The fatal shooting of an Oxnard middle-school student who told classmates he was gay serves as a sorrowing and urgent reminder that all kids need a safe school environment, free of threat or harassment. That's best taught to children through everyday interactions in the classroom and on the playground, by observant teachers, stern principals and strong school leaders. Both a proposed California curriculum on diversity education and a ludicrous decision in Virginia to pull a children's book depicting two male penguins raising a chick send the schools in the wrong direction.
When a 14-year-old is charged with murdering a classmate, it's certainly tempting to respond with official action that we'd like to think would prevent such horrors. We applaud Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) for his good intentions, inspired by the death of Lawrence King. But just as school D.A.R.E. programs have been ineffective at preventing drug abuse, Eng's proposal for a pilot curriculum on tolerance strikes us as one of those ideas that sound better to adults than to kids. It also lays another Sacramento mandate on teachers who can barely squeeze required history lessons into the school day.
The state already has mandates against harassment of gay students; many schools have anti-bullying programs in place. The most effective practices create a school culture around consideration for others. Teachers notice and reward kind behavior and punish bullying. Student counselors volunteer to mediate. Principals back their teachers by swiftly intervening in disputes and by imposing discipline that opens the eyes of both students and parents.