A group of parents in a southern Illinois town is protesting the exchange of Valentine's Day cards between students of the same sex. The parents warn that students who give Valentines to their same sex peers are undermining the sanctity of the February celebration.
Parents decry 'heartless' attack on traditional family values
By Cole Walters, Education Correspondent
MT VERNON, IL—Christopher Biggins has been working on his Valentine's Day cards since last week. The 6-year-old, who attends the Buford Elementary School in this southern Illinois town, hand addressed 23 envelopes—12 to the girls in his class, 11 to the boys—and signed his name to cards bearing messages like "you're cool," "I like you," and "let's be friends."
But then Christopher's family got word that some parents here are planning a Valentine's Day protest. Their issue: the exchange of Valentines between students of the same sex. Giving cards and candy to their same sex peers, say the parents, constitutes an attack on traditional family values and undermines the sanctity of the February 14 celebration.
One boy, one girl
"We couldn't believe it when we got the news," says Christopher's mother, Elise Biggins, who works part-time as a bookkeeper in nearby Marion. "These are first graders. How can it undermine someone else's Valentine's Day to have them giving each other cards?"
The Bigginses decided that rather than risk attracting the ire of the protesting parents, Christopher wouldn't hand out any Valentines this year. "We gave him a choice between only giving Valentines to the girls or not handing out any and he decided to give it a pass this year," says Elise Biggins. "Can you blame him?"
No same sex VD
Mary Ann Boone is one of the organizers of the Valentine's Day protest. She said that she had never really thought about just how offensive it is that girls and boys often exchange Valentine's with their same sex peers—until this year. "It just hit me all of a sudden that this is something that really undermines traditional family values," says Boone. While Boone's daughter Rebecca, who attends third grade at Buford Elementary, will be bringing Valentine's cards to school today, she will be distributing them only to the boys in her class.
To make their point, Boone, along with 15 like-minded friends and neighbors, plans to spend much of today demonstrating in front of Buford Elementary, a 1940's era brick school building on the west side of Mt. Vernon. Armed with signs that read "have a heart," "respect family values," and "no same sex VD," the parents are hoping that they can win over the hearts and minds of the students who go to school here—before it's too late.
"This is how it starts, with one little girl giving another little girl a Valentine," says Boone. "But before you know it, you've got serious problems."
A tarnished celebration
Boone's friend Michelle Nardullis says that she was originally planning to sit out the protest, as she has no children of her own. But she changed her mind, says Nardullis, after she realized what the exchange of same sex Valentines meant to her own celebration of the annual tribute to cupid.
"This is one of the biggest days of the year for me, second only to my wedding anniversary," says Nardullis. "I'm expecting at least a dozen roses, maybe even a piece of jewelry. What does it say about my Valentine's Day when school kids of the same sex are giving each other cards?"
Can this holiday be saved?
Officials at the elementary school say that they're now considering banning all future celebrations of Valentine's Day in the classroom in order to avoid offending parents to whom the exchange of same sex Valentines is offensive.
"We've already eliminated peanuts from the school cafeteria to accommodate children with food allergies," says Assistant Principal Cathy McGovern, noting that the Mt. Vernon school board will soon consider a measure banning cupcakes and cookies in an effort to combat obesity in the schools.
"Valentine's Day is a nice tradition," says McGovern. "But we don't want to end up undermining our families just so kids can give each other cards."