exercises recalling Milk's life and contributions to the state." And the group Equality California reportedly has plans to develop a curriculum promoting Milk's value in public schools.

Natalya Edwards has a fourth-grade student at Matsuyama Elementary School in Sacramento's Pocket area.

"I would never have my child boycott that," Edwards told KCRA 3. "Obviously I believe in rights for all, but the boycotting to me teaches hate and you don't let the kids learn about it."

But Thomasson says that the ads, which he said were in the tens of thousands of dollars, were purchased because they believe Milk is a bad role model for children.

"The only thing parents can do is because this is done behind their backs is to keep their kids home from this sexual indoctrination," he said.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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