Dear Community Members,
We are writing to you on behalf of a community of parents in Saline, called the Saline Parents group, which we formed to advocate that parents have the primary authority and responsibility for their children’s education and health, including on current social issues. We began due to our concern about the Jazz reading, a transgender book turned youtube clip and shown to all students at Saline’s four elementary schools. While our hearts go out to transgender children and their families, we believe that beyond encouraging kindness and compassion to all students, the school system should not celebrate or encourage gender dysphoria. This issue has proven deeply controversial within our community.
Several months after the Jazz reading, families in Saline find themselves once again embroiled in controversy over a book that promotes transgenderism. Under the guise of anti-bullying, an English teacher at Saline Middle School planned to read George to her four English classes, a novel detailing a boy’s struggle with gender dysphoria. The original plan was a read-aloud of George as well as class discussions on the issues presented in the book. Parents quickly expressed concern about the book’s contents, and thankfully, the administration stepped in and suggested students be given a second option to read and decided against the read-aloud. Although we are grateful children and families now have a choice to read George, this incident shows a recent pattern of the schools attempting to teach inappropriate sexual materials.
We have two main concerns with this second incident of a transgender celebration story being forced on children in our schools:
1) The content of the book George is inappropriate for 11-12 year old children.
2) Topics about children’s sexual health are normally approved by the District’s sexual education advisory board (SAEB). Teachers should never be engaging in readings and discussions with their students on issues of human sexuality without the SAEB’s approval and parental consent.
Upon reviewing the book, the Saline Parents group found many reasons this book is inappropriate for 11 and 12 year old children. Among our objections:
The book casually talks about the subject of pornography (dirty magazines) and implies it’s ok to masturbate. (Should the schools be promoting the idea that it’s normal and acceptable for middle schoolers to look at pornography? Portraying this behavior as normal to 6th graders is misleading and potentially harmful.)
The book teaches children how to hide their online searches from their parents. (Is hiding and dishonesty when searching online something we want to promote and encourage to our children?)
The main character in the book explores the idea of taking hormones to stop puberty as well as investigating sex-reassignment surgery. (Should middle schoolers going through puberty be told it is ok to stop these normal physical and biological changes through drugs? Should they be taught that it’s an option to physically change and destroy healthy body parts through elective surgery?)
The main character expresses disappointment about his genitals while taking a bath. (With low self-esteem already at epidemic levels for girls and boys, do we need to give children another thing to dislike about themselves?)
There are multiple examples of stereotyping and misandry depicting heterosexual males as insensitive, disrespectful of women’s bodies, and violence-loving. (Does that promote positive self-image for the young boys in the class or positive images for the girls about how men are?)
The book suggests that if a child is confused about their gender or just gender atypical, then perhaps something is “wrong” with them and they need to change it. (What about the large number of kids who are just “gender atypical?” Isn’t it OK to let kids be who they are without suggesting that they are transgender?)
Adding to this troubling story is recent data which shows up to half of transgender boys have attempted suicide. It warrants the question: how many children with gender dysphoria are struggling with the idea of suicide but have not attempted? Due to this troubling fact, any child who expresses gender dysphoria is extremely vulnerable. The care these kids need is far outside the core competency (or resource base) of the school system. Families of transgender children with the help of mental health professionals are best able to support these children, and this should be determined on a case-by-case basis. As parents and teachers, we must teach kindness and love for all children, but recognize that each individual child is different in their needs and how their families want to handle their struggles. The schools can be powerful partners when they respect families on these issues.
Finally, it’s important to understand that an opt-out is not an ideal option for anyone. When children were opted-out from Jazz, their parents were accused of being transphobic and withdrawing support from transgender individuals. This was not true and only served to deepen the rift that exists in our community. Transgender children were hurt because they and their parents did not understand why other children were opted out, and non-transgender children were hurt as well, as they felt awkward and painted with false negative stereotypes about their beliefs. The real solution is to choose materials acceptable to everyone. We are hopeful that teachers and the district will hear our concerns as loving and thoughtful parents and exercise more caution in the future.
Thank you for considering our letter and the opinions of our group. In order to ensure accuracy, we appreciate you contacting the Saline Parents group directly before quoting or using our materials in print.
For more information on the Saline Parents Group’s purpose and core beliefs, please visit our website at salineparents.org.