Maria Keffler is a former middle and high school teacher whose children attend Arlington Public Schools.
On Feb. 25, a friend and Arlington Public Schools parent inadvertently discovered a meeting that evening of a working group charged with developing procedures to implement the district’s transgender/gender-nonconforming students policy. We attended as nonparticipating observers and were stunned.
At that meeting, an Arlington Gender Identity Allies advocate lamented that a planned reading of “I Am Jazz,” a storybook about a transgender student, had been scuttled at Patrick Henry Elementary School because of concerns over parents’ reactions. The speaker vowed that the event would happen.
Three days later, Ashlawn Elementary hosted a transgender activist who read the book to 5-year-olds, introducing the idea that “anyone can be anything,” as one kindergartner who absorbed the lesson summarized.
Ashlawn parents were notified less than a week ahead. The letter offered no opt-out, buried the book’s topic in its middle paragraph and went out only in English, although 27 percent of Ashlawn’s students are Hispanic or Asian. All other communication goes home bilingual.
APS seems comfortable employing furtive tactics to slip into classrooms controversial topics to which parents might object.
In truth, APS is part of a larger set of trials to which I as a parent have not consented for my children. David Aponte, co-chair of the local chapter of GLSEN, formerly the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said last year that Northern Virginia and California have served as laboratories for policies regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
Arlington, our children are being experimented on.
No person of conscience would object to a policy of nondiscrimination and support for all students. In fact, that policy exists: In accordance with School Board Policy J-2, APS prohibits “discrimination on the basis of race . . . gender identity or expression, and/or disability.”
But the working draft of the policy implentation procedure seeks to expose kids at a young age to transgender-themed materials, as one advocate affirmed at the February meeting. It would erode parents’ rights over their children’s education, corrode Title IX protections for girls and risk convincing healthy, normally developing boys and girls that their bodies are wrong and must be altered with hormones and be vandalized by surgical instruments.
If this draft policy implentation procedure were adopted:
• Every child in APS would be taught transgender theory.
• If a boy said he felt like a girl, he would gain access to the girls’ restrooms, locker rooms and changing areas. No adult may question him.
• Said boy could also sleep in the girls’ quarters on school trips — and other students in the room could not be removed at a parent’s request.
• Said boy would get to compete in girls’ sports. (If your daughter hoped for an athletic scholarship, start working on Plan B.)
• Teachers and staff members, regardless of opinions or convictions, would be required to teach and promote transgender ideas.
Unquestioning affirmation of cross-gender identification is the only policy approved by GLSEN and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the funding and policy arm of the LGBTQ lobby. But the data does not back them up.
“Sexuality and Gender: Findings From the Biological, Psychological & Social Sciences,” a report and summary of research related to sexual orientation and gender, concludes that “some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.”
Without clear, unbiased, peer-reviewed research into the efficacy and validity of policies related to gender dysphoria, any policy adoption is experimental at best. A 2011 study from Sweden, one of the most transgender-supportive countries in the world, admits that after decades of support for social transition and sex reassignment, no positive change has occurred regarding rates of mortality, suicide and psychiatric morbidity.
This policy is not about protections for gender-dysphoric students, who make up only an estimated 0.7 percent of the school population, or about 200 of 28,000 students in Arlington Public Schools. This policy mandates the promotion of transgender politics.
APS is for parents’ rights, Title IX protections and policy transparency or it is opposed to these things. The Arlington schools’ track record does not reassure, given the Ashlawn debacle and the opacity with which this policy is being developed.
Parents — not school systems — should hold authority over what their children learn about sexuality and gender and when. APS needs to inform all parents that this policy is being developed and move its deadlines back at least a year, to June 2020, to respect parents’ rights and prerogatives and to have a legitimate dialogue about this subject. To do otherwise calls into question whether APS is fit to set educational policies for children at all.