By Pat Lynch
OAK PARK, CA – On April 23, 2019, the Oak Park Board of Education quietly approved its “Gender Identity Curriculum” for grades K-5 in the district. This was presented by an elementary school counselor and passed with a majority vote 5-0. Very few Oak Park parents were even aware that this vote was occurring on this highly controversial curriculum change that is not mandated by state law for elementary school.
While the board meeting minutes state that parents will receive a notice prior to implementation and that there is a “parent education component,” the families of Oak Park have yet to be notified. The school year completed at the end of May, leaving sufficient time to notify the parents of this new curriculum as it was presented to the board. It appears this announcement is being withheld until the new school year begins, making it more difficult for families to object and/or leave the district. The presentation is available to view through a link from the board meeting’s minutes.
Under the banner of anti-bullying and equality, the school district is imposing the integration of gender fluidity and transgenderism within the existing curriculum. There is no option for parents to “Opt-out” of this material as it is being incorporated into the children’s existing education structures such as the Readers Workshop. Traditional anti-bullying campaigns focus on teaching children to be kind to everyone regardless of their differences. This transgender-based curriculum could make bullying worse by arming the children with additional terminology that will cause further stereotyping. If a little girl is a “tomboy” or a boy wears pink, they will now be labeled by their peers as “gender fluid.. In the name of breaking stereotypes, this curriculum could therefore worsen them. Elementary school-aged children are not considered by experts to have the cognitive maturity and frontal lobe development to understand gender constructs, which is a highly complex concept, even for adults.
This new gender identity curriculum asserts that “gender does not equal sexuality,” which is a strongly held belief by some – and beliefs should be respected – but is not scientific in any meaningful way.
The curriculum begins in Kindergarten with seemingly benign material about exploring differences and self-expression, but by second grade the goals are to “explore the concept of gender identity” which includes “discussion into what exterior clues might point to gender (wearing certain clothes, haircuts, height, choice of play/games).” By fourth grade they are using the terms “binary and non-binary,” and watching a video by Willow Smith, a young celebrity who is very vocal about being bisexual as well as polyamorous. By the end of their elementary school years, children will be taught to define non-binary genders, explore different gender expressions, be introduced to transgenderism and the use of different pronouns. While this may seem comprehensive, it is, in fact, only the beginning.
Among the stated goals of this curriculum are to “embed LGBTQ+ positive concepts and literature throughout the curriculum” and “Expand gender identity lessons.” Most parents will agree that children should be taught to be kind to everyone, regardless of appearances; however, this curriculum is teaching children material that many families may not agree with. Different religions and cultures may hold a different perspective on this highly controversial issue of “gender fluidity.” This program, in fact, violates Education Code 220 by discriminating against the faith and cultural values of these families. This curriculum, based on bitterly disputed science, is teaching the children that what they have learned at home with their parents, families, and places of worship is wrong. It is teaching children that values held at home are wrong, thereby disrupting the invaluable parent-child trust and relationship.
There is no current law in the state of California that mandates any gender identity concepts be taught in the elementary level. Assembly Bill 329 states that “A school district may [emphasis added] provide comprehensive sexual health education or HIV prevention education consisting of age-appropriate instruction earlier than grade 7…” [Section 8, 10b]. This bill only mandates that sexual education classes be taught “at least once in junior high or middle school and at least once in high school.” [Section 8, a]. These sexual education classes are mandated to “teach pupils about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and explore the harm of negative gender stereotypes.” [Section 6, 6]. However, for the classes in the junior high and high school level, parents do have the right to opt-out. When taught at the elementary level, parents do not have the right to opt-out.
Future steps identified during the curriculum presentation included:
- Continue training of staff
- Clarify policy, handbooks, and inform stakeholders
- Embed LGBTQ+ positive concepts and literature throughout curriculum
- Expand gender identity lessons
The Oak Park Board of Education quietly adopted an extremely controversial elementary school curriculum that could have long term developmental impacts on children. The big question is why weren’t Oak Park parents properly and clearly notified about what was happening?
Link to Oak Park Gender Identity Curriculum Presentation
Pat Lynch is a resident of Ventura County