By Pat Lynch
The first board meeting of the new school year for Oak Park Unified School District (OPUSD) on August 20th opened with parents and community members outraged by the newly adopted gender diversity curriculum. Although this controversial gender curriculum was not on the board agenda, these parents made it a powerful part of this meeting. Given the number of parents and community members present to express their concerns about the curriculum, the board generously extended public comments to 40 minutes. These 40 minutes were filled with passionate, educated, motivated speakers expressing their specific concerns about this new gender identity curriculum, which is scheduled to enter classrooms in October.
Several parents shared their experiences of having children, particularly boys, being bullied for long hair or wearing pink. One was called a “tranny” and “transgender lesbian,” and this mother feared the harassment would actually increase if this new curriculum is implemented. These parents emphasized that the current anti-bullying lessons are clearly deficient and should be improved before trying to take on something controversial.
There were families of many different ethnicities, one of whom stated that, “We use masculine and feminine in our language, what are you going to do to reconcile that?”
Many parents expressed concern that this material directly contradicts their faith, culture, family values and biological teachings therefore “gender identity is teaching children that their parents have lied to them”. Reaching a peak of frustration, some parents spoke out of turn at the end to directly address the board about what changes will be actually made. These parents are tired of “being heard” and “listened to” and want to see action and changes made in response to the outpouring dissent against this curriculum. These parents and community members shared a multitude of personal experiences and research with the common conclusion that there is no place for gender identity curriculum in Oak Park.
A seasoned board-certified psychiatrist with extensive experience with at-risk youth refuted the district’s claim that this material meets developmental norms and spoke of the harms such a curriculum could cause including “confusion of self-identity, anxiety and depression.”
There was one speaker who was in support of this curriculum and fervently stated, “I object to anyone taking my school district and saying it should only be a Christian school district.” Many parents quickly refuted this was about equality for all, not just a few, but the discussion was immediately restrained by the board. There were families representing many diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and religions. Christianity is a minority religion in Oak Park, and there were no Christians at the meeting that suggested or implied that OPUSD become a Christian school district.
Some families are already leaving Oak Park due to this curriculum and the school Board’s lack of action and support of these parents who feel they are being discriminated against. Many cited education code 51500 and 51501 which state that activities cannot discriminate against a protected class and that materials should not reflect poorly on a protected class, respectively. Ultimately, the preference of one protected class (gender dysphoria) should not be given preference over another protected class (religion). It was suggested that the material in the curriculum reflects adversely on their religion because it is contradictory to their faith.
One parent aptly summarized that “You don’t bully parents and the community into anti-bullying initiatives” and several stated “let children be children!”
The Oak Park School district may see a significant exodus of students if the school board doesn’t start listening to its families and constituents – then start acting on what it hears.
YouTube Video of Oak Park School Board Meeting 8/20/2019 (The District does not record the meetings)
Ed Code 51500
A teacher shall not give instruction and a school district shall not sponsor any activity that promotes a discriminatory bias on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220 .
Ed Code 51501
The state board and any governing board shall not adopt any textbooks or other instructional materials for use in the public schools that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220 .
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.
Pat Lynch is a resident of Ventura County