I write this letter on behalf of my students who cannot speak for themselves.

Here are some quotes that I have heard directly from students that I have had the pleasure of teaching.

  • "I have been called a (expletive) all my life. Just because the way I talk and act does not mean I am gay."

  • "I was gone yesterday because my parents are looking for another school for me. They don't want me around my girlfriend. I have been to three therapists and several churches, my parents are looking for someone to fix me."

  • "Only my closest friends know that I have two moms. Some people that I thought were my friends, quit talking to me after they found out."

    I think of them when people ask me, "Why have diversity curriculum that includes diversity of families and sexual orientation?" The experiences of my students did not start in high school or at one particular age. Their experiences have been lifelong. They have been teased throughout their school careers. They have been different all their lives.

    As a parent I can understand parental concern. I want to know what my child is learning in school. I want to know that they are not being harassed or treated differently for any reason.

    As an educator I understand that I am responsible for providing a safe and harassment free learning environment for all my students.

    Therefore, I do not see the curriculum before the board as being an agenda of the LGBT community. Nor do I see it as an attack on my ability to parent my child about our families' religious and political views. This curriculum is for the children. It is for all of our children.

    This curriculum is for the little boy who is called a faggot every day on the playground. Maybe because of the lessons he hears in the classroom, he won't feel so isolated, and he will feel comfortable about going to a teacher for understanding and support. Maybe it will provide his teacher the opportunity to talk about all the hurtful words and actions used on the playground.

    This curriculum is for the little boy who has two mommies who love him unconditionally. Maybe knowing that his teacher is not afraid to talk about his family will break down his feeling of "otherness" and his peers will see that he likes to play the same games at recess as everyone else. Maybe it will give the teacher the opportunity to talk about the fact that the most important thing is that we all have someone in our lives who loves us no matter what.

    If two 30-minute lessons per year that cultivate respect for everyone has the potential to change the learning environment for even one child, whether the child learns tolerance for others or the sweet grace of acceptance by others, it is time well spent.

    Tina Koeberl is a teacher at Encinal High School.