The Loudoun Easterner
December 15, 2004
By David Bradley
Parents, school officials, Church leaders, gay activists and area Democrats this week ciritcized Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) for his recent attempt to link a middle school anti-bullying survey with what they say was a fictitious “pro-homosexual teaching lesson.”
Over the past few weeks Delgaudio has attacked what he called a “pro-homosexual teaching lesson,” which he said was being planned in Loudoun County schools. At the Board of Supervisors business meeting last week and in an e-mail to constituents, Delgaudio claimed the school system had abandoned its plans because he had alerted the public.
“Thanks to the public attention, the kind of pro-homosexual propaganda slipped into other schools’ curricula will not be coming to Loudoun,” Delgaudio wrote in the e-mail.
Delgaudio said he was alerted to the “pro-homosexual teaching lesson” by a survey, sent to parents of Sterling Middle School students earlier this fall, which asked if they considered a series of 17 different behaviors, including “talking about a student’s sexual preference,” to be bullying. According to Delgaudio the question was part of “a take-home survey to parents intended to shape the curriculum . . includ[ing] lessons on ‘sexual orientation’ as an option.”
School officials have said the survey was part of an effort to fine tune the county’s anti-bullying program, and deny that there was ever any plan to include in the curriculum any lessons concerning sexual preference.
According to LCPS Assistant Superintendent Douglas Holmes the school system did not drop the lesson because it never existed in the first place. In a memo to Superintendent Edgar Hatrick earlier this month, Holmes wrote that counselors “are not introducing the concept of sexual orientation to students at any grade level.”
“It is not part of the general guidance program, not is it a component of the bullying prevention efforts in the Loudoun County Public Schools,” Holmes wrote.
“Guidance counselors are in schools to help students deal with barriers to their academic and career success. We see the need to prevent any name calling and other bullying behavior because it interferes with students’ sense of personal safety in school and impacts the students’ opportunities for success,” Holmes wrote.
Delgaudio’s critics say the Supervisor has misrepresented the School system in general, and the anti-bullying program specifically, in an effort to score political points for Public Advocate, a conservative non-profit organization Delgaudio heads. During both his 1999 and 2003 campaigns for Supervisor, Delgaudio said he wanted to keep his work as Executive Director of Public Advocate separate from his work on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Though a photograph of Delgaudio, sitting in his chair at the Board of Supervisor’s dais, is posted on the Public Advocate web site, he says his day job and his position on the Board remain separate.
In a joint statement released Dec. 10, Equality Loudoun, a gay and lesbian advocacy group, spokesmen from area churches, and the parent of one Sterling Middle School student all condemned what they called Delgaudio’s “irresponsible anti-child actions.”
“Delgaudio has previously claimed that his full time job directing an extremist lobbying organization has ‘nothing to do with’ his position as a Loudoun County elected official. He has now launched a local campaign to portray himself as a crusader against youth who are perceived as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” according to the statement.
Church leaders said Delgaudio’s actions could be interpreted as “homophobic” and condoning of some forms of bullying.
“We have yet to fully recognize the tragedy of these kinds of homophobic attitudes for what they are,” Rev. Don Prange, pastor of St. James United Church of Christ, said in the statement. “Condoning the exclusion and demeaning of people for arbitrary reasons is a way of denying their full humanity, and it lessens us as a community.”
“Bullying in any form is unacceptable and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible bordering on mean-spirited,” said Rev. Roberta Finkelstein, minister of Unitarian Universalists of Sterling.
Traditional political opponents have also issued statements critical of Delgaudio’s recent actions. Steve Deak, Chairman of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, accused Delgaudio of exploiting students “for his own political and professional gain.”
“It appears that Mr. Delgaudio has decided it is more important to push the agenda of his extremist advocacy group rather than serve the needs of his constituents,” Deak said. “He is a grown-up version of the bully that Loudoun’s programs try to prevent.”