From the Marin Independent Journal, September 12, 2002
Marin Voice (Editorial Opinion) 


Novato Parents Tackle Diversity
by Abby Wong

As a member of the Novato Parents & Family Coalition (NPFC) -- or for short -- I am writing to tell the public, more about our newly formed, grassroots group of concerned families.

Our Web site, launched on Aug. 20, states: "NPFC is committed to keeping academic excellence paramount by helping ensure a safe and respectful school environment for all. As such, we, of course, support diversity awareness and only ask it be age-appropriate and respectful of our role as parents.

"In short, we are here, first and foremost, for our children."

Here is our one-month old history.

NPFC formed in late July after meeting through our individual efforts to affect the vote by the Novato Unified School District (NUSD) Board on the diversity materials. On Aug. 8, we launched a petition drive, and more than a dozen NPFC representatives of diverse cultures spoke to the board on Aug. 20.

These are not things we wanted to do; however, no one else seemed to be representing the many Novato parents and families who shared our views. We had decided beforehand not to use any public advertising in the initial petition phase to truly test our grassroots appeal.

In addition, we set a goal of reaching at least 1,000 names by the board's vote on Aug. 20 before publicly representing ourselves as speaking for a large, grassroots group. As of noon Aug. 20, more than 1,200 people had signed on to this petition drive.

The total as of this week is more than 1600 -- and counting.

The purpose of the petition is to allow the Novato community to have its voices heard regarding diversity awareness and the role of parents in such education.

The petition also serves to start educating those parents who are unaware of these issues. To date, more than 90 percent of the people responding have indicated no prior involvement with these issues before the circulation of the petition.

Our petition covers both issues of immediate and future importance. Therefore, our petition drive will continue until we are satisfied that all who may want to add their voice have had a reasonable chance to do so. One item of immediate interest is the petition section opposing the approval or use of the "That's A Family" video.

In the weeks ahead, we will provide NUSD our recommendations as to what information about the video and accompanying guidebook should be included in the letters to affected parents before it is piloted in the fifth grade Family Life class. The recommendations will be posted to our Web site, along with updates about the petition drive, as both relate to the board's ultimate decision following completion of the pilot period for "That's A Family."

The Web site also contains our "Guiding Principles for Public Dialogue." Those principles include our commitment to finding common ground wherever possible, and if we disagree, to do so without being disagreeable.

Any and all are encouraged to sign this petition or to learn more about us via our web site, www.NovatoParents.Org. We welcome your comments, questions, and involvement.

______________________________________________________________________________ Abby Wong is a Novato parent and a member of the Novato Parents and Family Coalition.

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