The Christian right group Wisconsin Family Action is criticizing a federal grant to create safer Wisconsin schools because it says anti-bullying efforts are "spearheaded" by "homosexual activists."
On its website, the WFA, which also is leading a campaign to repeal the state's domestic partnership registry, took issue with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's recent announcement that the state had received an $8.7 million federal grant for safe schools.
A news release from the DPI said the grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would be used for pilot programs in Beloit, Racine and Menominee Indian school districts that bring "together educational, behavioral health and criminal and juvenile justice systems."
Under the four-year grant, the state will work with the districts to promote students' mental health and academic achievement and prevent violence and substance abuse.
State Superintendent Tony Evers, in the news release, said, "When students feel safe and connected in school, they have a much better chance of doing well in their studies and graduating ready for college and careers."
The release also contained a statement from Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who said, "This is welcome news for Wisconsin and all the children who will be positively affected by this grant."
At the federal level, the safe schools campaign is a collaborative initiative of Justice, Education and Health and Human Services departments and it has been in place since 1999. Previous awards in Wisconsin have been directed to Green Bay, Beaver Dam, Madison, Milwaukee and Wautoma school districts.
The most recent grant was announced as officials, activists and educators across the country observe Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Bullying remains a widespread problem with nearly 30 percent of adolescents in the United States reporting some experience with bullying, whether as the victim, the bully or both, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
But Wisconsin Family Action criticized the grant award to Wisconsin. WFA president Julaine Appling stated, “Of course, all students should be safe at school; however, the ‘feelings’ of students should not be the basis for determining if someone is being bullied. We’ve known for years that virtually all of the anti-bullying programs have been spearheaded by homosexual activists and sympathizers. The type of program this grant is promoting will likely be used to shut down any expression of disagreement with homosexuality.”
The right-wing group encouraged its supporters to raise concerns with local school board members about anti-bullying programs and examine school district budgets for anti-bullying efforts.