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Counselor Using Naviance to Distribute LGB/TQ Activism Advertisements



Naviance is the online tool schools use to help students and parents navigate college preparation, applications, and career development. APS describes Naviance:



John Clisham, College & Career Counselor at Wakefield High School, used Naviance (the online system for schools and families to navigate college applications) to email this LGB/TQ+ activism advertisement directly to parents last week, an inappropriate use of APS materials and media channels.


CONTENT OF EMAIL: SMYAL YOUTH ACTIVIST CAMP 2020 -- SMYAL is the largest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ YOUTH in the D.C. region. What is Activist Camp? The Activist Camp is open to all students of high school age (approximately 13-18). While you do not have to identify as LGBTQ+, camp does focus on how to enact change within the LGBTQ+ community, so a commitment to LGBTQ+ acceptance and allyship is a must! Only 20 spots are open for this camp. SMYAL covers all costs, including food, housing (if needed) and transportation. Applications close June 1, 2020.


An angry parent responded to Mr. Clisham, and copied Wakefield's principal, Dr. Willmore:


CONTENT OF EMAIL: Mr. Clisham, It was extremely inappropriate to use the mailer of APS and mailing list of Wakefield High School parents for your personal endorsement of SMYAL Activist Camp. I cannot imagine how you had the audacity to mail this to hundreds on the school server. In addition, your motive is called in to question because the actual number of people who could participate in this is in the single digits so a mass mailing is completely unnecessary. Were you given permission by the administration to email this? I understand that you (all) desperately want to further this agenda but some of us are having none of it.


Dr. Willmore, principal at Wakefield, responded to the parent with professionalism and courtesy, though his response was disappointing with respect to the use of Naviance and the school's apparent eagerness to promote one side of a controversial subject that clearly not all parents agree upon.


CONTENT OF EMAIL: Good afternoon _____, In his role as College and Career Counselor, Mr. Clisham shares information on programs, opportunities, and events with families. He receives information from a broad spectrum of groups and organizations and passes it on to families. The families can decide if the information is of interest to them or not. The information you reference in your email was approved by the APS Counseling Supervisor and was provided to the other College and Career Counselors to share with their school communities as there are many students in Arlington who would be interested in the camp. Respectfully, Chris


Mr. Clisham did not respond to the parent's query. Mr. Clisham never even acknowledged it.

However, the very next day he sent out another, similar email via Naviance, showcasing yet another LGB/TQ advertisement.


CONTENT OF EMAIL: The Point Community College Scholarship is now accepting applications. LGBTQ+ Scholarship for Seniors going to a Community College. (Scholarship Information Follows)


At least the email above is related to offering a college scholarship, which is one of the appropriate uses of Naviance.


But the nature of the abrupt follow-on LGB/TQ-themed email to a parent whom Mr. Clisham knew was unappreciative of such emails smacks of both childishness and aggression, in that Mr. Clisham didn't seem to consider the parent who disagreed with him even worth a brief personal response.


APC feels that goodwill could be demonstrated if Dr. Willmore would consider the following "information from a broad spectrum of groups and organizations" and if Mr. Clisham would be fair-minded enough to send to the study body an advertisement via Naviance for this kind of camp.



APC parents will wait to see if such an advertisement finds its way to their inboxes. (We don't recommend anyone hold his or her breath.)


Parents may wish to contact Dr. Christian Willmore, Wakefield principal (703-228-6700 or chris.willmore@apsva.us), and/or Cintia Johnson, APS interim superintendent ((703) 228-6000 or cintia.johnson@apsva.us) to inquire about appropriate use for Naviance, as well as the unacceptable practice of advertising controversial social programs and propaganda via school channels without providing equal time and attention to divergent views.


As always, thank you for all you do to help keep children safe in Arlington Public Schools.

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