Rosedale, Queens, New York City elementary school principal Beryl Bailey has refused to allow a fifth-grade student to deliver a speech he wrote, examining same-sex marriage, to the rest of the school. The mother of fifth-grade student Kameron Slade says the principal told students they could choose any topic at all, and Slade won a competition in his class. Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in New York state, the principal reportedly decided that the topic was off-limits.
The school’s website says students today are delivering “Democracy Speeches,” apparently in an effort to not teach them about the importance of equality in a democracy.
“Slade worked on his speech with his mother and his teacher after winning a class competition. He was slated to deliver it in a school-wide contest at PS 195,” NY1, a local NYC TV news station, reports that Slade’s mother ”said the principal told her the topic is inappropriate,” and some parents interviewed called same-sex marriage “an adult conversation… [t]hat’s between a parent and a child.”
“For him to be denied the right to voice his opinion really upsets me,” she said.
“I was really looking forward to it,” Kameron said. “I thought that this was a real good winning speech for tomorrow.”
Kameron’s mother said he was told to choose any topic, so he chose same-sex marriage. But on Wednesday, the principal said he should write another speech or be removed from the contest.
“She said that people have different opinions on it and that some parents may not want their children to learn about this type of topic,” Kameron said.
Kameron’s speech calls for acceptance and tolerance. It describes his mother’s explanation of the issue and his impression of his mother’s friends who are gay.
“They seemed happy,” he said. “Best of all, they seemed to love each other. The only difference was that there were two moms instead of a mother and a father.”
“It’s on the news,” his mother said. “It’s a part our lives now. They need to open up. The New York City Department of Education need to open up.”
The New York City Department of Education told NY1 Thursday night that Kameron will be permitted to give the speech Monday in some sort of a different assembly. They did not comment on the principal’s decision.
We spoke with a number of parents at the school about the issue. Most of them supported the principal’s decision, but one parent said she didn’t.
“I wouldn’t mind,” she said. “That’s fine. It’s a free country.”
Public schools, like all institutions of learning, are supposed to teach facts and relevant topics. Same-sex marriage is not pornography. Same-sex marriage has been in the news in New York for the past few years, especially leading up to its legalization one year ago. Parents should take an interest in their children’s learning, and support the schools’ efforts to teach. Schools need to recognize that for students to learn about equality, they have to start teaching it.
Since when do parents get to decide what public school curriculums teach? If a majority of parents decide they want creationism to be taught instead of evolution, will that become part of a school’s curriculum? What about climate change? Or, the latest David Barton lies? Where does it end?
Fortunately, NY1 recorded Kameron Slade’s speech, which you can watch on their website.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.