Grade School's Gender Diversity Program Riles Conservatives

Filed under: In The News, Education: Big Kids, Bullying

gender diversity

Learning about transgendered clownfish in school? What would Nemo say? Credit: Getty Images

Children at Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland, Calif., learn about lesbian lizards and transgendered clownfish.

Judge not, they are advised. Nature offers many ways to be male and many ways to be female. There are more than just two options.


Cue the moral outrage.

"This instruction does not represent the values of the majority of families in Oakland," attorney Kevin Snider of the conservative Pacific Justice Institute tells the San Francisco Chronicle in a statement.

You would think, then, the majority of parents would pull their kids out of class when the discussion veers toward lesbians. They have that right. However, Redwood Principal Sara Stone tells the Chronicle only a few kids have opted out.

Conservatives accuse school officials of having a broader agenda than teaching children about gender diversity in the animal kingdom. They're right, Stone tells the newspaper.

She wants to stop kids from being picked on for gender issues.

"If we don't have a safe, nurturing class environment, it's going to be hard to learn," Stone tells the Chronicle. "Really, the message behind this curriculum is there are different ways to be boys. There are different ways to be girls."

That's what makes conservatives grind their teeth. There are not different ways to be boys and girls, they say. Boys are boys. Girls are girls. And it is only sprouty, new-age, liberal educators who are muddying the waters.

Leaders of the Pacific Justice Institute say in a press release sent to the Chronicle that they will provide legal assistance to parents who want to challenge the curriculum.

A classic argument that homosexuality is unnatural is that there are no "gay" animals. Not so, gender teacher Joel Baum tells Redwood students. There are single-sex Hawaiian geckos, fish that switch genders and male snakes that act "girly."

"That's a lot of variation in nature," Baum tells students. "Evolution comes up with some pretty funny ways for animals to reproduce."


But that's a bit of conservative moral outrage for another time. The subject at hand is swishy fish.

Actually, school officials tell the Chronicle, the subject at hand is bullying -- and how to prevent it.

"Gender harassment can start at very young ages, often before kindergarten, and it is not uncommon for children who step outside of narrow gender expectations, whether in their clothing, hair, toys or styles of play, to become the targets of mistreatment by other children," school district spokesman Troy Flint tells the newspaper.

And how do the kids feel about all this?

"I think it's about how it doesn't matter who you are," fourth-grader Desmond Pare tells the Chronicle. "If you're a girl who likes girl stuff, or a boy who like boy stuff, it just matters if you're human."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.