A group calling itself the first PTA unit in the country dedicated to the needs of gay and lesbian youths is under fire from the president of the state PTA, who says permission was never granted to use the trademarked organization’s moniker.
Maria Fletcher did not take a position on whether the group should be given permission to use the PTA name, but expressed concern that it was focused too specifically on one constituency.
“We’re an organization that prides itself on being for all children, regardless of race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation,” Fletcher said in a telephone interview.
James Martinez, senior manager of media relations at the National PTA, said the national organization knew of no PTA dedicated specifically to advocacy for gay students. He referred further questions to the state organization.
David Kilmnick, the head of an association of five nonprofits supporting the Long Island Gay Parent Teacher Association, said the group contacted state PTA officials in October but never heard back. Kilmnick contended the group merely wants to be another advocate fighting bullying and intimidation of homosexuals in school. The group held its first meeting last month.
“The argument against this reminds me of the debate about civil unions versus marriage and other civil rights debates in the past,” said Kilmnick, chief executive of the Long Island GLBT Services Network. “We are not going to allow them to say that a gay PTA is not welcome in the front of the school bus.”
Kilmnick said he sent a letter to the state organization on October 24, expressing interest in forming the PTA chapter, but never got a response.
“The person I spoke to at the state organization thought it was a fantastic idea,” Kilmnick said. “We would be more than happy to sit down with them and explain why we should be doing this.”
Unlike most PTA units that are affiliated with a particular community school, the gay PTA is inviting parents and school officials from across Long Island to participate. Kilmick said the primary focus is to advocate for students who have been harassed in school because of their sexual orientation.
“There is an epidemic of bullying and violence in schools, and gay students are targeted more than any other group,” he said. “For the most part, the local PTA organizations do not address this head on. Many parents have come to us and want to get involved; they want to do something to change the course of their child’s life.”