An article in yesterday's Metro section incorrectly characterized the position of the Rev. Charles Briody, a Ward 2 candidate for the D.C. Board of Education, on a referendum to change the city's new rent control law. He favors approval of the referendum.
Nine of 14 candidates seeking election to the D.C. Board of Education addressed members of five of the city's largest gay organizations last night at a forum that focused on alleged harassment of and discrimination against homosexuals in the schools and the board's policy for AIDS victims.
Many of the candidates promised to support the groups' efforts to create programs to teach students about rights of homosexuals.
Several incumbents told the audience of about 50 persons that there have been scattered reports of harassment of gay students and teachers, but they said the problem is not widespread in the District's public schools.
"We had a case where a gay teacher was harassed by students and the teacher asked to be transferred, so we did that," said school board president R. David Hall, who is seeking reelection.
R. Calvin Lockridge, who is a candidate to retain his Ward 8 post, told the group, "We had to transfer one gay student" from a Southeast high school after he was taunted and teased.
Philip Pannell, a member of the Langston Hughes-Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club, disputed board members' contentions that harassment of gays is isolated.
"The brutalization of gays is at an all-time high in D.C. schools," Pannell said. "All you have to do is visit the schools during the lunch hours and after school and you'll see that what's happening."
"We thought that it was dying down, but now with the AIDS epidemic, people are becoming insensitive again and outwardly abusing gay men and lesbians," he said.
Several men attending the forum said that for protection many gay students walk to and from school in groups and that some suffer "lasting scars" from the taunting and teasing they receive.
Others asked that the candidates support programs to educate students about acquired immunity deficiency syndrome.
Board members have treated the AIDS issue delicately, creating policies that conform to nationally recommended guidelines and allow students exposed to AIDS to continue to attend classes.
Absalom Jordan, who is challenging Lockridge, said the board should go further. "We don't need to combat AIDS, we need to combat the ignorance of AIDS."
But, the Rev. Charles Briody, Hall's lone challenger for the Ward 2 seat, said "the most important issue" in this year's campaign is not gay rights but the passage of a rent control referendum that will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. Briody said approval of the measure would mean the end of our school system.
If adopted, the meaure would reject certain provisions of the Rental Housing Act of 1985 that exempt certain kinds of housing from rent control.
"That measure would escalate the movement of the middle- and upper-class people back into the cities, displacing those who most need a public school system," he said. "So, passage of the rent control referendum will mean the end of our school system."
Also present at the forum were at-large candidates David Eaton, Jacqueline Shillings, Barbara Lett Simons and Phyllis Young and Ward 8 candidate Virginia Howard.