AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita “Personally, you can’t mandate tolerance,” she said. “You can’t tell people what they should or should not tolerate, but you can tell them that everyone deserves to be treated respectfully.” Before moving forward with the program, Kurachi will ask the district to define tolerance and, specifically, toward whom. “I’m not sure all the board members are on the same page,” she said. “Before staff goes further, we need to have a clarification.” Bill Waxman, the Simi Valley Unified School District’s director of secondary education, said administrators are researching programs, including costs, and identifying those compatible with the district’s needs. He said he doesn’t know whether it will include sexual orientation or whether it will get into specifics. The objective is to teach students about respect and learn ways to solve conflicts. The final decision is up to the five-member board. SIMI VALLEY – In what could become a source of heated debate, a local school board member wants to establish a tolerance and anti-discrimination program in secondary schools for all students, possibly including those of various sexual orientations. School board President Debbie Sandland said the goal is to provide a safe learning environment for all students despite their race, religion or language. “I’m trying to accomplish respect for all people in our school campuses and give people the tools to respect the diversity of our population to ensure all people are treated fairly,” said Sandland, a registered nurse. Fellow board member Carla Kurachi countered that such programs are known to push a nontraditional family, pro-homosexual agenda, which is not in line with the religious community. The issue first came up last year after an altercation at Royal High School that led to the suspension of 20 students. The fight was believed to be race-related. At the time, the school board agreed to implement a tolerance program. “Not all people are alike,” Sandland said. “When we’re dealing with behavior issues or conflicts, it takes away from the education process. “The board agreed that this is a program they’d be interested in looking at. You can’t teach kids to be homosexuals. That’s not something I even thought.” Norm Walker, a former school board member who leans politically to the right, said tolerance training becomes more of a social program to promote a particular point of view. “I object to that,” said Walker, a pastor who served on the board from 1994 to 2002. “I don’t like schools to become a battleground for social issues. “The homosexual lifestyle conflicts with the family life. My concern is that it really is a facade for attempting to teach an alternate lifestyle that neither the parents or community at large would be supportive of.” All human beings deserve to be treated fairly, he said. However, schools ought to be more concerned with the education of students, including raising academic test scores and improving graduation rates, and not focus on social agendas. Benjamin Stilp, executive director of the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, said schools that don’t protect all students can be held liable. There are approximately 40,000 lesbian and gay adults living in the county, he said. “I always find it bitterly ironic that when concerned parents get involved, they are referred to as PTA members,” he said. “When someone gets involved and wants to advocate on behalf of lesbians and gays and other students’ safety, they are accused of having a radical homosexual agenda. “Shouldn’t schools be safe for all children, and why would anyone want to single out gay students for abuse?” The Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Traditional Values Coalition, said any program that sends the message that homosexuality is normal is not tolerant to the Christian point of view. “We certainly believe you need to teach diversity and tolerance in terms of race and color, ethnicity and religion,” he said. “We do not believe that homosexuality should be included in diversity.” Angie Valencia-Martinez, (805) 583-7604 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!