School Apologizes, Girl Delivers Harvey Milk Report

Apology Comes In Wake of ACLU letter to school

The local school district that refused to let a student present a report on slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk until her classmates got permission from their parents has apologized to the girl, who gave her class presentation on Thursday.

"All the fifth graders came, and almost all the sixth graders came,"Natalie Jones told NBC 7/39.  "It was pretty cool, at the end all of my friends clapped really loud."

In May, sixth-grader Natalie Jones was the only student in her class prevented from giving an in-class presentation.

“Harvey Milk always stood up for his beliefs and what was right, so I felt like I should do the same thing when my school told me they wouldn’t let me do my presentation,” Natalie is quoted in an American Civil Liberties Union news release issued Thursday. “I worked really hard on my presentation, and I’m glad I’m finally going to get to share it with all of my classmates like everyone else got to.”

The Ramona Unified School District apologized in writing to Natalie and also sent a letter to parents who were sent the initial permission request about the presentation.

"On behalf of the governing board of the Ramona Unified School District and the staff of Mount Woodson Elementary School, we would like to extend our apology to you and your family for denying you the same opportunity as your fellow classmates to give your final Excel class presentation and for requiring parental permission for the presentation," the district stated in its letter to Natalie.

The district also said it would adjust its current policy so that a repetition of the situation would not occur.

"The school also agreed to bring its family life/sex education policy into compliance with state law and acknowledged that the mention or acknowledgment of a person’s sexual orientation is not sufficient to invoke the statutes and policies on sex education," the ACLU news release stated.

The board will meet next Thursday at its regular meeting to review the policy, school officials said Thursday.

The apology came after the ACLU sent a letter to the Ramona Unified District in May. The ACLU demanded that school officials apologize to Natalie and clarify its sex education policy.

According to ACLU officials and the girl's mother, Mount Woodson elementary School Principal Theresa Grace concluded in April that the subject of the girl's project triggered a district policy requiring parents to be notified in writing before their children are exposed to lessons dealing with sex.

After the principal sent letters to parents alerting them about the "sensitive topic," Natalie was allowed to give her 12-page PowerPoint report during the May 8 lunch recess but not in class, David Blair-Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego County, said in May. Eight of the 13 students in the class attended, he said.

Natalie's mother, Bonnie Jones, said her daughter was inspired to choose Milk as the subject of her research report after seeing the movie "Milk," which earned Academy Awards for actor Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

"First my daughter got called into the principal's office as if she were in some kind of trouble, and then they treated her presentation like it was something icky," Jones said in a statement.

Milk was the first gay man elected to political office in California when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was assassinated a year later, along with Mayor George Moscone, in San Francisco City Hall. Former supervisor Dan White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the killings. He later committed suicide.

"Harvey Milk was an elected official in this state and an important person in history," Bonnie Jones said last month. "To say my daughter's presentation is sex education because Harvey Milk happened to be gay is completely wrong."

Natalie says she lost a few friends because of the controversy, but she gained at least one new one.  A few  weeks ago, Dustin Lance Black, the man who wrote the movie "Milk" called Natalie. 

"He said he was really proud of me and I was his hero and I thought that was really cool."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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