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Fla. Education Head Rejects Testing Firm Gay Claim

by Melissa Nelson-Gabriel
Wednesday May 21, 2014
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Florida’s education commissioner on Tuesday rejected an assertion by a state lawmaker that a standardized testing organization aims to make public school students homosexual.

American Institutes for Research is administering new statewide tests for students in Florida. The testing aligns with the nationwide Common Core standards that some states have accepted while others have rejected.

Republican Rep. Charles Van Zant, of Keystone Heights, has said the testing company has a pro-homosexual agenda because it has done research on lesbian and gay issues. Speaking at an education conference in Orlando, Van Zant said the testing program would "attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can."

Van Zant made the comments in March but a video of his remarks just surfaced.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said the testing firm does research for many clients and work for one does not influence its work for another. Stewart said AIR was selected according to normal procedures after officials reviewed various bids.

Washington D.C.-based AIR did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press. On its website, AIR says it was founded in 1946 as a nonprofit and nonpartisanship research organization.

"AIR is one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations. Our overriding goal is to use the best science available to bring the most effective ideas and approaches to enhancing everyday life," the website states.

Democrats, including Rep. Joe Saunders of Orlando, condemned Van Zant’s statements.

"LGBT students are some of the most likely to be targeted, bullied and harassed. For such a comment to come from the mouth of an elected leader is outrageous," he said in a statement released late Tuesday.

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