An official with the Department of Public Instruction told a parent in 2004 that “homosexuality would not be a topic of instruction” at the Governor’s School of North Carolina, yet despite that assurance, the onsite director at the Winston-Salem program allowed a seminar last year entitled “The New Gay Teenager.”

Meanwhile, the Governor’s School West today is scheduled to show the 1998 film “American History X,” which reportedly depicts a brutal homosexual prison rape scene, is filled with violence, nudity, sex and profanity, and was called by a CNN reviewer “one of the most nauseatingly violent films I’ve ever seen.” Governor’s School is attended by some of the state’s most intellectually gifted 15- to 17-year-olds.

W. David Mills, section chief for the Exceptional Children Division which oversees the six-week summer program for gifted students, told Carolina Journal earlier this month that his promise not to hold the gay-teen seminar came in response to a parent whose child attended the 1997 Governor’s School West.

The mother, whose son had embraced homosexuality during that time period, contacted division officials in 2004 over concerns about instruction and films that had been shown in 1997. She said her son saw the 1988 film “Torch Song Trilogy” while attending Governor’s School, which she said helped influence him favorably toward the lifestyle. The mother and DPI officials could not determine whether the school showed the R-rated movie or if students viewed it elsewhere while in attendance.

The mother, who was granted anonymity for this article because of the sensitive nature of her relationship with her son, said a seminar in 1997 also promoted the gay lifestyle, although officials did not confirm that. She blamed Governor’s School for pushing him into the adoption of a homosexual identity.

“The school had exposed him to gay doctrine,” the mother told CJ in an email message, “and encouraged him to explore homosexuality and homosexual issues, without offering any alternatives to homosexuality or presenting the ex-gay perspective.”

After meeting with the parent in August 2004, Mills said he told her that homosexuality would not be the subject of any seminars or classes at Governor’s School. He explained that the onsite director of Governor’s School West, Lucy Milner, denied hearing any such instruction from Mills or other DPI officials. Milner approved the “New Gay Teenager” seminar last year with only one week to go in the session.

“Regrettably…’The New Gay Teenager’ was offered at Governor’s School West during the 2005 session without making the parents aware of the offering,” Mills told CJ in an email. “I have expressed my concern to the parent, whom I know has lost confidence in my word.”

The parent contacted Mills earlier this year after learning from a CJ article about the Burrows family, whose son attended Governor’s School and the “New Gay Teenager” seminar last year and returned home saying he was confused about sexual identity issues. The Burrowses demanded that sexuality not be included on Governor’s School agenda, and also consulted with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian law organization, about the legality of the “New Gay Teenager” seminar in light of the state’s abstinence-only sex education laws.

The mother of the student who attended in 1997 said she was “livid” when she learned that homosexuality was addressed again, without warning parents, as a topic last year.

“I was assured that this would stop,” she said.

The parent said her son had returned home from Governor’s School in 1997 dramatically changed, both in physical appearance and in his behavior. As Christians, she said she and her husband were shocked that the school showed R-rated movies to students, which they had never permitted themselves.

“He went to the Governor’s School and decided this is what he must be,” she said. “He literally changed overnight.

“It did not cause him to think he was gay. It exacerbated his confused feelings. It is indoctrination when there’s not balance.”

The Governor’s School began its 2006 sessions this week with promises to notify parents in advance about optional seminars and films, giving them the opportunity to prevent their children from participating in programs they deem objectionable. The Web site for the school now has a section devoted to updating information as the six-week sessions progress. Governor’s School conducts two separate programs each year, at Salem College (West) and Meredith College in Raleigh (East). Apparently it is up to parents to contact Governor’s School officials to register any disapproval of subject matter to be discussed.

“We are hoping that this parent’s faith in the goodness of the Governor’s School can be rebuilt by the measures we are attempting to put into place this summer,” Mills told CJ in an email. “We will have a more thorough process for reviewing seminars before they are approved and a way for parents to be informed of the films and seminars before they are presented.”

CJ discovered yesterday that “American History X” was to be shown at Governor’s School West at 6 p.m. today. The mother of the student in 1997 was furious to learn that it was on the schedule, after being told of its graphic subject matter.

Mills could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Paul Chesser ([email protected]) is associate editor of Carolina Journal.