Florida Superintendent Orders Ban on All Books Judged ‘Inappropriate’

Original Article

By Maren Williams

In response to a draconian censorship directive recently issued by the superintendent of schools in Dixie County, Florida, CBLDF this week joined with other member organizations of the Kids’ Right to Read Project in defending vast swathes of library and classroom materials in the district. The order from Superintendent Mike Thomas targets for removal any library materials, textbooks, or supplemental texts that contain “profanity, cursing, or inappropriate subject matter.”

It is unclear exactly what prompted Thomas’ action at this time, but if followed to the letter it would undoubtedly decimate both curricula and library collections. For just a small taste of the impact, consider the four books on the district’s summer reading list for 8th graders:

As the linked titles show, at least three out of four books on the list have been considered “inappropriate” at one time or another. Lord of the Flies and Summer of My German Soldier have both been challenged specifically for profanity among other complaints, while The Graveyard Book has been targeted due to violence. (Although Dixie County students were assigned to read the original prose novel, the graphic novel adaptation of Gaiman’s book was also challenged for violent imagery in 2015.)

The list above represents the only glimpse of curriculum that we were able to locate on Dixie District Schools website, and 75% of it would be wiped out by Thomas’ order. Now extrapolate that to the even more challenging and “mature” books that surely must be assigned to older students and available in library collections. The impact would be unfathomable–not to mention that such a content-based purge would be highly unconstitutional!

In the letter sent to Thomas yesterday, we outlined the wide variety of materials that could fall afoul of his order, judging by past challenges from various locations:

Excluding material because it may be subjectively considered ‘inappropriate’ and ‘questionable’  potentially affects a wide range of materials that address race, gender, religion, sex, political violence, history, science, politics, the environment, or any other issue on which people may disagree. Books that community members and parents have called inappropriate include Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich, because of its depiction of poverty; Native Son by Richard Wright for its depiction of ghetto life; A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck because of its descriptions of farm life; The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank because it is a “real downer”; and a Shel Silverstein poem in A Light in the Attic because it “encourages children to  break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” The September 8 directive provides no definition of, or criteria for determining what subject matter is “inappropriate.” This leaves teachers and librarians with no clear guidance and may encourage them to exclude any potentially controversial material from the library or the classroom.

Additionally, the letter points out that the superintendent’s order tramples the district’s own policies regarding selection of educational media (e.g. library) materials and instructional materials, as well as challenges to materials. Thomas claims that his order also reflects the will of the school board, but we hope they will prove him wrong at their next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Below, read the whole letter sent by NCAC and signed by Kids’ Right to Read Project partners CBLDF, the National Council of Teachers of English, American Booksellers for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, PEN America, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Georgia Mom Upset About Sexual ‘Identity Definitions’ Quiz At School

Original Article

By Fox News

The DeKalb County School District in Georgia is facing backlash after a “sexual identity” assignment was given to the sixth graders of Lithonia Middle School.

The middle school’s health teacher assigned a quiz that defined 10  “sexual identity” terms, such as gay, lesbian, and transgender. The quiz required the sixth graders to identify and differentiate between various sexual orientations and identities, FOX 5 Atlanta reported.

One mother, Octavia Parks, was particularly shocked when her 12-year-old daughter came home with the assignment.

“Why are they teaching that in school?” Parks said. “What does that have to do with life?”

Parks felt that the material was not appropriate for school, and that her daughter was too young to learn about sexual orientation.

‘WITNESSING WHITENESS’ INFLUENCING LESSONS FOR CHILDREN AT ST. LOUIS SCHOOL

“We’re talking about a sixth grader who still watches Nickelodeon,” Parks said. “I’m not ready to explain what these words are nor what they mean.”

Parks recalls an earlier conversation with the health teacher, during which she was assured that such material would not be taught.

“We had a brief conversation and she assured me that this sort of thing would not happen.” Parks said. “Nonetheless, it is happening.”

Now, Parks has signed a consent form to remove her child from the health class. She is not the only parent to find fault with the controversial quiz.

Eva McClain, the mother of a past Lithonia Middle School student, agrees that the material is inappropriate for school. She also said that the sexual orientation quiz was not part of the health class’ curriculum when her daughter was in school.

GEORGIA TEACHER ALLEGEDLY ASSIGNS STUDENTS TASK OF CREATING NAZI MASCOT

“If a kid wants to know about the gender or know about the sex preference, it should come from the parents, not from the school,” McClain said.

It is still unclear if the DeKalb County School District approved this curriculum, but the district did acknowledge the parent’s concern in a written statement.

“DCSD has been made aware of this alleged event, and is working to verify its authenticity. We will investigate this event and take action, as appropriate, once that investigation is completed,” a spokesman for the district said to FOX 5.

Park plans to bring her concerns to the school district headquarters Tuesday, as soon as their fall break ends.

“I will be removing her from that class, and I’m also going to take it to the board of education to see what they have to say about it, as well,” Parks said.

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These Gender-Neutral Schools Want to Crush Gender Stereotypes

Original Article

By Katy Scott

From the moment a child is born, its gender pretty much determines how they will dress, which toys they’ll be given and ultimately how they are meant to behave within society.

But some schools in Sweden are trying to strip away such gender norms.
There’s nothing obviously out of the ordinary at Sweden’s gender-neutral preschools at first glance.
There are no designated areas to play with dolls or building blocks. The toys have been strategically jumbled to create an environment for girls and boys to play together.
These two preschools in Sweden — Nicolaigarden and Egalia (meaning ‘equality’ in Latin) — go to great lengths to de-emphasize gender. Children are given the freedom to challenge and cross gender boundaries.
Rather than encourage children to do particular things, the teachers are careful not to box children based on their gender or subtly discourage them from doing certain things.
The school has removed the terms “girl” and “boy” completely. Instead they make a deliberate effort to call each child by their first name or the gender-neutral pronoun “hen”.
But is it necessary to intervene at such a young age, and what are the long-term effects?
Children play in the garden of Egalia.

Removing the ‘gender straitjacket’

A new global study found that young girls and boys are outfitted with “gender straitjackets” by the age of 10, resulting in lifelong negative consequences.
The Global Early Adolescent Study analyzed how gender is learned, enforced and reinforced among early adolescents in 15 countries.
It concluded that culturally-enforced gender stereotypes — which are linked to an increased risk of mental and physical health problems — are firmly rooted between the ages of 10 and 14. The study found these stereotypes leave girls at greater risk of exposure to physical and sexual violence, child marriage, and HIV. For boys, the risks can include substance abuse and suicide.
In Sweden, which is ranked as the fourth-most equal country in the world when it comes to gender, the government has made a concerted effort to emphasize equality in the Education Act.
Following a new amendment introduced in 1998 requiring all schools to work against gender stereotyping, Lotta Rajalin set up her first gender-neutral preschool for one to five-year-olds in Stockholm’s Old Town.
The gender-neutral policies at Rajalin’s schools ensure that stories, songs and dramatizations are screened or re-scripted to include non-nuclear families (single parents or same-sex couples) and heroines sweeping princes off their feet.
Teachers opt for non-traditional plot twists to ensure that they’re not reinforcing gender stereotypes.

How to be a gender-neutral teacher

Perhaps the most important distinction in these preschools is the way the teachers treat each child.
To help identify any unconscious bias they have when dealing with girls and boys, the teachers filmed themselves interacting with children and took note of how they responded to the different sexes.
“After we had been filming and observing each other, we understood that it’s not the children we have to change, it’s ourselves,” Rajalin tells CNN.
Lotta Rajalin, director at Nicolaigarden and Egalia gender-neutral preschools.

They discovered they used different tones of voice when talking to girls or boys, and tolerated rowdiness in boys while discouraging it in girls. Similarly, they found themselves to be more likely to comfort a crying girl, while they would tell a crying boy to brush it off.
“When you change yourself and your thinking and your expectations, you will see new things and you will see that it’s better for children’s development,” she says.
Rajalin believes gender stereotypes limit the opportunities available to a child. Her gender-neutral teaching methods stem from what she calls “the whole life spectra” or “circle of opportunity.” This circle is often divided into two semi-circles — one for boys and one for girls.
Through gender-neutral teaching, Rajalin hopes to open up this circle of opportunities for all children to define themselves.
“We try to take away the barriers which stop both girls and boys doing what they want to do,” she says.
“We want all children to have the same opportunities to feel, to express themselves, to like what color they like, to play the sport they’re in, and so on. We don’t want to limit them.”

Rajalin wants to open the “circle of opportunities” to all children, regardless of their gender.
Following a small, structured observation of children at one of Rajalin’s preschools, Ben Kenward, a researcher in psychology at Uppsala University in Sweden and Oxford Brookes University in England, found these children had a reduced tendency to be influenced by gender stereotypes, compared to a control group of children from a typical Swedish preschool.
“The [gender neutral] pedagogy is having some of the effects that it’s intended to have, and if you’re committed to giving these young children the same opportunities … then our study suggests that this kind of pedagogy is a good tool.”

‘Brainwashing children’

However, these gender-neutral policies have generated much criticism over the years.
Swedish psychiatrist and author David Eberhard considers calling boys and girls “hen” to be “intellectually dishonest” as it is being “blind to biological differences.”
“This is the kind of brainwash that works when the kids are small and in the short run they adapt to this, but what happens when they go to normal school and they find out they were living in a sect?” he tells CNN.
“This is a sort of a religious sect to say there’s no differences between men and women, it has nothing to do with science.”
Eberhard explained that he does not oppose boys choosing to play with dolls, but he draws the line at calling a girl or boy “it” or “hen”.
Rajalin believes a lot of criticism is misguided, as people do not fully understand what they are trying to do. “We are not trying to say girls should be boys or boys should be girls, we just want every person to have the right to be the person they are, regardless of gender,” she says.
Rajalin says her gender-neutral preschools give children the same opportunities, obligations and rights, regardless of gender.

Harmless ‘experiment’

While Eberhard’s views are strong, he says gender-neutral schooling is unlikely to have any negative long-term effects on young children.
“I suppose that they [the children] are so sure about their identity that it doesn’t matter,” he says. “But, as individuals, you may very well have young kids of different sexes that become very frustrated or confused.”
He believes Sweden would be better off solving the problem of gender inequality in the real world.
Rajalin, however, believes adopting gender-neutral methods and exposing children to teachers of various different ethnicities, religions, sexes and sexual orientations, will better prepare them for the nuances of the real world. It will boost their self-confidence and set them up to be more successful in life, she says.
Psychology professor Philip Hwang from the University of Gothenburg is not convinced. He thinks Rajalin’s gender-neutral preschools are harmless but overrated.
“I don’t really see any harm in it, but I think it pleases the parents more than it changes the children,” he tells CNN.
He says he has met a couple of parents that really believe sending their children to gender-neutral preschool will have lasting effects and that they will grow up in a gender-neutral society.
“It’s a statement more than something that has actual effect on children’s long-term development with regard to gender issues,” he says.
“It takes generations to change norms and values like this.”
Even Kenward, who is optimistic that the gender-neutral pedagogy is creating equal opportunities for children of both genders, is unsure what the long-term effects will be.
“It’s an open question what happens to these children when they move into primary school,” he says. “My guess is it [gender neutral pedagogy] could continue to influence their behavior potentially, not in a very strong way necessarily. But it may have some lasting effects.”

California School Board Will Allow Transgender Books in Elementary School

 

Original Article

Should children in kindergarten be taught about transgender people?

That’s the question at the center of a controversy that erupted in June after a transgender student at Rocklin Academy Gateway, a charter school in northern California, brought the children’s book “I Am Jazz” to school to share with classmates. The book chronicles the life of a real-life transgender girl named Jazz Jennings.

In a Monday night vote after an impassioned, emotional debate, the Rocklin school board decided to keep its current literature policies in place, which allow similar types of books to be read to children during story time. However, the board passed a provision stating that teachers “will endeavor to notify parents in advance of controversial topics being discussed when they are part of the school’s curriculum or a teacher’s lesson plan so that parents can also share their views at home.”

The policy adopted further states, if advance notice is not possible,
teachers will “endeavor to notify parents via email or verbally after the fact.”

Some parents raised objections that they were not notified, while others at the meeting supported the school’s policies and did not object to the reading material.

Wendy Sickler, a parent of two children at the school, said her “concern is that a book that was read was outside the curriculum, and it was a sensitive topic, and the parents weren’t notified.”

Sickler said she’s not opposed to a transgender child being in the classroom.

“I know that our kids are going to be exposed to different lifestyles, and that to me reinforces that they should notify parents,” she said, according to the Sacramento Bee, adding that she thinks that additional changes are needed other than the issues brought before the school board.

According to the newspaper, Beryl Mayne, of Auburn, arrived before the meeting with other members of the LGBT community holding signs that said: “Trans Rights are Human Rights,” “Trans Kids Have Courage” and “Love and Let Love.”

“It’s important tonight to support transgender children. It’s not about me. It’s about transgender children,” Mayne told the Bee.

After the vote, one school board member urged the community to come together and move forward now that a decision had been made.

“Please let this end tonight,” Larry Steiner said, according to the Bee. “We cannot forget Rocklin Academy is a school of choice. The hostility has to end. Let’s bring back our sense of community.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.