By Erika Sanzi
A 9-year-old girl in Milton, Massachusetts, has questions for her mother one afternoon upon arriving home from school. “What does bisexual mean?” she asks. It turns out that the librarian read a book to the class about Harvey Milk and the history of the rainbow flag and gave a directive to the 8- and 9-year-olds to remember the letters “LGBTQ.”
School officials contended the lesson fell under the appropriate state standards for history and social sciences and that the librarian was “highly qualified to host a variety of age appropriate conversations.” The father wondered whether he was overreacting and asked his older children and a gay family member what they thought — all agreed that the topic is inappropriate for his 9-year-old daughter, especially in the context of school.
This tension is playing out all over the country as curricula and instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity become the norm, even for the youngest students. Schools claim to be fostering inclusion and belonging, but parents find themselves blindsided by questions from their very young children about topics they consider to be inappropriate for the age and also outside a school’s purview. They can’t understand why their schools seem so eager to rob children of their childhood.
West Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut, for example, has begun to introduce gender ideology in kindergarten as part of what it calls “social justice lessons.” These lessons focus on children’s group identities and are anchored to “mentor texts” that, according to concerned parents, teach 5- and 6-year-olds that their parents and doctor assigned them their sex and might have gotten it wrong.
Bugbee Elementary School in West Hartford even hosted an event for parents called “Gender 101 – A virtual training for parents on gender, sexuality and how to talk to your children about it.” The training was entirely based on gender ideology, and parents who attended said the instructor asserted that “gender is malleable” and “sex is assigned but ultimately is determined by the individual.”
Gender ideology and racial ideology are almost always a package deal in schools, as was evident during the annual “Black Lives Matter Week of Action” in February. Kindergarten and first grade teachers at Centennial Elementary School in Denver, Colorado, sent out a note saying how excited they were to engage in the BLM Week of Action again this year. They also included information about the principles that would guide their instruction with 5-, 6-, and 7-year-olds throughout the week, including “queer-affirming” and “trans-affirming” principles. The following language was included in a note from the kindergarten and first grade teams: Queer-affirming means “working towards a queer-affirming network where heteronormative thinking no longer exists. Transgender affirming is the commitment to continue to make space for our trans brothers and sisters by encouraging leadership and recognizing trans-antagonistic violence.”
Another principle teachers said they would teach students was a commitment to “disrupting the western-prescribed nuclear family structure.”
It’s worth noting that Centennial Elementary School also hosts race-based playground nights, to which only “families of color” are invited to attend.
The Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island, also makes a habit of excluding students and families from school events based on the color of their skin. On Feb. 7, 2022, all students in grades 6, 7, and 8 received an email about actor and author Karyn Parsons, who played Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, coming to meet and talk with students of color. The email explicitly stated that only those who “identify as a student of color or multiracial” could attend.
Cherry Crest Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington, posted its school improvement plan for the 2020-2021 school year on its website with a promise to “center race” and ensure that all students “will have explicit conversations about race, equity, and access” and will “identify culture and begin to recognize and identify white culture through storytelling, sharing, and conversation.” The plan also stated that 4th and 5th graders would be tasked with the “implementation of school-wide learning and strategies for being anti-racist.”
In Cupertino, California, third graders at R.I. Meyerholz Elementary School were required to deconstruct their racial identities and then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.” The teacher explained to students that they live in a “dominant culture” of “white, middle class, cisgender, educated, able-bodied, Christian, English speaker[s]” who, according to the lesson, “created and maintained” this culture in order “to hold power and stay in power.” Students were asked to create an “identity map,” which required them to list their race, class, gender, religion, family structure, and other characteristics. Students were then asked to deconstruct these intersectional identities and “circle the identities that hold power and privilege” on their identity maps, ranking their traits based on the hierarchy the teacher had just explained to them.
In the Evanston-Skokie School District 65 in Illinois, kindergarteners were required to listen to the book Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness. The book says that “whiteness is a bad deal” and “always was” and that “you can be white without signing on to whiteness.” Parents were asked to quiz their 5- and 6-year-olds on whiteness and to give them examples of “how whiteness shows up in school or in the community.” Evanston-Skokie’s commitment to gender ideology includes teaching first through third graders to break the “gender binary” established by white “colonizers” and experiment with neo-pronouns such as “ze,” “zir,” and “tree.”
It is impossible to deny that race and gender ideology have taken hold in a huge number of public and private schools throughout the nation. The above are just a few recent examples.
Parents see schools teaching gender ideology as gospel, shaming children for their immutable traits, and separating children and staff by race in the name of inclusion. Is it any surprise they are sounding the alarm?