In any random group of children, there’s bound to be one who is a little different from the crowd, whose social skills are wanting or whose imagination is hyperactive.   Society being what it is, there’s also bound to be a one or two who are confused, self-destructive, or disruptive.  That’s the odds.
What’s our “common ground” for relating to such children?  One would hope it is the understanding that they deserve to be treated with love and protection, kindness and dignity from the adults around them…like anyone else. 
Kindness and dignity are not the only issues, however, behind many of the programs aiming to increase awareness for the needs of school children “with differences.”
As a part of its bullying prevention strategy, a presentation titled “Supporting Transgender Students,” given in the North Carolina Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, for example, recommends that teachers “avoid gender-specific classroom management techniques” such as addressing children as  “students” or “scholars” rather than “boys and girls, ” establish “gender-neutral dress codes,” permit students “to participate in gender-based activities consistent with their gender identity, including single-gender classes, school photos, extracurricular activities and overnight field trips,” and use a transgender student’s “preferred pronouns.” [i]   
In Washington, state health and physical education standards include “self-identity” as a topic within the “core idea” of sexual health.   Children in kindergarten are to “understand there are many ways to express gender” and by 5th grade should be able to “[d]escribe how media, society, and culture can influence ideas regarding gender roles, identity, and expression” and asking “trusted adults…questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.” [ii]  What exactly that means has been contentiously debated[iii] but both sides agree that, whatever is going on, the goal is to make schools more “LGBT-Inclusive.”
State after state reports the same story.  Connected to emerging national “standards” is a new theory of gender identity directed at very young children. [iv]  The US Department of Education Transgender Guidelines issued in the spring of 2016 go beyond mandating students be given the freedom to use whichever bathroom they want but also seek to compel schools “to treat transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity” at any given moment.  Compliance with these guidelines, while not legislated, is connected to Title IX money.[v]  
And here is where parochial and private schools must sit up and take notice.  Those receiving Title IX funded students are just as bound to US Department of Education “guidelines” as the public schools.  One progressive Catholic publication described the frustrations of a female student from an Illinois Catholic high school who is attempting to be recognized as male.  Students and teachers are expected to use a name and the corresponding pronouns that fit this new identity. “It is likely only a matter of time before the debate over transgender rights arises in Catholic schools. It is already happening.”[vi] 
“Bullying,” in this climate, becomes failure to affirm a child’s new identity.  “Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools” put out by the National Education Association, the ACLU, and several homosexual rights organizations says: “intentionally using a transgender student’s prior name and associated pronouns will make that student feel unsafe and unwelcome, and will interfere with their ability to learn.” (p 22).  It isn’t just a matter of male or female, either.  The guide goes on that there are “a growing number of gender-expansive youth are identifying themselves outside the gender binary, and many use gender-neutral pronouns.” (P. 22)
The parent who fails to affirm his child’s new identity faces a not-so-veiled threat.  Parents are told that “[s]chool officials interact with the student on a daily basis and focus on supporting the student’s growth and development, which gives school personnel unique insight into the student’s needs.” (p. 34)  The school can provide non-affirming parents “counseling services for the whole family or [connect] them to local resources or other parents of transgender or gender-expansive youth. …educat[ing] the student’s family members about the serious consequences of refusing to affirm their child’s gender identity.” (p 32)
 The Human Rights Campaign, one of the homosexual rights organizations behind this guide, has a “Catholic Initiatives” aspect to their work which includes advocacy for same-sex marriage and “inclusive” ordination.  A short video,[vii] narrated by Margie Winters, describes her termination from Walter Mercy Academy where she had served as Director of Religious Education after it was made public that she was “married” to Andrea Vettori, identified as “Margie’s wife.” They have begun a campaign appealing to the bishop “to stop firing folks for LGTB issues.”  Vettori adds: “Even though the Supreme Court has made marriage equality legal…there is still a long way to go in the Church.”[viii]
[i] “Supporting Transgender Students:”;  Jessica Chasmar, “N.C. school board: Don’t call children ‘boys’ and ‘girls’,” Washington Times, 8-8-16.
[ii] State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction: “Health and Physical Education: Kindergarten – 12th,” (p. 29 for kindergarten). 
[iii] E.g.,: Dr. Susan Berry, “Washington State Schools Push ‘Gender Fluid,’ Transgender Ideas on K-12 Kids,” Breitbart, 6-9-16 VS. Jared Holt, “Right-Wing Media Fearmonger Over Washington State’s New LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum,” MediaMatters, 6-10-16.
[iv] Kelsey Harkness, “Minnesota Kindergarten Students Forced to Confront Gender Identity,” Education News, 2-29-16.
[v] Tammy Baldwin, “U.S. Education Dept. Issues Transgender Guidelines,” CBS Minnesota, 5-13-16.
[vi] Judith Valente, “The Transgender Debate Goes to School,” America, 5-13-16.
[vii] “Margie & Andrea: Bonded By Faith, Fired for Love”



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Spero News columnist Stephanie Block edits the New Mexico-based Los Pequeños newspaper and is the author of the four-volume Change Agents: Alinskyian Organizing Among Religious Bodies, which is available at Amazon.

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