On Wednesday, May 26, the Fremont Unified School District Board voted to against adopting a resolution recognizing Harvey Milk Day in the school, despite it being part of the California Education Code that schools do so.  You can read one report on the meeting here.  Two weeks earlier, the School Board voted to table the item rather than deal with it.

The following is the statement I prepared to make at the meeting, a statement I had to abridge because we were only given two minutes each to speak.

Good evening.  I’m the Rev. Jeffrey Spencer, pastor at Niles Congregational Church and the President of the Fremont Alliance for a Hate-Free Community.

I need to begin by expressing my deep disappointment that you did not adopt the resolution recognizing May 22nd as Harvey Milk Day at your last meeting.  These ceremonial items make a difference.  Your acknowledgment of the winners of the 2010 Young Composers Contest that you made just moments ago was important because of the consequences – the positive consequences – it will have in the lives of these young people.

And your failure two weeks ago to adopt the resolution recognizing Harvey Milk Day is important because that failure, too, has consequences – negative consequences.

I think about the 10th grader who is discovering that who she is includes a sexual orientation of lesbian.  It’s as much a part of who she is and how she was created as the fact that she’s left handed.  And by your refusal to adopt the Harvey Milk resolution, you said to her, “You’re too controversial for our schools.”

I think about the 8th grader whose name none of us knows, who was slammed into the lockers this past week and called “faggot” because some of his peer think he’s different.  You said to that boy, “You’re pain is not important to us; avoiding controversy is important to us.”

Now, I can’t believe that any of you meant to say these things, but they are the messages you sent when you failed to adopt a resolution that you know would be coming up on your agenda for at least a month.  It’s time to say something different.

In my undergraduate schooling, I was credentialed as a secondary math teacher.  I’m not sure how, should I have continued to pursue that vocation, I would mark Harvey Milk Day in my math classroom.  Recognizing Cesar Chavez day would be a little easier.  It’s a little easier to come up with some mathematical word problems related to the harvesting of crops – a volume problem or a graphing problem of air temperature verses harvest.  At a minimum, I would put a picture of Harvey Milk up on my bulletin board because it would be one more opportunity to say to every child, “You matter.”

When President Obama awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year for Milk’s contribution to the gay rights movement, President Obama said of Harvey, “He fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction.”

I call upon you to be leaders with visionary courage and conviction.  Tonight, adopt this resolution.  Tonight, say to all the students in our schools and to all the faculty and staff, “You matter.”

Thank you.

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