Local: Education

Prince George's pulls video that advocates therapy for gay teens

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Local,Maryland,Education,Rachel Baye

Prince George's County Public Schools has pulled from six middle-school health classes a controversial video that discusses therapy as a tool to help gay teens become straight.

The video, called "Acception," is part of a bullying-prevention curriculum crafted by Washington-area filmmaker and psychologist Christopher Doyle.

The 20-minute film features four teenagers' struggles with bullying: One boy is bullied in the locker room, a second boy is rejected by his family after telling them he is gay, a girl comes out of the closet and a second girl describes overcoming feelings of attraction toward women and eventually getting married to a man. A roughly five-minute segment also discusses whether people are born gay and describes reparative therapy as an option for gay people who want to be straight.

The film came under fire for this apparent advocacy of reparative therapy.

"It's a horrible, dangerous message to send to gay, lesbian, bi[sexual] and trans[gender] children -- that if you pray hard enough or if you do x, y and z, your sexual orientation can be changed," said Carrie Evans, executive director of gay-rights group Equality Maryland.

Prince George's County Public Schools pulled the video and the curriculum earlier this week to review it "because there were questions around whether or not it was appropriate," said schools spokesman Briant Coleman. The questions arose after the Washington City Paper began looking into the film's use.

After reviewing the video, "we determined there was not enough information about bullying prevention to justify using it as a supplemental resource for our anti-bullying program," Coleman said. "We made a determination that it could be perceived as being biased and too focused on homosexuality."

The video and the curriculum have been replaced by other anti-bullying materials.

The materials were initially approved by the school system's health council, which sets the curriculum for health classes, Coleman said, adding that the Maryland State Department of Education approved it, too.

But Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Department of Education, said the state does not approve materials or curricula used in local programs and had no role in selecting Doyle's video.

Doyle said he doesn't understand the fuss. The curriculum is being taught in 12 school districts across eight states, he said. He declined to say where the schools using the materials are located.

"Sexuality is only one minor part of the bullying-prevention curriculum," he said. The film also talks about students who struggle with their weight, minority students who are targeted, and tactics for standing up to bullies.

Himself gay-turned-straight, Doyle is the director of the International Healing Foundation, an organization that believes people should be able to choose whether to be attracted to people of the same sex. Forcing gay-to-straight therapy on teens who don't want it is not his intent, he said.

"[The video]'s intended to give students all of the information and be inclusive toward all students."

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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