NPFC member remarks as delivered to NUSD Board on 6/3/2003 in regards to "That's a Family"
Good evening. I'm Abby Wong, a Novato High School parent, and a member of both the Diversity Advisory Committee and the Novato Parents and Family Coalition.
Since August, NPFC has presented our ideas and requests publicly at Board Meetings. Most important tonight is our January request that the "That's A Family" Guidebook Handout pages -- which contain the video text -- be sent to all 5th grade parents along with the "opt in" forms. And in April, we offered to pay for that mailing to all 5th grade parents ourselves. So, it is very hard to understand why that was not done.
Our purpose remains to encourage full disclosure and meaningful dialogue within the school community itself -- in search of common ground per Our Principles for Public Dialogue, a copy which is attached for you. However, given the recent media material on this issue, we have responded in the media -- but only as an unfortunate necessity. Neither NUSD's December letter to all parents announcing the diversity pilots, nor, more importantly, the recent "opt in" or positive permission letters to all 5th grade parents included any description about "That's A Family." And attendance at the parent previews was very light.
In contrast, we had an opportunity to attend a Rancho PTA meeting when a USSN representative was also invited. It was very refreshing, and exactly the kind of reasoned dialogue about different viewpoints we have hoped for -- and have often offered to anyone, anytime, and anywhere. It appears the Rancho parents were well informed about "That's A Family" and it's certainly reasonable to assume that that had something to do with why one-third of them did not "opt in" their children. Of course, a survey of all 5th grade parents would have been an even better way to learn about all their post-pilot views, including how many have actually viewed the video. That's another reason why we asked you in January to solicit parent input after the pilot before making a decision about "That's A Family." Comments from teachers and children alone are not a complete substitute for parent input.
These themes of full disclosure, informed consent, and good, two-way communication are all based on fundamental questions about the proper role of public schools and parents and their children. Such fundamental questions -- not anyone's personal, private choices -- are precisely why NPFC came into being.
Let me state for the record again: the Novato Parents & Family Coalition fully respects and accepts anyone who adopts any alternative lifestyle … that is their decision … and, as per our Principles for Public Dialogue, we will not engage in, tolerate or endorse being disrespectful to anyone for any reason -- period. However, accepting and respecting that choice does not require embracing public school, classroom material that is not consistent with the common ground and simple appeal of our current mission statement.
Therefore, we request the Board not adopt "That's A Family" based on our current petition count of over 1700 signatures of Novato residents and for the other reasons we have fully outlined to you in the past, and more recently, in the media.