ABSTRACT

The education of society’s young has long constituted a zealously monitored profession. Schools—public and private, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary—historically have served as vehicles for the inculcation of both knowledge and prevailing social values. Due to societal expectations and the high visibility inherent in teaching, educators have traditionally been held to more stringent moral and legal standards than in most other occupations, forced to serve as paragons of law-abiding citizenship and moral virtue, the “determinate role model[s] of the parents’ moral values” (Dressler, 1979b, p. 315). Historically, for example, teachers could be fired from their positions for smoking, drinking, dancing, cursing, theater-going, divorce, breaking the Sabbath, or (for women) staying out after dark. It is hardly surprising, then, that homosexual orientation and gay/lesbian lifestyles, recently more visible but regarded by much of society as deviant and immoral, have become a battleground within the nation’s schools (Dressler, 1985; Newton & Risch, 1981; Schneider-Vogel, 1986), creating a controversy that is “one of the most publicly volatile and personally threatening debates in our national history” (Harbeck, 1992, p. 1).