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Education Reporter

Parents Sue School District Over 'Cootie Shots'
NOVATO, CA - A group of parents filed suit earlier this year against the Novato Unified School District for subjecting children as young as seven to skits, stories, and poems containing pro-gay themes without prior notice or consent. The suit alleges that the school district violated the parents' constitutional right to direct the upbringing of their children and their free exercise of religion.

Brad Dacus
Brad Dacus
Entitled Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry, these presentations were developed by Fringe Benefits, a coalition of theater activists "dedicated to building bridges between gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) youth and their straight peers, teachers and parents." According to the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the parents, Cootie Shots was followed by question-and-answer sessions about what constitutes "normal" families and about acceptance of those who choose the homosexual lifestyle.

According to parents, children learned that there are all kinds of "families"; some with two mommies and some with two daddies. They were shown a new version of the fairytale, Rapunzel, in which Rapunzel cuts her hair and runs away with her girlfriend. After witnessing this assembly, a 3rd-grade girl asked her father if she were a lesbian. "I like girls better than boys," the child explained.

"After the assemblies took place, some of the concerned parents went to the schools to inquire why the school district had not complied with their explicit opt-out requests from such presentations," the PJI stated in a press release. School officials responded that many of the opt-out forms were "missing."

The PJI and others believe such presentations will become more and more common as state "diversity" laws, including AB 537, the California Student Safety & Violence Prevention Act of 2000, and AB 1785 and AB 1931 which address co-called "hate violence,"are implemented.

"This lawsuit is the first in a major litigation campaign to combat school districts attempting to undermine the statutory and constitutional rights of parents through the execution of AB 537 recommendations," said Brad Dacus, president of PJI. "We intend to aggressively sue every school district that similarly violates the rights of parents."

Cootie Shots was co-written by Mark Rosenthal and Norma Bowles. Fringe Benefits' online newsletter contains a diary of first-person entries by Rosenthal called "inoculate this," which some parents might find both disturbing and enlightening. The 4/27/99 entry states: "This children's theater for 'us' is bringing all of my shame and rancid homophobia up to the surface like so many dead bodies. I hate to say it cause it's just what 'they'd' want me to say. 'They' meaning the haters . . . And by even thinking it, I'm afraid they've won: But it feels like we're recruiting . . ."

With regard to bringing Cootie Shots into the schools, Rosenthal wrote on 6/18/99: "I AM BURNING! Norma just told me that those stupid [obscene noun] are at it again. . . [Obscene adjective] parents are posting signs around the school we're visiting on Monday, urging people to keep their kids home to protest the show. . . Later that day the show is canceled. Why? All I know is the principal was the victim of a hate crime. We're a bunch of [obscene adjective] cowards if we just slink off into the night. This is exactly what these kids NEED to see. The HATE. In living color on their front lawn . . ."

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