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Homosexuality: Classroom Controversy
Aired December 14, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.
Discussing homosexuality in the home room? Will a new measure and more openness save kids from suicide? Get that.
Plus, all-American controversy, a Florida group is mad because a reality show about Muslims isn`t radical enough.
And hazing horror story, new victims, new charges, and new trouble for Florida A&M.
Let`s get started.
Thanks for joining us tonight.
The question here, should homosexuality be discussed in your child`s classroom? Tonight, that controversy is dividing the largest school district in Minnesota. We`re bringing you both sides of the heated debate. Watch this, and we`ll talk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the last three years, kids have been calling me names and shoving me into lockers, desks and walls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bullying of LGBT students is a severe nationwide problem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe that she was just hiding from everybody because she was feeling hopeless. She was perceived as gay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Samantha was the first of seven students to commit suicide in a single Minnesota school district in less than two years. Four of those teens were either gay, perceived to be gay or questioning their sexuality.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During volleyball they would call her names like [bleep] and be like, go over to the boys` locker room.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the bullying part of the reason, you think, Erica, that your best friend killed herself?
ERICA (ph), STUDENT: Most definitely. There`s no question about it.
PINSKY: The Anoka-Hennepin School District had lost eight students to suicide in the past two years.
CNN`s Anderson Cooper spoke to bullied and harassed students from that school district. Now, again, I`ll be warning you throughout this particular segment that some of this language is difficult and offensive, so beware. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMIAN, STUDENT IN ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT: They call me faggot, fag boy, gay-Mian, gay boy, gay, and it`s frustrating and sad at the same time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was walking down the hall and you get shoved. And you feel like they just think you`re a piece of garbage that they can just throw away. And it makes you feel powerless, weak and defenseless. And then when you tell a teacher, they wouldn`t stop it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Some parents and some educators maintain they do not want homosexuality discussed in the classroom. They say the district`s current policy should stand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we were a model for the nation for protecting kids from classroom homosexual propaganda, the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy is an excellent policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: The district`s new policy would require teachers to withhold their personal views during classroom discussions on what are called controversial topics like homosexuality. The new policy sounds just like the old policy.
Joining me to discuss this, Sarah Warbelow, the State Legislative Human Rights Campaign supporting Gay Rights; Candi Cushman is a spokesperson for CitizenLink, an advocacy arm for the Conservative Organization Focus on the Family; Steve Perry, CNN Education Contributor.
Steve, OK. Help me out. Help me navigate through these waters, my friend. Categorizing homosexuality as controversial already is putting it in a negative context, right? What are your thoughts on this whole controversy?
STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: It does.
Drew, one of the things that`s most important to realize is that our children exist in the real world. And more important than teaching them what to do is how to deal with the world at large. They`re going to deal with people who are gay, straight. They`re going to deal with people who are Muslim and Christian, atheist and otherwise.
Our job as educators is to tell these children that the world is big and beautiful and that they can embrace diversity and not choose a side simply because they`re learning about it.
PINSKY: Candi, I want to go to you. Is this - I don`t want to dilute this topic or make it even more confusing, but it feels to me like this is an offshoot on the - and again, Steve is saying it`s about embracing diversity, which I don`t see how people can argue with that. But it feels like what really is happening here is that this is an offshoot on the controversy surrounding sex education generally. Would you say that`s accurate or not?
CANDI CUSHMAN, SPOKESPERSON, CITIZENLINK, A CONSERVATIVE ORGANIZATION: Well, I would say one thing we should all be able to agree on is that we all want to protect kids. We want to protect their physical well-being. We want to protect every child from bullying and harassment, including those that are gay and lesbian.
But we also want schools to be a safe place and a refuge from the over sexualization of children that we see happening in this culture, and we want them to be able to come alongside parents in protecting children`s innocence as long as possible in this culture. And so we believe both forms of protection should be addressed in the public school environment.
PINSKY: Sarah, I`m going to ask the same question to you. I can`t disagree with what either of my guests has said so far. But we`re sort of avoiding the question like I`m kind of asking here, which is, is this just an offshoot of the controversy about sex education and about teaching the kids about the realities of sexuality?
SARAH WARBELOW, STATE LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: No, it really isn`t. Sex education is something very different from teaching anti-bullying. Anti-bullying curriculum can address the fact that there are students who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual in the classroom, talk about complex families, families with two moms, two dads, families in which there`s a grandparent-headed household.
All of these are things in which kids get bullied for and need to be addressed in the classroom. It`s very, very different than talking about explicit sex with children.
PINSKY: OK, OK. So Sarah, I want to make sure I understand you. Because I think you`re making the distinction for me. Which is you`re saying that talking about diversity but excluding the topic homosexuality would leave that particular group of kids open to more bullying. Is that - is that what you`re saying?
WARBELOW: Absolutely. By telling them that their sexual identity is a controversial topic, something that can`t be addressed in schools, they`re just further marginalizing these children.
PINSKY: Candi, help us address that. Do you agree with what she`s saying here, or what would your response be?
CUSHMAN: Well, my understanding is that this particular school district already has several anti-bullying policies in place that specifically address sexual orientation. So it just raises questions about, you know, the implementation of what`s already on their books.
But I would say the parents that we hear from, they just simply want to have the right to determine how, when, and if their children are exposed to explicit and specific teaching on controversial sexual topics. And I would say that, you know, a lot of these lessons that homosexual activist groups are promoting for use in the school under the title of anti-bias actually are sexually explicit.
And just to give a specific example of that, I`ve got a book here, "Queer 13," which is promoted by one of the largest homosexual activist groups in the nation, GLSEN, and I`ve read this book. And it has one of the most explicit descriptions of interactions between a 13-year-old boy and an adult stranger that I`ve ever come across.
And I just think, you know, this is being promoted or has been promoted to educators as an anti-bias lesson. And that`s what parents want to know about and have the right to exempt their children from.
PINSKY: Steve, you`re the educator. Again, it seems like we`re going back and forth here between this issues about diversity versus sexual education. Help me.
PERRY: This is - no, this is not an issue about diversity. This is an issue about sexuality and these are individuals who don`t want to have a conversation in the public schools about gay people.
We have three openly gay teachers. They are teachers first. Their sexuality is inconsequential. If they don`t do their job, they`re going to be unemployed gay teachers. My job is to make sure I create an environment where all children can feel comfortable.
But what we`re having an issue with here is having a conversation about sexuality and homosexuals. For instance, one of our teachers did a lesson on homosexuals during the Holocaust. That`s an important topic, to show that it was yet another group who had been gassed because of their - because of their sexuality, or because of something that differentiated them from another group.
We need to begin to have honest conversations about the fact that homosexuals are very much a part of our community and they`re very much a part of every day. This is not about - homosexuality does not equal explicit sexual conversations. The two are polar opposites. One has nothing to do with another. Simply suggesting that someone - simply saying that someone is homosexual and has a job as an attorney or as a talk show host or whatever else it is that they do doesn`t mean that we`re having an explicit conversation.
Drew, you are right. This is an offshoot from the conversation around sex.
PINSKY: Steve, let me interrupt you. One last question. Why are people so scared of this topic? And so I`ll give you guys - you know, Sarah, a chance to talk when I get back. But why?
WARBELOW: I actually have to leave.
PINSKY: Oh, Sarah, I`m sorry. Sarah`s got to leave. I got to give her a chance, too. So, Steve, you need to answer that question more or less (ph) when Sarah responds and we`ll get out. Go ahead.
PERRY: I actually believe there are some people who genuinely don`t want their children picked on and they think that if they - if they push what they think is pushing by exposing children`s sexuality that they will somehow become homosexuals and that will somehow create a more uncomfortable environment for their child. I think that`s the best part of it.
The other side is it`s just bigotry, some people are just against people who are different than them.
PINSKY: Sarah, final word to you, and then we`ve got to go.
WARBELOW: The other part of this is people understand is that children aren`t being targeted just because of their sexual orientation but also because of perceived sexual orientation. By having in place strong policies that protect all kids and explicitly tell teachers that they must protect kids, you could be protecting your own kid or the child next door.
PINSKY: Thank you, Sarah. Again, my other guests will be back after the break.
Now, next, as parents what can we do to make America`s classroom more tolerant? We`ll tackle that question when we get back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CINDY THURSTON, MOM: I want to be excited and hopeful that things can move forward for gay students. But I`m a little worried, too, if that`s still going to be stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMIAN: I want to be able to be myself in the hallways. I want to be able to walk through the hallways and not get called gay. I want to be able to walk with my friends without people shoving me in the hallways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That was Anderson Cooper`s CNN Special "Bullying: It Stops Here." The student in the clip is from Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota. He is not gay but raised by two homosexual males, two men that are gay, and the boy`s bullied for that.
The boy`s school district is making headlines tonight for its controversial policy that prevents teachers from discussing homosexuality, I dare say even mentioning homosexuality with students.
Joining this discussion now is Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Eiglarsh. Now, Mark, I brought you into this because you like I have three kids. I`m trying to pin people down on this conversation. Everyone`s very slippery about it. What are your thoughts?
MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don`t see how schools don`t teach it. I mean, we know that most parents - I wouldn`t say most, but many are unwilling or incapable of discussing the topic. So that`s a Petri dish at school of - of bad information.
And homosexuality in school doesn`t mean we`re going to teach you how to be gay or we`re going to turn your kids gay. It means that we`re going to love everybody equally, we`re going to teach compassion, we`re going to teach biology, that you don`t choose your sexuality like people choose their political association. OK, I`m going to be a Republican. I`m going to be gay.
PINSKY: Right. Yes.
EIGLARSH: And that concept alone is something that needs to be taught so that the ignorance doesn`t lead to more bullying.
PINSKY: Now, I`ve got a report from the Anoka-Hennepin School District. They responded to our request for a statement. It reads in part, "The board is putting into policy what it believes is sound teaching practice. When teachers do not put forth their own personal beliefs on controversial topics, students feel freer to form their own opinions."
Candi, so let me - let me go to you. I`m going to ask you a real specific question, which is, don`t you think we should teach kids that homosexuality is not a choice? Wouldn`t that be something worthwhile teaching?
CUSHMAN: Well, actually, our stance at focus on the family is that it`s - people that struggle with this do not feel it`s a choice, and we understand that. It`s not a choice. There are - you know, we explain that there`s a combination of factors involved. And so that is our own stance -
PINSKY: OK. I know your stance. But shouldn`t teachers be teaching that to kids? Isn`t that something we need kids to know, just so they understand that their prejudices, those are not something that kids who may have this orientation have any control over? Just so we can just - just raise that awareness.
CUSHMAN: Well, our whole point is that parents should be able to be in control and determine and weigh in what kids are taught about sexuality in the school. You know, I don`t think that the majority of parents are ignorant. I think they are intimate with their children. Parents and legal guardians have the most intimate knowledge of their kids. And they should have a respect level.
PINSKY: You know what? I`m going to disagree with you. I deal with the public. I deal with patients all the time. And the lack of sophistication, people can`t even figure out, listen, yesterday data came out that showed that 50 percent of people don`t understand birth control pills of people taking them, don`t understand what their options are or how they work or what they should be doing.
There`s tremendous ignorance. There`s tremendous confusion. And most parents that I`ve dealt with want the support and the help of the school in dealing with this difficult topic. Let me ask the educator. Steve, help me with this. Don`t you agree?
PERRY: Absolutely. In fact, many parents - I`m often surprised because so many parents don`t know their children as well as they think they do. They know them as they want to know them, not as they in many cases are. I see your kids. And when they`re here at the school, I see who they like and who they don`t like. I see who their girlfriend is or who their boyfriend is. And it may not be who you think it is.
And we often realize - we`re a Pre-K to 12 school. That sexuality is determined early on. And so you can begin to see as early as second grade which kids like which boys or girls. And so when we begin to make children feel like there`s something wrong with them as if they can be deprogrammed for what it is that they`re feeling, then what we make them feel is that they are somehow marginalized.
But we also make the other group feel emboldened. And then we pit the two groups against one another. What we have to do as a school is teach that there need to be a safe space. And as long as your - your expression of who you are doesn`t impede upon my expression of who I am, then we have ourselves an amazing academic experience.
PINSKY: Now, Steve, let me ask this one question. Now, one thing I think Candi will support me saying is that most kids do want to get their information from their parents, that`s actually something they like, they would like. They want their parents -
PERRY: I don`t know that I would agree with that.
PINSKY: No, no, but that - that research is out there. Let`s just assume it`s true. Just assume it is. But let me just tell you, even myself, it`s not easy as a parent to do that. I would want the participation of the school. Is that where most parents fall? Or do most parents in your experience - and again, this is not a scientific study. In your experience most of them want you to butt out? Which is it?
PERRY: In my experience, most of the kids don`t want to have a conversation about sex and sexuality with their parents. What they`d like to be able to do, I think what they`d like to be able to do is to freely express themselves as to who they like and who they don`t like. I think they feel comfortable - they wish they could ask some level of question. But there`s a certain comfort that they have in the anonymity, or I should say the distance that they have with the teachers. So they want to be able to have a conversation about it in terms of a very sterile way.
PINSKY: All right. Let`s talk about the teachers. The president of the Local Teachers` Union addressed the district`s current neutrality policy, which prevents teachers from talking to students about homosexuality.
She said - this is the Teacher`s Union. "Neutrality has not given us good guidance in the classroom. Our gay students are more likely to be target of bullying. That`s not the time to chill a discussion about sexual orientation."
Candi, if this is - if the facts are, if the facts are that kids are being harmed by the neutrality process, if the clinicians that are being objective about what`s good for kids say it ought to be discussed, why don`t we do it?
CUSHMAN: Well, first of all, there is a difference between a curriculum policy and an anti-bullying policy, and my understanding is that their anti-bullying policy does have specific references to sexual orientation. And, you know, but I think our whole point in this is that parents should have a choice when it - when it comes to sex education and sexuality topics in the classroom.
You know what, if parents want the school to teach their children that, you know, then that`s their right. But they should have a choice if they are not comfortable with what the school is teaching, that should not be forced on their family.
PINSKY: Mark, last word to you. You and I are the ones with three kids here. I want the school`s participation. Where you`re at? You`ve got 10 seconds.
EIGLARSH: Yes. I do, too. And if you just reframe the issue, it`s not we`re going to teach your kids about homosexuality, but we`re going to teach your kids that sexual preference is not a - is not a choice.
PINSKY: A choice.
EIGLARSH: -- then all of a sudden we might then be a little bit more open minded to this concept.
PINSKY: Thank you to my panel. Thank you, Candi. Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Mark.
Now, what do you think about what kids are taught? I`ll answer your questions and calls after the break.
And later, "All-American Muslim," why has a TV show about American families generated so much controversy and even hatred and fear in corporations?
PINSKY: We`ve been talking about a school district in Minnesota and homosexuality, what should and should not be taught in the classrooms. The subject has divided an entire community. We want to know what you think.
So let`s start with Mary. She`s on the line. Mary, go ahead.
MARY, NEW CASTLE, COLORADO (via telephone): Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Mary.
MARY: I just wanted to say that I think the science of sex should be taught in school and opinions or religious views surrounding sex should be taught at home.
PINSKY: Well, I think a lot of people - in fact, when that is studied, a majority of people, or a lot of people, if not the majority, agree with you. That they want the support of the school in getting this difficult information across to kids. And for sure you as a parent, your values, your beliefs need to be communicated and the school should respect and support that.
But you`re right, science is what should be taught in school.
Cat in Minnesota, go ahead.
CAT, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA (via telephone): Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hey, Cat.
CAT: I just want to go back to your discussion earlier today and say that it`s 2011 and kids need to learn about homosexuality in schools.
CAT: With all the young lives being taken by (INAUDIBLE) because of being threatened and bullied for being gay and lesbian it`s time we spoke up so that we can help teens and young adults who are struggling.
PINSKY: Well, right. I mean, we need to - there are two issues you bring up here. One is dealing with the bullying and the other is dealing with a burgeoning sexual identity and supporting people in being OK with who they are. And these are complex issues. I don`t want to minimize how complicated these things are. These are complicated. I get it.
But there are certain things that are simply of a factual nature and that kids need to kind of understand. You know, I`m - look, I`m a clinician and I`m interested in doing good, in making positive change. And if there was any evidence that exposing kids, particularly high school age kids, to the facts had a negative impact on their behavior or their outcome, I would - I would be all over it.
But it`s quite the contrary. The fact - it`s contrary. Empowering the kids with facts helps. They`re smart. They`re not dumb. They`re smart.
We have another Kat on the line. This time it`s Kat in California. Go ahead, Kat.
KAT, SAUSALITO, CALIFORNIA: Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Kat.
KAT: I just wanted to make a comment about how I see this whole issue.
PINSKY: All right.
KAT: Parents really should teach their kids about their emotional readiness.
KAT: The school should teach about the biology of the matter. As long as it`s not an abstinence-only teaching school, because that doesn`t realistically work. More kids get STDs or pregnancies in abstinence-only teaching.
PINSKY: That`s what some of the data suggests, but that - believe it or not, that data is actually controversial.
But I agree to you, though, I also think the schools should teach kids negotiating skills. That is to say - how to say no and how to know when you`re being exploited. That`s important.
Rhonda on Facebook writes, "Teachers have a great influence of today`s youth and spend a great deal of time with our children. Teachers should be teaching students to embrace diversity. Diversity is a part of life."
All right. Fair enough. I mean, I think it would be hard to argue with that.
Eric e-mailed us. He writes, "My parents are homophobic and they don`t know that I am gay. What do I do?"
Eric, I`m really sorry to hear about that. That can be a very challenging situation. Here`s what I tell kids that are in that position, is don`t rush to exposing yourself to your family if you think that the outcome could be really awful. Because things - people think that family members would be reasonable, but I`ve seen some terrible things happen. Regardless of what you decide, make sure you have the support of other young people and young adults who`ve been through this experience, you have a resource to turn to if this doesn`t go so good because I`ve seen some - some awful things go down.
All right now. Here`s a question for you. Why did an advertiser withdraw its commercials from the TV show "All-American Muslim"? We will talk about it after the break. It`s really - anyway, we`ll get into it.
Also, what made HLN`s Top 10 tonight? Go to HLNTV.com. Check out our Must-See, Must-Share stories. And we`ll be back after this.
PINSKY (voice-over): All American controversy. A new show about Muslim families has a Florida family group urging advertisers to pull out. Why? Because the show is too positive. Some say this is bigotry, others say, no way. I`m talking to both sides.
And later, hazing horror stories. New charges, new victims, and now, allegations of fraud at Florida A&M. How deep do the school`s troubles run? I`m talking to a lawyer for one of the alleged beating victims.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): TLC`s "All-American Muslim," a reality show sparking reality controversy. Controversy in reality, I should say. On the surface, it seems pretty tame. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being in Dearborn has allowed us to practice our faith without losing our sense of American patriotism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you scared?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scared about delivering. I`m scared about being a mom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got a lot on my mind worrying about the whole pregnancy. She`s obviously going through all the physical. The mental, I feel like I`m going through a lot of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Seems pretty tame, right? But, apparently, an organization called the Florida Family Association has launched a campaign to force advertisers to pull out of the show. Their grievance, the program is actually too positive. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CATON, EXEC. DIRECTOR, FLORIDA FAMILY ASSOCIATION: It`s the absence of the radical side of the imams` proposition of Sharia law that is most concerning. It`s the absence of the application of Islamic code --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Now, here`s how Jon Stewart characterized the Florida Family Association`s complaint.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART: The problem in the show is the absence of radicals.
STEWART: The problem is the televising of Muslims without the terrorist element.
STEWART: It seems to just show Muslims living their lives like the rest of us (EXPLETIVE DELETED) idiots.
STEWART: I`m also troubled why no one on your show "Little People Big World" whistles while they work or makes candy for Willie Wonka.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That is very funny, but I agree with him about the fact that the absence of radicals is what they`re upset about. We get plenty of radicals in the news media. We get plenty of radicals in many stories. And, I think that was the point of this TLC show, which is to show that the vast, vast, vast, vast majority of Muslims are not extremist as the way the vast majority of any group isn`t necessarily represented by its extremist sect.
And that all of us in America in this melting pot are just trying to get on in our life and be Americans in a democratic, pluralistic society. And in the end, home improvement, the giant Lowe`s did pull its advertising. So, Lowe`s said I`m out. There`s a public outcry, a firestorm of criticism from celebrities.
And Lowe`s PR, well, at an all-time low. The real issue is many say, this is about ignorance, fear, and dare we say bigotry. With me is Arsalan Iftikhar, I hope I pronounced your name OK, international human rights lawyer, and author of the book "Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era," and Catholic League President, William Donohue, also conservative commentator, author, Pamela Geller joins us by phone.
Arsalan, you wrote that this taking -- this issue in the way the family organization has is like saying TLC`s show "Sister Wives" is, quote, "a covert campaign to promote fundamentalist Mormon polygamy across America." Could you expand on that?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, ISLAMICA MAGAZINE: Sure. I mean, I think that in the case of "All-American Muslim," if we were dealing with a reality show that, you know, followed the everyday lives of Latinos, African-Americans, Jewish Americans, LGBT people, I don`t think that there would be any outcry at all, and I don`t think, you know, corporations like Lowe`s would show their corporate cowardice by buckling to the whims of a fringe right-wing group.
You know, people tend to forget that the cast members of "all-American Muslim" include a United States federal agent, a deputy chief of the Wayne County Sheriff`s Department, a Muslim lady who works for the local judge in Dearborn, Michigan.
You know, when the Florida Family Association says, you know, moronic things like this does not show the radical side of Islam, like my friend and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Clarence Page, wrote today in the "Chicago Tribune," that`s the moral equivalent of saying that the Cosby show during 1980s was not indicative of Black life in America because it didn`t show street gangs.
And so, you know, we`re just calling on corporations to show a little bit of consistency that anything that would be deemed, you know, anti- Semitic, homophobic, anti-Latino, anti-Black, would not be tolerated by anyone rightfully so. I`d be the first one to speak out against it. But for some reason, being anti-Muslim is an accepted form of xenophobia in America today.
PINSKY: Arsalan, you`re saying this in a very metered, reasonable way. I get angry. Shouldn`t we be angry at this? That corporate America can`t do what`s right. They`re so fearful of losing a couple of bucks that they have to shrink behind fear? I want to ask Pamela Geller if my opinion is reasonable.
VOICE OF PAMELA GELLER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR/AUTHOR: Well, your opinion is based on a false premise. The fact is the show, specifically, situates itself as a response to Islamophobia. This is clear from the opening moments of the show. But it is severely misleading because it doesn`t deal with the kind of Muslims who would, of course, anyone concern in the first place.
PINSKY: Hold on a second. Pamela, let me just interrupt. No. Because I have to say this, which is Islamophobia is being addressed, phobia against Islamic extremism is not being addressed.
GELLER: If they had simply left out, Dr. Drew, Islamophobia and shown people from Muslim backgrounds living their lives, it probably would have been an enjoyable show without incident instead of pretending to deal with larger political and societal issues. Concern about jihad is not a phobia. There have been 18,000 Islamic attacks since 9/11.
People should be concerned with it. As far as public outcry, the public outcry is from the left and from the media. And I have never seen this kind of visceral reaction, the calls for boycotting by media matters, the calls for the boycotting of Israel of Rush Limbaugh. Nobody says anything. People are free to speak.
People are free to express. As far as Lowe`s, Lowe`s is in business. And Lowe`s is in business to do business. And maybe, perhaps, the poor showing of the ratings, where the second show was half of the first show, maybe that had --
PINSKY: Sure. That would be -- I wish they`d say that. That would be reasonable.
GELLER: The last thing I`d like to say --
GELLER: The last thing I`d like to say is, no business wants to inject themselves into a political controversy. That is, you know, suicide for business. Of course, they`re going to withdraw. Why would anybody inject themselves if they want to do business --
PINSKY: But the question I`m really asking is, should it be controversial? William Donohue, catholic league president, where do you ring in on this?
WILLIAM DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Look, the show is not a documentary. It`s not meant for classroom use. It`s five families from Dearborn, Michigan. It`s not a show promoting Islamists. There`s a difference between Islamists and those who practice Islam. There`s a difference between American-Muslims and Muslims in the Middle East.
And what find offensive is that the Florida Family Association is saying that, virtually, all Muslims ascribe to Sharia law. All right. The figure is 99.9 percent. That`s the exact figure they threw out there. Now, look, I condemn Sharia law as totalitarian. I condemn Muslim extremists against Israel and people who loathe the United States.
But people got to step back here and look at what`s going on. It`s just a show about American-Muslims who want to blend in like everybody else. And if we don`t make critical distinctions, it`s going to come back to haunt us.
PINSKY: Well, I think that`s the point I`m trying to make. You know, Florida Family Association leader, David Canton -- or maybe Caton, I think, is actually his name, said this about Islam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATON: I beg you to find an imam or imam -- imams in this country anywhere, in the mosque, the leadership, that would come back and say that, you know, they are -- they do not believe in Sharia. This show is totally absent the true essence of Islam, which is the focus of a Muslim believer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Now, Arsalan, everyone`s getting so confused and kind of hysterical here, aren`t they? I mean, Sharia is just law. I think, again, Sharia extremists, jihadists is what people are concerned about. So, to say that Arsalan, let me address you. Put him -- there we are. Thank you. To say that Muslims believe in Sharia is true. But to say that they believe in extremist positions of Sharia is what`s at issue here, is it not?
IFTIKHAR: You know, what I find interesting as a lawyer is that, you know, all these people who talk about the Sharia creep, you know, the Muslim bogeyman trying to take over America, obviously, has not read the constitution where the supremacy clause of the constitution unequivocally states that no law shall trump the constitution of the United States.
So, anybody who talks about the Sharia creep of Islamic law coming to American shores should fail a ninth grade civics class. This is just a proxy -- it`s a red herring for -- to promote bigotry against Muslims and Islam. And again, you know, one of the guys on the show is a U.S. federal agent. And one is a deputy chief of the Wayne County Sheriff`s --
PINSKY: Listen, a friend of mine is a marine. That`s my point. It`s like, I know tons of Muslims that have nothing to do with this, and I`m sad that we can`t -- that we have to be so bigoted about the entirety of the Muslim faith --
PINSKY: -- as opposed to the extremists, which I am afraid of. I am afraid of the extremists.
IFTIKHAR: And I`m afraid of them, too, Dr. Drew. That`s the thing. You know, it tends to paint Muslims and Islam with a monolithic brush. You know, I went to a top 20 law school. I`ve worked for two United States senators. I`ve graduated from the FBI`s citizen`s academy. You know, seven million American-Muslims including the greatest athlete ever, Muhammad Ali, and the funniest dude in America, Dave Chappelle, are both Muslims.
Now, to say that, you know, just because you don`t highlight the fringe activities of a criminal murderous element again is saying that any show about African-Americans is not representative because --
PINSKY: Listen --
IFTIKHAR: -- they don`t deal with --
PINSKY: I have to take a break, but I would love to see the Muslim communities talking about dealing with the extremist sect in a systematic way or something. Maybe, that would respond to this. I`m sad that corporate America is contributing to some of this paranoia. That really makes me sad. And that business interests would win out.
And Pamela, I don`t disagree with what you`re saying. I understand your point of view, but it makes me sad. Thank you, Pam. Thank you, Arsalan. Thank you, Mr. Donohue.
And when we come back, the hazing death at Florida A&M takes another ominous turn. But first, before we go to break --
PINSKY: All this week, HLN is honoring our soldiers, welcoming them home after a nine-year war in Iraq. Troops that at one time numbered 170,000 will be out of Iraq by the end of the year. HLN`s "Morning Express" anchor, Robin Meade, has been their cheerleader, saluting them every day on her show. She recently sat down with a family and surprised them. Watch this tribute to our returning soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you were here right now, I`d tell him thanks for serving us and our country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m just happy. I`m just really happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a tremendous feeling and one that very few moments in life parallel. Just really thankful to be home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, baby!
UNIDENTIFIED KID: Mommy!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a surprise. What a shock. And this is the best mother`s day present.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a surprise for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m very blessed. Very proud to be the mother of a soldier.
PINSKY: Bria Hunter, a freshman at Florida A&M and a member of the famed Marching 100 Band, was rushed to a hospital on October 31st. She endured what is believed to have been a terrible hazing. Watch as her lawyer explains her injuries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B.J. BERNSTEIN, LAWYER FOR BRIA HUNTER: She was beaten by hands, fists, spatulas, metal rulers, and book binders. So much so that it caused blood clots in her leg she could barely walk the next day and later was taken to the emergency room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Just three weeks after Bria`s beating, a fellow band member, Robert Champion, died on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Florida hotel. His parents are going to be with us tomorrow to discuss this tragedy. And the cases have sparked a criminal investigation and a probe into whether A&M ignored warnings about hazing.
CNN`s George Howell is covering the story. George, what can you tell us tonight?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, we know that FAMU has yet another investigation that it`s dealing with. This time, it`s dealing with financial fraud by several employees in the band. We just confirmed that. This is an investigation in the band. Financial fraud. That on top of the investigation, Drew, into Robert Champion`s death.
Robert Champion died November 19th, and that was just two weeks after Bria Hunter filed her police report, Drew.
PINSKY: How is the mood on the campus? Are students sort of ashamed that they`ve been engaged in these activities? Or do they feel defiant and are in support of the hazing activities? You have that kind of information?
HOWELL: You know, you get the sense right now on campus it`s a very somber situation. Students embarrassed, quite frankly, that this is happening. Some students tell me that they were surprised. They didn`t know that this culture of alleged hazing is taking place within their band.
One student told me, you know, this is the sort of thing you hear about in fraternities and sororities, you don`t hear about it in a band. So, this is something that is taking some students by surprise, but others just disappointed by it, quite frankly.
PINSKY: Thanks, George. Joining me now is Bria`s attorney, B.J. Bernstein. B.J., we have real limited time for this segment. Can you tell us about the lawsuit? And also, I heard that she fractured her femur. Is that accurate?
BERNSTEIN: That is accurate. And we are collecting --
PINSKY: Let me just say, to fracture somebody`s femur, you basically have to hit them with a lead pipe. I mean, it is really -- that`s the biggest bone in your body and the toughest.
BERNSTEIN: Because it was a substantial beating. Even though it wasn`t a pipe per se, a persistent beating for a lengthy period of time caused a fracture. And so, we will be filing a lawsuit. We`re investigating everything here because it has been documented. 1998, a child died, a member of the band hazed. 2002 another child kidney failure from being hazed by this same group.
This university has been on notice for a very long time. And then, poor Bria went through what she went through, and then Robert Champion dies three weeks later. And beyond, the Florida A&M campus it`s been announced here in Georgia that DeKalb County schools, where a number of these students came from as bands, are being investigated and they have closed band programs in that county of Georgia to investigate.
PINSKY: Wow. Thanks, B.J. You`re going to stay with us in the next segment. Again, George, thanks for that report.
And I don`t know. I saw the movie "Drumline," and there`s a lot of hazing going on in that movie. So, people must kind of know about it. Now, a reminder, tomorrow night, again, we`re going to keep this conversation going in the next segment because we have limited time here.
But again, I want to remind you tomorrow night, the parents of Robert Champion, the young man who died at Florida A&M, will join us, and we`ll be back after this.
PINSKY: We have been discussing two hazing attacks alleged at Florida A&M. Both alleged victims were members of the college band. A young woman was hospitalized after she was beaten, now, with a broken femur, apparently. And a young man was killed after what has believed been a brutal hazing. His parents, as we`re reminding you, will be with us here tomorrow.
Joining our discussion, Mark Eiglarsh, criminal defense attorney. Mark, do you think school leaders are aware of this? And this reminds me of the Sandusky situation where the school administration, if they were aware, which they must have been, again feels somehow like they`re over their own little ficdom (ph) and are above the law of the land.
MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. Well, if you believe what B.J. Bernstein alleged, and I have no reason not to believe her, over the past decade, there has been a number of instances of hazing, severe hazing, that should have come to the attention of school administrators. Then, the ball`s in their court.
It`s reasonably foreseeable that this activity will continue and the duty is on them to do something about it. Obviously, if the last two incidents that occurred recently are any indication of what they`ve done, they obviously haven`t done enough.
PINSKY: Mark, one of my producers handed me an article talking about judges deferring or demurring away from educators` opinions because they`re not educators. They can`t tell educators how they ought to adjudicate in their own little world there. Have you heard of this?
And do we have a bigger problem? I keep asking the same question. You know, as someone sending kids to college, I just worry that the educators aren`t really aware of what their obligations are.
EIGLARSH: Well, that`s administrator`s job, to let everybody know this is what`s expected of you. It is reasonably foreseeable that hazing is going to take place not only in fraternities but also now in bands. Look, everyone`s on notice. So, the question is, what have you done to find out what`s going on within the band? You can`t sit back and say I didn`t know. They should have known.
PINSKY: Right. B.J., do you have a response to that? Do we know how administrators would respond to those sorts of inquiries?
BERNSTEIN: Well, the thing that I`ve noticed here is I`ve represented a lot of young people in the Atlanta area who get in trouble, and whether they`re at Emory, Georgia Tech University, Georgia, even for off-campus conduct, they`re suspended from school. There are sanctions. The student judiciary kicks into play.
And that doesn`t appear to be the case at Florida A&M. Perhaps someone suspended from one marching band, but my client had to continue to go to school this whole semester with the people that attacked her. So, you know, there`s an imbalance here, and they clearly, clearly were not doing their job.
PINSKY: Well, that`s what we keep hearing about in all these stories, that administrators were sort of either asleep at the wheel or thought that they knew something more than the rest of us do. Would you guys agree?
BERNSTEIN: That and beyond. Just pure willful, not wanting to interfere with this fabulous reputation that they have --
PINSKY: Well, that`s what I`m talking about.
PINSKY: That`s what I`m saying there.
EIGLARSH: In fairness, I`d want to get their side. I think I read somewhere that one of the band representatives spoke to someone higher up, and he`s saying, well, they didn`t do enough. You know, again, it`s people saying I think that they told the right people, but they didn`t interject their feelings about what should have happened. You know, I don`t know. I`d like to --
PINSKY: As always, Mark, I`ll be looking for the proof. You`ve taught me that. Thank you, Mark. Thank you, B.J.
Real quickly, the controversy about the "All-American Muslim" controversy, a lot of energy wasted on this show that portrays moderate image of Muslim-Americans. Remind you, many other TV shows with a lot more serious, objectionable (ph) material, pathological behavior. I wish they`d focus on the normalization of pathological behavior. Perhaps, Florida Family Association should spend their energy there.
Thanks for watching. We`ll see you next time.