Family & Community
A Statement on the March 25 GLSEN Conference
Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll
Tuesday, May 16, 2000
MALDEN- Following is a statement issued today by Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll on concerns raised about the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) annual conference held March 25 at Tufts University.
"Today, two of the Department of Education senior staff members listened to excerpts of tape recordings from workshop sessions held at the GLSEN conference at Tufts in March, and they have briefed me on the contents of the recordings. We are concerned not to have heard the entire tape, and still seek to do so, and therefore our investigation is continuing. However, there is no question that the comments of the Department of Education staff and the other consultant in those workshops go beyond the boundaries of what our staff should have done. The conference was not sponsored by, organized by or funded by the Department of Education. While I had a letter in the conference brochure, it offered general support of programs that promote safe schools; it was not a letter of specific support for this conference. I had no knowledge of what the conference workshops would entail.
Even though this conference was not sponsored by the Department, was held on a Saturday, and was not on school grounds, the participation of our staff in conversations with students about explicit issues of sexuality outside the realm of AIDS/HIV prevention was wrong. The workshops were of prurient nature, and not educational, and what we heard suggests that the discussion contributed absolutely nothing to the students' understanding of how to avoid AIDS and HIV.
Therefore, as a matter of policy, I have directed our staff not to have contact with students on issues of sexuality education. Our staff will confine their work to train and educate adults, those who are appropriately situated to work with young people. First among these are parents, and we will also include counselors, health educators, medical professional and other caregivers.
While being clear on the nature of our work, I reiterate that this Department stands fully in support of advocating for responsible programs which are based on facts and information around the issues of safety, health and the prevention of AIDS, venereal disease and other risks and dangers for all students, including those who are gay and lesbian. Our interest as an agency is to promote schools that are safe for all students, free of harassment and discrimination, and in which students learn how to avoid risks and how to maintain health. We have a very effective safe schools program that works to support school efforts to prevent discrimination and promote safety for all students, particularly gay and lesbian students who have a very serious incidence of harassment and consideration of suicide. That program is ongoing, has wide support, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for it because it matters in the lives of students."