Teacher’s anti-gay marriage button spurs parent protest

PORT ANGELES — A lesbian mother has started an online petition drive urging the Port Angeles School District to prohibit politicking by teachers after an instructor wore a “No on 74” button in her daughter’s eighth-grade classroom.

Superintendent Jane Pryne told The Peninsula Daily News that the district already has a policy regarding politics in the classroom and the issue has been addressed.

Port Angeles parent Cynthia Deford, whose daughter attends Steven Middle School, says she wants more to be done. She wants an apology and sensitivity training for teachers.

Neither Pryne nor Deford would identify the teacher, who Deford identified online as being a man who teaches math.

Referendum 74, which legalized gay marriage in Washington, won with 53 percent of the statewide vote.

Deford launched an online petition at tinyurl.com/cjcgw99 on Nov. 10, saying the teacher wore the political button in class during the days before the Nov. 6 general election.

The button’s message was “No on 74: one man + one woman (equals) marriage,” Deford said.

Deford, who has a same-sex partner, said that her child, came home after school and told her about the button worn by the teacher.

The button surprised and offended her daughter, Deford said.

Deford said she thought the teacher should have known better than to wear a political button of any kind while teaching class.

“It just shocked me that it happened here,” Deford said.

Her petition says: “Urge the Port Angeles School District to prohibit politicking by teachers in the K-12 classrooms. This would not affect balanced discussion of political issues in civics, history, social sciences, etc.”

She said her daughter previously thought highly of this teacher and now is uncomfortable with him and does not want to go back to his class.

“Now she has to worry about discrimination where she didn’t before,” Deford said.

As of Saturday afternoon, 159 people had signed the petition, which says it is to be delivered to Pryne and Deford, as well as Stevens Middle School Principal Chuck Lisk and President Barack Obama.

Pryne, in an email message to the newspaper, said she cannot comment except to say that a policy is already in place and that the district has dealt with the issue.

“I very much appreciate the concerns and input by these citizens,” Pryne wrote.

She acknowledged that teachers have the right to engage in political activity off campus and on their own time, but not during school hours on school property.

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