Mother and father, educators defend Lexington colleges’ range curriculum after petition

The Boston Globe

Andrew Harris a father or mother and educator in Lexington. Tannner Pearson for The Boston Globe

A city identified for its battle inexperienced is now the most recent entrance within the struggle over courses about gender and sexual orientation, with Lexington dad and mom debating the “Severe Talks” range and inclusion curriculum because the district appears to be like to roll it out extra broadly.

The curriculum, which is now the topic of pushback within the type of an internet petition, has existed in some type for greater than a decade and is presently in use in a handful of faculties, based on the district.

Mother and father and educators largely voiced assist for the curriculum at a current College Committee assembly, after an internet petition referred to as for the range and inclusion program to be suspended.

The push to vary Lexington’s curriculum is the most recent instance of what’s develop into a nationwide pattern of conservative teams and right-leaning dad and mom elevating objections to sure applications that train about range and inclusion in public faculty districts.

Final 12 months, Mother and father Defending Training, a nonprofit based mostly in Washington, D.C., recognized 43 “incidents” in Massachusetts colleges difficult curriculums that train about race, gender, and sexual orientation, the Globe reported. As of final week, the group had recognized 63 “incidents,” together with Lexington Public Faculties, based on its web site.

The net petition started to flow into final month in regards to the Lexington curriculum, calling for “Age-Applicable Training for Our Youngsters” and demanding the curriculum be eliminated.

However on the College Committee assembly, greater than a dozen dad and mom, lecturers, and college students stated the curriculum was crucial, whereas comparatively few questioned whether or not it’s age acceptable.

Andrew Harris, a father who identifies as nonbinary, applauded the curriculum and stated gender id just isn’t “too complicated” an idea for 6-year-olds to know, because the petition claims.

“I do know that my 6-year-old can be the primary in line to assist” trans and nonbinary college students really feel welcome, Harris stated.

Superintendent Julie Hackett stated the district is “unapologetically dedicated” to inclusion and he or she was “heartened by the exhibiting of assist” on the assembly. She stated the district deliberate to proceed integrating the curriculum into its broader range, fairness, and inclusion efforts.

Hackett stated it was in the end the district’s, not dad and mom’, duty “to develop a curriculum for all youngsters that will or might not align with a dad and mom’ beliefs about how we should always do it.”

The “Severe Talks” curriculum has been in growth at Bowman Elementary College since 2010 and broadly utilized by its college since 2016, based on a report ready by Hackett’s workplace. Lecturers on the Harrington and Estabrook elementary colleges have built-in components of the curriculum into their lecture rooms, and directors are working to include components of the curriculum districtwide, based on Hackett.

The curriculum “teaches college students in regards to the range of our world, the worth every particular person brings, tips on how to look critically at bias and prejudice, tips on how to perceive historic and present-day examples of energy, privilege, and oppression,” based on Hackett’s report.

The petition, posted July 11 by an nameless person, this week had amassed round 1,700 signatures.

It alleges that the curriculum comprises content material inappropriate for younger youngsters, excludes households with “numerous ethnic, cultural, and spiritual backgrounds,” and was “quietly piloted a 12 months in the past with out discussions with dad and mom.”

Ammie Jensen, a mom with three youngsters in Lexington colleges, stated her youngest baby was “having an id disaster” after a lesson on gender norms.

Jensen stated the curriculum doesn’t take into account the chance that younger folks can eschew gender norms with out questioning their gender id — that women “may be tomboys,” as she put it.

She stated this system is creating “nice confusion in gender id,” which can “trigger extra of a psychological well being disaster than the pandemic and separating them from all the opposite youngsters would.”

The petition precisely notes that there isn’t any approach for households to choose out of the curriculum.

Hackett, the superintendent, stated in her report that the district’s dedication to range is built-in into all its classes.

Talking on the College Committee assembly, Hackett stated the district has at all times been clear about its use of the curriculum and emphasis on range, fairness, and inclusion, however there’s a distinction “between transparency and settlement” with the father or mother group.

“This isn’t new, this has been round earlier than I ever obtained right here,” she stated.

Rina Mazor, a instructor at Lexington Excessive College, stated she has seen the college’s tradition develop into extra accepting over her greater than 16 years working there, partly due to the district’s emphasis on range.

“Our college students be taught to take care of themselves and others, whereas celebrating their variations,” Mazor stated.

Shannon Davis, a mom who has had a son within the district for eight years, famous that the curriculum covers points past gender id and sexuality, together with “being a baby of immigrants, having two dads, or dwelling together with your grandparents.”

“You possibly can’t simply take away one part of ‘Severe Talks,’ as a result of that’s not honest,” she stated.

The district is presently working to develop and standardize its range, fairness, and inclusion curriculum, with targets to implement 12-16 classes for pre-Okay by fifth grade college students by the 2025-2026 faculty 12 months, officers stated.