The Orange County Equality Coalition has filed a complaint with the state accusing Corona del Mar High School of discriminating against an organization that offers support to gays and lesbians.
The coalition alleges in a Department of Education filing that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District violated state laws by requiring parents to sign permission slips allowing their children to receive information about HIV/AIDS and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) at CdM's annual Diversity Day event.
"The district seems to be improperly requiring parental permission for all HIV/AIDS and sex education, even though the education code clearly says that parents only have the right to opt their child out of that instruction," according to the complaint from the coalition.
The education code states that "a parent or guardian of a pupil has the right to excuse their child from all or part of comprehensive sexual health education, HIV/AIDS-prevention education and assessments related to that education."
According to the coalition, the district misinterpreted the code by requiring permission slips for students to opt in to a presentation. The complaint says the code only allows an opt-out requirement.
"The only organization that had to get special permission was an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) group," said Karyl Ketchum, a coalition member serving on the school compliance task force. "This is evidence that they are biased against the LGBT community."
The coalition created the task force in August to monitor and support Orange County schools in their efforts to comply with anti-discrimination laws, she said.
Giorgos Kazanis, public information officer with the California Department of Education, verified that the complaint was received and is being investigated.
Newport-Mesa's investigation into the incident determined that every presentation that was deemed "age appropriate for high school only" required permission slips, district spokeswoman Laura Boss wrote in an email.
"The permission slip was based upon the criteria established under the education code as cited in the written decision and was determined that the action was not discriminatory against the PFLAG panel," she wrote.
CdM has been plagued by a fair share of controversy surrounding the gay and lesbian community.
In 2009, Ketchum's daughter was involved in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit after several CdM varsity athletes allegedly posted a video showing them threatening to rape and kill her. At the time, she was the lead actress in a student production of the musical "Rent." The athletes allegedly used slurs to describe another classmate who they believed was gay.
In response to the lawsuit, the district agreed to provide harassment- and discrimination-prevention training to CdM students, teachers and administrators.
However, Ketchum said her involvement in LGBT issues began long before the lawsuit. She teaches women's and gender studies at Cal State Fullerton.
"It was a bit ironic that it happened to my daughter since this is the area I study," she said.
CdM continued to make headlines across the nation in 2009 when its principal at the time canceled "Rent" because of concerns about its content, which includes homosexuality and prostitution themes. Students were eventually able to put on a watered-down version of the rock opera.
FOCUS ON COMPLIANCE