This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As educators, we have had years of experience addressing and working with children who experience rejection, abuse and unhealthy control tactics. We have dealt with children in witness protection programs, foster care, homelessness, parental custody battles; alcoholism, drug and sex abuse by parents and guardians and, yes, even children subjected to sexual abuse by clergy.
Rejection at school is a daily occurrence for many students and an issue constantly addressed by administrators, teachers, counselors, school psychologists and social workers. Many, many times the rejection is a result of outside influences that teach children, intentionally or not, who to include and who to exclude. Developmentally, children may know what they are doing but do not understand the consequences of excluding others, the long term hurt and pain that it may cause.
For all of the reasons children exclude each other race, gender, socio-economic status, religion the new LDS policy of excluding children from church practices and rituals because they have gay parents adds one more painful, damaging layer and reason to be left out at school.
Kate Kendell labeled the church action as "gratuitously cruel and stigmatizing," but even more damaging is the church saying it is done because they "love" the children of gay families and they want to "protect" them from any conflict and will do so by "rejecting" them from membership in the Mormon church whereupon at the age of 18, if the child will "renounce" their gay parents' relationship and move out from the home where they have been raised, the highest authority of the Mormon church may allow them in.
This type of passive-aggressive behavior comes from a deep sense of anger and resentment and is an attempt to control the child and the situation is a classic push-pull relationship. We love you but reject you will now be seen as acceptable behavior and rationale by the children, in the classrooms in our schools, toward their classmates.
We know that children succeed best in school when they experience high self-esteem, have a sense of belonging and are accepted by their peers. The ramifications of what has been decided by the decision makers in the Mormon church heighten the possibility of failing in school and/or dropping out of school. We cannot afford to loose one child's potential or add another number to the disenfranchised students in our schools.
Just as we are now hearing about the stories, from adults in the Catholic Church, of the incredible ill effects of the abuse they endured, the time will come when we start hearing of the horrific mental health issues from the children who have been excluded from the Mormon church and asked to "renounce" their parents.
As experienced educators, we are asking the church to realize the harm their latest policy toward gays invokes on their innocent children who might want acceptance into your church and still be allowed to love their parents. We ask the leaders of the Mormon church to recognize this policy doesn't only affect what is taught and learned within the walls of your wards and temples but spills over to the lunchrooms, playgrounds and classrooms of our schools. It places burden on educators to insure every child is supported in a safe environment and their social, emotional, psychological and academic needs are met.
We're gravely concerned that the schools will not have the needed resources to provide these children the true "love" and "protection" they will need to help ease the grief and pain that will likely play out in schools, on walks home and in their neighborhood. We would hope the church leaders recognize this is an unnecessary burden on these children and respectfully request they "renounce" this policy that victimizes children in so many ways.
The authors are retired educators. Janelle Heck was a school psychologist in Granite School District for 29 years. She worked in schools across the district with most of her work in elementary schools. Jeannine Marlow was a school social worker in Granite District for 28 years in many west side schools. Rickie McCandless was a teacher and administrator in Salt Lake District for 32 years. She was principal at Glendale Middle School and a district administrator, including associate superintendent for 13 years.