Friday, July 6, 2001

Isle NEA delegates
wanted to see vote

The spokeswoman says they
opposed sending the gay
issue to a task force

By Crystal Kua

Hawaii delegates to the National Education Association convention in Los Angeles wanted to vote on -- not just study -- a controversial resolution dealing with gay and transgender students.

Yesterday, the NEA dropped consideration of a resolution that would encourage schools to develop materials supporting the struggles of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and staff. NEA officials said the teachers union would instead form a task force to explore the issue "in a holistic, reasoned way" before moving to take any further action.

"We opposed sending it to the task force," said Hawaii State Teachers Association spokeswoman Danielle Lum, who is attending the convention. "People wanted to vote on it right away."

Mike Gabbard, chairman of the Alliance for Traditional Marriage and Values, said he believes that protests against the resolution led the NEA to pull it from being voted on during the convention.

"The NEA leadership knew that rank-and-file teachers, as well as parents, would not be able to stomach it," Gabbard said.

NEA President Bob Chase said the creation of a task force should not be interpreted to mean that the NEA is dropping the issue. The NEA is the parent union of the HSTA and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

Members of both Hawaii unions are in Los Angeles for the convention of the nation's largest union of educators.

The resolution was "referred to the task force to come with a series of recommendations on what to do," Lum said. "The issue isn't dead, it's just in committee."

Lum said that Hawaii delegates did not want to prolong the voting on an issue they know so well.

"We're so familiar with the issue," Lum said. "(Delegates) knew how they wanted to go, and they wanted to get to the question."

Because the NEA vote never occurred, it is not known how the Hawaii delegation would have voted, Lum said.

Last year, the HSTA supported a rule change before the state Board of Education that included protection for gay and lesbian students against harassment. In a close vote, the board approved the rules.

Chase said the NEA policy will not be dictated by any outside group.

"In no way is NEA backing away from dealing with the important issues raised by the proposed resolution," Chase said.

Gabbard's organization held a candlelight vigil Sunday to protest the resolution. He said that Chase's comments will lead parents and teachers to keep a close watch on what the "extremist pro-homosexual leaders" of the NEA will do.

"Vigilance and the willingness of teachers and parents to stand up for their values is the key," Gabbard said.

Last week, a BOE committee decided to stay out of the controversy after Gabbard's wife, Carol, also a BOE member, asked the board to encourage the Hawaii delegates to vote "no" on the resolution.

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