HAYWARD — School officials will meet with parents Wednesday evening at Faith Ringgold School of Arts and Science to address concerns over a teacher's mistake that has pushed the campus into the crossfire of a controversial ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage, on which California voters will decide today.
Pledge cards produced by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, accidentally were handed out to and signed by students in Tara Miller's kindergarten class, according to the school district, which said the cards were a part of a curriculum designed to promote safe and inclusive environments on campus as part of last month's national Ally Week.
But some parents — who said they were blindsided and did not know homosexuality was being discussed in lesson plans — have raised concerns to authorities and said their students are too young to be exposed to such topics.
"We want to assure parents that all kids are safe at Faith Ringgold," Val Joyner, spokeswoman for Hayward Unified School District, said regarding Wednesday's meeting. "The parent concerns have been heard, and we want to address any other concerns that haven't been heard."
Faith Ringgold has students from kindergarten to eighth grade, and it also has a Gay Straight Alliance club for middle school students that regularly meets in Miller's classroom, officials said.
By signing the cards, students pledge to promote safer schools "for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender," as well as to "not use anti-LGBT language or slurs, intervene — when I feel I can — in situations where others are using anti-LGBT language or harassing other students, and actively support safer schools efforts."
Joyner said the cards were designed for middle and high school students.
Parental concerns caught state and even national attention in the final days leading up to today's election, in which voters will decide the fate of Proposition 8, which will outlaw same-sex marriage in California if passed.
Adela Voelker was one parent who raised concerns to the district and contacted Pacific Justice Institute, a Sacramento-based legal firm specializing in the defense of religious freedoms and parental rights.
The firm subsequently published a news release stating that the Hayward school was "promoting gay and lesbian ideals" to students.
Proponents for Prop. 8 through the "Yes on 8" ProtectMarriage.com Web site, also have featured the incident in a video that shows the pledge cards.
In response to the initial parent concerns, the district conducted an investigation into whether materials used in relation to Ally Week were appropriate for kindergartners.
"We reviewed the various materials around anti-harrassment and anti-bullying, and studied them to make sure they are age-appropriate," Joyner said.
A recommendation on new materials and changes will go before the Board of Education in the future, she said.
In regards to whether the pledge cards will be used again next year, Joyner said, "it's safe to say the pledge cards will not be used for kindergartners and any other elementary students."
Some parents, however, are looking for the district to take disciplinary action against Miller.
"I understand the differences in families, but to teach something that isn't age-appropriate to kindergartners is a crime," said Ronald Gruel, a parent at the school who has been serving as a liaison for Spanish-speaking parents and campus authorities. "She has committed a psychological crime."
In response, Joyner said the district does not publicly discuss personnel issues.
Wednesday's meeting will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. in the school's multipurpose room, located 1570 Ward St.