City bans all school History Months over gay row

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

When pupils return to school in Philadelphia this September, thanks to protests and threats to the school district, there will be no Gay and Lesbian History Month.

Officials said they took the decision to keep kids safe and that the threats had worried them.

But they also took the principled step of withdrawing recognition from similar history events, among them Hispanic Heritage Month and Asian Pacific American Month.

The new school calendar, mailed to 200,000 parents yesterday, showed that even the International Day of Disabled Persons will not be marked in Philadelphia schools.

Only public holidays, when the school closes, will be observed.

The school board’s efforts to promote diversity last year by designating October as Gay and Lesbian History Month led to a serious and sustained backlash.

“We were just not prepared for the controversy,” Cecilia Cummings, the district’s senior vice president for communications and community relations, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“We were besieged by calls, threats, letters, and we didn’t have the manpower to staff it.

“Nor did we have the preparation or training to really figure out how to deal with this issue in a way that could keep kids safe. We had meetings where adults were calling kids names.”

Others in the city of brotherly love were upset that the education authorities gave in to the pressure.

“It is appalling that a school district would drop months that recognise and educate our schoolchildren about the history and contributions of America’s diverse fabric,” Malcolm Lazin executive director of Equality Forum, an international gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil-rights group, told the Inquirer.

The American Family Association welcomed the decision.

Individual schools still have the right to celebrate diversity and it is expected that many of them will continue to celebrate gay and lesbian history with their own events.