All-Boys School Field Trip to SF’s Castro Has Parents Worrying About Inevitable Indoctrination

In northern California’s latest campaign to scare parents about homosexuals, a some four dozens second-graders from an all-boys school paid a visit to San Francisco’s Castro district, where the gheys are. Parents are outraged!

The seven-and-eight-year-olds from Town School went on a walking tour with a local historian to learn about LGBT history in the city. What could possibly go wrong? The San Francisco Chronicle relays:

The guide walked the boys by Pink Triangle Memorial Park, where 15 granite pylons rise above the ground in remembrance of the estimated 15,000 gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders who were persecuted, imprisoned and killed during and after the Nazi regime. A few other stops on the tour included the wildly colored Hope for the World Cure Mural, a pictorial depiction of the AIDS epidemic; the Human Rights Campaign Action Center, local headquarters for a civil rights organization promoting fairness for LGBT Americans; and Harvey Milk’s camera shop, which the former gay activist and pioneering politician once lived above.

While the majority of the second-grade parents were in support of the field trip, the school is under fire by a handful of parents* who questioned whether the Castro is an appropriate destination for 8-year-old boys. One parent in particular reached out to SFGate and expressed frustration, anxiety, and confusion around the field trip, as well as a complex array of sentiments ranging from disapproval of teachers who told students that the word gay means “happy,” to fears that the Castro community would be unwelcoming to children.

By “parents,” the Chronicle means “two,” so it’s not like the entire school community is horrified. But the outraged parents are causing a stir, going on the local CBS 5 news to — anonymously — voice their homophobia.

Last week, one of those parents contacted the CBS News desk and CBS 5 Eyewitness News featured a segment highlighting the controversy. The mother, who remained anonymous on the show, said: “Why would you talk to a young child about sex with a man and a woman let alone a man and a man or a woman and a woman? It just doesn’t seem right. They are not ready for that.”

Well that’s certainly a funny thing to say, because among all the things discussed on the tour, sticking a penis up a butt was not one of them. But what else would you take away from an educational field trip about civil rights and Harvey Milk? The tour even purposefully avoided the Castro’s sex shops. But on the CBS report, a gay male friend of one of the upset parents appeared on the segment to concur, deriding the Castro as a kid-unfriendly zone. (The report also claimed parents were given no choice but to let their kids go on the trip.)

Town School headmaster Brewster Ely wrote parents in a letter (PDF) about the nontroversy, which reads in part:

This year the second grade teachers and Town’s Diversity Director chose to have the second grade visit the Castro neighborhood. As part of the boys’ study of
neighborhoods, they visit the Mission and Chinatown as well. The goal of introducing the boys to other communities is to give them an appreciation of different perspectives and views. The boys toured the Castro with a professional guide, teachers and parents. A stop of special interest was the Harvey Milk Elementary School, which is adorned with wonderful murals depicting Harvey Milk’s commitment to diversity. While at the school, the guide shared Harvey Milk’s analogy, likening a better world to a sandbox where all children play together harmoniously. The trip was a wonderful success.

A small number of second grade parents questioned the appropriateness of the trip. It is our responsibility at Town School to ensure that all boys within our care feel
safe and validated. At Town we have long taught that it is important to be open minded about difference, and we are pleased that we have boys at school who have gay parents. A few families who felt uncomfortable with the Castro trip chose to keep their sons home, and we recognize their decision to do so. One anonymous parent felt compelled to contact the local CBS News desk and register her unhappiness about the trip through the media. On Friday, CBS ran a story in which I was quoted as saying, “The school and the administration see the Castro as a respected community in San Francisco, and we want our students to develop an appreciation for whoever lives in our community.” In an unexpected way, this coverage provided the school and its leadership with a public forum to share the value we see in diversity and in fostering in our boys a respect for and understanding of difference.

It is my hope that these events ultimately engender an even greater appreciation for diversity and a respect for all people. I close with a statement from our Town
School philosophy:

Town values being a diverse community that nurtures integrity, sensitivity and respect in its boys, and prepares them to become productive and contributing members of an ever-changing world.

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  • Cam

    The fact that the parent who was outraged was kept anonymous shows that they know perfectly well they are bigots. People arguing politics or religeon are usually happy to show their faces.

  • Steve

    Goddamit! Don’t schools know that they aren’t supposed to teach kids anything useful like history or diversity?

  • justiceontherocks

    Damn!! They figured out our strategy for converting this jail bait to the homosexual agenda.

    Daddy needs to find something to worry about.

  • Kurt

    I do wonder however how useful this trip is for 2nd graders. At that age, show them Seal Rock, Fisherman’s Wharf. You really think 2nd graders absorb “And here we have an example of period Victorian architecture using distinctive Bay area colors…”

  • Michael

    I am the gay male friend who appeared on the CBS report. I never derided the Castro—I was simply asked when and how children should be taught sexuality, and my answer was that it is up to the parents, not the school. And as for the alleged ‘bigots’: my partner and I are considered a very close part of their family–we regularly spend weekends and holidays with their children. I completely understand their concerns and support them.

  • Red Meat

    Dear stupid parents, It could of been worse. Imagine a trip to the Catholic church.

  • Shannon1981

    I bet they weren’t objecting to Chinatown or anywhere else, on the gay area. That right there screams bigotry. Why do people automatically associate mentioning anything to do with gay people- including history and where they live- with teaching some kind of alternative lifestyle sex ed class to their children? I seriously doubt that was ever on the list of things to teach on a field trip there or anywhere else.

  • greenmanTN

    @Michael: Who was teaching them about sexuality or sex acts?! Are YOU defined only by what you do in bed?

    What they were teaching was a fact of life: There are gay people and this neighborhood is associated with them. I have straight friends with kids too and even BEFORE they started 1st grade they were told about gay people IN AN AGE APPROPRIATE MANNER. “Most couples are like mommy and daddy, a man and a woman, but sometimes, like [my partner and I], boys fall in love with other boys or girls fall in love with girls. And that’s OK.” It’s a simple statement of fact, not anything about sexual activity. As they grow older they’ll ask what they want to know and you answer it, again in an age appropriate way.

    I seriously doubt anyone said to that 2nd grade class, “Then one man greases up his dick and shoves it up the other guy’s ass. Class? Does anyone know what “fisting” means?”

    Both you and the parents are being absurd.

  • Adam

    I would just be worried about them walking past the plethora of sex shops in the Castro (and there are a few near the HRC store and the former Castro Camera.) As long as they avoided those, it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable trip (though as one commenter put, maybe a little much for a seven year-old’s attention span?)

  • justiceontherocks

    @Michael: When you were asked that question you should have replied “It was a field trip, not sex education.”

  • Fitz

    yeah… ya know what, I might be a prude. But i wouldn’t want my 8 year old nephew on castro itself (though the neighborhood is fine). The window displays are REALLY provocative for some of the shops. Really really sexual, WAY too much for kids. The neighborhood itself has a lot of irish and gay history, and wonderful houses.. but the 6 foot picture of the naked muscle bear humping a huge brown bottle? not so much…

  • Jim D

    @Michael: Michael, perhaps you can clarify a point. The Headmaster, Mr. Ely, stated that a few parents who felt uncomfortable kept their children at home. If your friends were so uncomfortable why didn’t they keep their son at home. And why would you lend credence to a news report that stated that parents were not given an option? Either Mr. Ely is lying or your friends were negligent in not expressing their objection beforehand. P.S. Sarah Palin had gay friends too! Remember!

  • Ronnie R

    Everyone, PLEASE stay away from the Castro. I recently visited San Fran, and the Castro was disgusting and quite scary — and this was during the day too. This place is certainly not appropriate for children, or anyone with traditional values or morality.

    I saw advertisements to “gay spas” (bathouses) tossed on the curb of the street, and an old gay porn magazine strewn on the sidewalk. A woman was smoking marijuana in front of the Walgreen’s. A man was walking on all fours like a dog, attached by a leash to man wearing a black leather uniform. I saw two men having sex, and they were smiling and leaning against the store window (it was a barber shop) while they were going at it.

    I saw a nun walking ahead of me. I thought I would ask her for directions, as I was lost. She turned around, and she had a hairy beard and clown makeup!! I screamed and ran away.

  • zeb

    Ronnie R: you have a very active imagination. You should never ever leave home because everything outside will offend you. You saw that on TV, not in the real world. Avoid the real world, just watch Fox news because that is all you need. No more beerz for you because that is against the bible. We will all feel safer if you just stay home.

  • Alex

    Where I live, it is required that parents sign a permission slip prior to any child being permitted to participate in any type of field trip. I believe this is a quite common practice. Did the complaining parent(s) sign off on their child’s participation in this trip?

  • Ronnie R

    When you let conservativism run amok, you get the Middle East.
    (have you seen what Muslims do to gays?)

    When you let liberalism run amok, you get San Francisco.

  • Liam

    If the concern was that their children might be exposed to graphic displays at sex shops, I can understand. Not agree, but understand. The other concerns apparently expressed by some parents — sex education, unfriendliness, etc. — are, on the other hand, a bit disturbing. But, if you’re afraid that your kid might catch gay cooties, keep him home.

    I grew up in the NYC suburbs in the 80’s, prior to the Disneyfication of Times Square. We regularly took field trips to theaters and other attractions that took us past porn and leather shops, places advertising live sex show, and hookers on the clock. None of us appear to have been permanently damaged. When some kid would point one out and crack a joke, the usual reaction tended to be “Ewwww, gross.”

    Props to the school for a well-reasoned response.

  • YouGottaSister

    Aren’t there like, permission slips, anymore? My parents had to sign away my soul if I so much as wanted to go to the zoo back when I was in school. With all the paranoia of being implicated for something, I figure schools would still keep that practice in check.

    Gay as I am, I understand the concern. 2nd grade seems a tad too young for kids to take a field trip to the Castro, even if it’s for civil rights and historical landmarks. If we were talking 5th grade or up, I could see that. But 7 or 8 years old? Eh, not so much.

    What makes it really telling is the fact the school is so uneasy with explaining what gay means in the first place. If this is all about civil liberties, why are you so concerned about explaining what exactly the liberties were? Because you don’t think they’d understand? Well if you don’t think they’d understand at this age then why the hell are you going there?

  • jeff4justice

    This topic is relevant to why I posted videos on YouTube about a wannabe gay leader who has deiced to not associate with me and thinks I’m too slutty to be a gay leader (while fanning edgy entertainment like Family Guy and Laday Gaga on his social media sites). The issue is will some gays though other gays under the bus to cater to the gay phobias of heterosexuals? I make my case here:

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