by James Hochberg
The Hawaii Legislature is currently considering the “Hawaii Safe Schools Act,” which claims to target bullying and harassment at schools. In reality, it is a mechanism for imposing a pro-homosexual, state-mandated orthodoxy on students and teachers.
The Board of Education already has a much more balanced policy that would be uprooted by this legislation. BOE Policy 2210 requires that student discussion of issues which generate opposing points of view shall be considered a normal part of the learning process in every area of the school program. It also mandates that teachers refer students to resources reflecting all points of view, that discussions—including contributions made by the teacher or resource person—be maintained on an objective and factual basis, and that stress be placed on learning how to make judgments based on facts.
This balanced policy would be uprooted by the act. The problems start with its definition of bullying, which includes behavior that a student finds “intimidating” based on his or her “gender identity or expression [or] sexual orientation.” Even worse, “harassment” is defined simply as “annoying, or alarming…expression that causes another student…to feel uncomfortable.” Rather than focusing on the bullying activities (name-calling, physical aggression), the act focuses on how the victim feels.
This means that if two students were privately discussing, for example, biblical teachings on homosexual behavior, and another student overheard the conversation and claimed to feel “annoyed” or even moderately “uncomfortable,” then the two students could be punished for bullying. The act thus poses a real danger to the First Amendment protected rights of such students.
But the act’s drafters were not satisfied with merely censoring religious speech. Instead, they are bringing George Orwell’s 1984 to life.
Orwell’s book tells of an oppressive government that punishes unauthorized thoughts. Citizens having such thoughts are cured through “reintegration”—a process of gradually breaking down one’s will so that he embraces the government’s mandated orthodoxy. The act’s sponsors have adopted the book’s three stages to reintegration: “There is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance.”
Stage 1—Learning: The act requires that schools spend at least 45 minutes per week teaching sexuality. Kindergarteners would be forced to sit through lessons explaining why it is okay that Johnny likes boys instead of girls. If you are one of the unfortunate students found guilty of bullying, then you are subject to “education-focused consequences.” Thus, students who express, as part of a class assignment, the viewpoint that marriage should be between one man and one woman could be subjected to a “re-education” program where they are forcibly subjected to materials promoting homosexual behavior in an effort to persuade them to accept same-sex “marriage.”
Stage 2—Understanding: As part of the mandatory pro-homosexual education, students are expected to “develop empathy and self-awareness.” In other words, students must not simply believe that homosexual behavior is okay, they must share the feelings of those who engage in homosexual practices so that they can better understand them. Schools are also required to “reward positive behaviors that help counter bullying.” So a group of students who organize a Day of Silence to promote homosexual behavior would be rewarded by the school, perhaps with special privileges for participants. In contrast, a group of students organizing a Day of Dialogue, with a message affirming a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, could be punished.
Stage 3—Acceptance: Activists promoting homosexual behavior know that learning and understanding are powerful tools. It is why television shows for years have glorified portrayals of seemingly normal, humorous, relatable same-sex couples (e.g., Will & Grace, Modern Family). If we laugh with them and relate to them, then we eventually accept their sexual behavior, too. The activist found something America loves (humor) and wrapped their agenda in it. And many of us have accepted it.
Legislation like the Hawaii Safe Schools Act follows the same pattern. Activists found something America loves (bullying prevention) and wrapped their pro-homosexual agenda in it. And many of us are again accepting it because we don’t want to be perceived as soft on bullying.
No more. We should protect all children—not just a select few—from bullying and, just as importantly, protect them from a state-mandated orthodoxy that only supports homosexual behavior. As one federal court recently held, “tolerance is a two-way street.” Our education system must “tolerate” and respect student and faculty opinions that are based on different philosophies or religious tenets. Otherwise, it is no better than a schoolyard bully, intimidating students into submission.
James Hochberg is a Honolulu lawyer and an Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney. He previously served as one of seven commissioners on the Hawaii Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law.