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Education Reporter

Cross-Dressing for Success of Larger Agenda?

ST. CHARLES, MO - When Vickie McMichael found out that her 4th-grade daughter's field trip included a cross-dressing parent chaperone, she was concerned enough to protest the incident before the school board. The cross-dresser is reportedly the father of one of the 180 4th graders from Castlio Elementary School in the Francis Howell School District who took a field trip to Jefferson City in late October.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (12-7-02), Mrs. McMichael is the mother of four children, all of whom have attended Castlio. At the school board meeting on Nov. 21, she presented her objections to "nine- and 10-year-olds" spending 15 hours on the field trip "being influenced" by a man dressed in women's clothing. She added that "it is difficult enough" for parents to talk about the birds and the bees with their children, "much less to discuss cross-dressing." In the absence of a policy on the issue, she asserted, parents should have been notified that the cross-dresser would be a chaperone so that parents who wished to do so could opt out their children.

Parent Patti Hight, whose daughter also went on the trip, objected to the school teaching her child about sex and gender issues without her consent. Hight told the St. Charles Journal (12-8-02): "This man put teachers and other chaperones in the position of answering questions about a sexual topic. It should be the parents' responsibility, not the school's, to decide whether to tell their children about cross-dressing."

School board member Lisa Naeger agrees. She noted in a written statement that "I see this [incident] as a special interest group pushing the envelope to force tolerance. In doing so, they take the rights away from parents to decide when or how or if they want to address these issues with their own children."

While several legal experts interviewed by the Post claim the parental rights issue is murky, constitutional expert and attorney Thor Hearne says school districts could probably set policies for dress and behavior of chaperones. "If done right," he said, "I would certainly believe the school board is acting within [its] constitutional authority to create some limitations on inappropriate dress or behavior on a field trip."

NEA Influence 
Lisa Naeger says she has asked the school district to set a specific dress code for volunteers, but so far it has fallen on deaf ears. She reports that "there is a strong NEA influence" on the teachers and administrators in the Francis Howell School District, and that policies and curricula reflect official NEA positions on a variety of topics including "tolerance."

Mrs. Naeger relates that the principal of Castlio wasn't even notified about the cross-dressing father's presence on the field trip and that "the teachers just went along with it." The school board did not learn of the incident until Mrs. McMichael complained at the November meeting.

Naeger adds that five of the seven board members were endorsed by the NEA when they ran for office and that these members agree with the teachers about the cross-dressing incident. "But," she adds, there are a couple of us who aren't putting a rubber stamp on it."

Mrs. Naeger and the concerned parents wonder whether this incident is part of a larger agenda to expand "tolerance" in the classroom and in the community. The father's identity has not been made public and, although school administrators and a parent who was heavily quoted in the press insist that he has been active at the school for eight years without incident, other parents say they had no knowledge of him despite the fact that they've also been active at the school. One parent observed that "all of a sudden, we're told he's been wearing women's clothing to school functions for years and that no one has had a problem with it."

Across the country, policies have been implemented in schools to promote "tolerance" and "respect" for every conceivable lifestyle preference, ostensibly to combat violence, name-calling, and "hate." In West Virginia, parents have been up in arms since last fall about a new anti-bullying program called "The Civil Rights Team Project," organized by the state attorney general's office.

Spokesmen for the West Virginia Family Foundation told ABCNews.com that the program is not needed because the state legislature has passed anti-bullying measures, and that the state school board has adopted policies to protect all students from bullying and harassment. The Foundation asserts that the project, which has been put on hold pending a review by the state school board, is not really designed to prevent bullying but "to promote homosexuality by portraying it as an acceptable lifestyle" and to "perhaps add momentum to a movement giving gays and lesbians special status as a protected class under state hate-crime laws."

Pennsylvania's 'Gender-Identity' Law 
Last month, Governor Mark Schweiker signed new hate-crimes legislation in his state that includes the words "gender identity," making Pennsylvania the fifth state in the country to do so. Concerned citizens wonder if this will open the door to demands by men who dress as women to use women's restrooms and showers in the workplace.

The American Family Association (AFA) of Northwestern Pennsylvania expressed outrage at the Governor's action in a Dec. 3 press release. "This is plainly a homosexual special rights law," stated association president Diane Gramley. "[It] was drafted by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights and has been pushed by gay organizations."

The AFA contends that "even openly gay Congressman Barney Frank" has opposed including "gender identity" in hate crimes legislation. "There are workplace situations," Frank is quoted as saying, - "communal showers, for example - when the demands of the transgender community fly in the face of conventional norms and therefore would not pass in any Congress. I've talked with transgender activists and what they want - and what we will be forced to defend - is for people with penises who identify as women to be able to shower with other women. There are no votes for that . . ."

While the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and at least one gay rights group has weighed in on the Francis Howell flap, both in support of the cross-dressing parent, no one is suggesting that school administrators, teachers or parents envision anything so sweeping as Pennsylvania's new law. But the specter of ever more liberal policies and legislation in the name of "tolerance" continues to be raised nationwide.

Parents like Lisa Naeger and Vickie McMichael agree that the crux of the matter is parental rights. They ask some pointed questions: "Have we no longer the right to decide how to raise our own children?" "Have special interests like the NEA become so powerful that they can control how and when we teach our children about character issues that were once considered a parental right and responsibility?" As Mrs. Naeger asserts, "It will never benefit children to take these decision-making rights away from parents."

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