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Wayne Bessen

Mass deception: Are pro-gay thugs taking over the schools in Massachusetts?
The recent scene portrayed by Concerned Women for America in an internet article was chilling. The group wrote, “A mob of school children seized and beat the seven-year-old son of pro-family activist David Parker behind his school, Estabrook Elementary, in Lexington, Mass., on the second anniversary of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.” Concerned Women went on to say that the victim, first-grader Jacob Parker, “apparently is feeling the heat for his father’s opposition to forced homosexual education.”

“When you tell children over and over that opposing homosexuality amounts to hatred, you’re setting some kids up for this sort of abuse,” said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America’s Culture & Family Institute. “The school posted numerous slanted articles in the school library about Mr. Parker’s dispute with authorities and some parents went out of their way to stir up hatred toward Parker and his family.”

There is only one small problem with this horror story: It is a fabrication so fictitious, it could have been written by Stephen King. Virtually nothing is true and the distortions are a deliberate attempt to smear a school district, intimidate administrators and influence a curriculum that has the temerity to suggest that gay families exist and should be treated with respect.

The trouble started in early 2005 when David Parker (pictured), a parent involved with the right-wing political group Mass Resistance, was upset with the school’s pro-gay curriculum. He sent a series of unpleasant emails to Estabrook’s principal, Joni Jay, saying that he did not want his son exposed to “beliefs contrary to the Word of God in our Christian faith.”

On April 27, 2005, Parker met with Jay and presented the principal with a series of demands, refusing to leave campus until they were met. After three hours of protesting, Parker was finally arrested. As part of a headline-grabbing publicity stunt, Parker refused to post bail and spent the night in jail. More recently, Parker sued the school district in federal court over the issue of teaching tolerance in schools.

While he likes to portray himself in the press as simply a father, he is really an extremist who cares more about politics than parenting. A newly minted martyr, Parker joined Mass Resistance leader Brian Camenker for six appearances in Maine in an effort to undo that state’s anti-discrimination law.

With a defeat in Maine and growing acceptance of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, Parker apparently grew desperate for notoriety, which leads us to the first-grade “mob” scene. I interviewed Paul Ash, superintendent of schools, about the incident, reviewed his official report and found that the facts presented are not consistent with the way the incident has been reported by the right-wing “media.”

Indeed, to ensure he could not be accused of a conflict of interest for investigating one of his own schools, Ash formally asked the Lexington Police Department, the Middlesex district attorney and the Department of Social Services to intervene. All three agencies swiftly concluded that the sensationalistic accusations were without merit.

For example, the “mob” of children turned out to be only one child, a friend of Jacob’s. Not long after the fight, Jacob went over to the friend’s house for a play date. The motive for the fisticuffs had nothing to do with David Parker’s anti-gay activism, but was a disagreement over who would sit where in the cafeteria.

This is hardly the violent liberal conspiracy darkly and breathlessly portrayed by the extreme right. Still, the facts did not get in the way of the right wing launching a vicious smear campaign full of inconsistencies and innuendo. The garbage spewed by Concerned Women for America and Mass Resistance was also eagerly reported by Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. This created a feeding-frenzied echo chamber, where zealots across the globe were duped into believing that school officials had conspired with progressive parents to have a mob of children punish a conservative father by pummeling his son.

I asked the superintendent if there was any validity to the right wing’s claims. “Zero; this is complete bull,” Ash explained. “What these groups have done is taken a playground fight and used it for political goals.”

Instead of focusing on the three R’s, the school district now has to waste its time defending itself against the right wing’s three D’s: deceit, dishonesty and deception.
Concerned Women for America has since revised large portions of their story — though they still maintain the possibility exists the attack may have been politically motivated.

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