By Tamra Farah
Woke cultural concerns have taken over much of the narrative in schools. Teachers and other school officials – including the Board and administration – often discuss with students or share stories about students’ gender, transitioning, use of bathrooms, and pronouns. These topics are hardly within the purview of academic institutions and yet they are now pervasive.
Parents have the right to dive into this dialogue, seek to understand it, help define it, and curb it as needed. Especially when it leads to policy actions within the district that appear to favor protecting this minority of students, rather than all students’ diverse views and beliefs.
Below is an example of this type of communication from the Roaring Fork School District Superintendent to the parents of kids in district schools, and suggested responses parents can use to challenge it.
In his narrative, the District Superintendent references “a group” of trans students who shared with him that they were depriving themselves of liquids so they wouldn’t have to use the bathroom so that they would not, in turn, be bullied in the bathroom. These students also complained that they did not want to go to the bathroom for trans because it was too far away. The Super appears to use this report from the students as an impetus to create and release a trans toolkit.
First, no one should be bullied in school. Students should approach one another with respect under all circumstances, and parents and school officials should regularly encourage students to do so. In this case, it is not apparent that there was enough due process applied to the reported incident to provide a comprehensive, multi-page trans toolkit under the guise of telling a few students a thing or two.
According to a recent poll conducted by the CDC, only 2% of high school students identify as trans. Again, they should be treated with respect and not bullied, but this type of toolkit does not seem like a fitting response.
Parents, if you have kids in this district or another district with a similar circumstance, what can you do in response? Here are some practical tips on developing a plan to drive for more due process that involves you as parents and a more realistic, comprehensive view of the student body and their needs.
First, we suggest that you gather a group of like-minded parents so that you can take action together. Next, you are welcome to use some semblance of response that has been provided below, or we can help you create your own. Finally, determine the settings in which you want to communicate with the Superintendent or members of your school board, and with the public at the proper time.
If you can, go together to speak with officials to make your case as a group, or with part of your group. The more people involved the better and it adds weight to your communication by going with others who share your concerns. And the more public the setting the better.
It is also suggested that you put your presentation in writing, provide a copy to those you are meeting with, and read it out loud during the meeting. First, address by name the Superintendent and the members of the School Board. Next, define your position and the rationale for bringing up this concern.
Once you have your written communication and you have scheduled your meeting(s) or signed up to speak at the school board meeting, decide together that you will all maintain a firm and sincere, respectful, diplomatic, and objective approach regardless of your personal views. Try to set personal offense aside while you maintain your passion for the issue.
The key here is to note that this Superintendent is stating that a tool kit is being distributed, essentially based on anecdotal information about a few students. Challenging is important for your case and doing that using objective questioning can be effective. The goal of parents stepping up with questions is to lead the school to collect data that either verifies or corrects the definition of the problem. This is critical for best practices on the part of the school when dealing with students. It may uncover that there is not a problem as presumed, or that it is limited in scope and deserves a different solution.
Below is an example document that you can use to take action if you are a parent in the Roaring Fork school district. You can also adapt this approach to fit a local incident in your school or district anywhere in the country.
[Super and School Board members by name], we are parents of students in the Roaring Fork District. We received the communication from [Superintendent] about the trans toolkit and the rationale for it. Please see attached. We have concerns regarding this situation and questions related to the action taken.
Our chief concern is that it appears that anecdotal incidents have been cited with no comprehensive or objective data collection and analysis that led to the decision by the Superintendent to release a trans toolkit to all of the constituents in Roaring Fork schools. For example, the Super describes his conversation with “a group” of students that approached him after a meeting. This is important feedback but purely anecdotal and does not, on its own, constitute action that affects all students.
In light of that, we are encouraging a study of the student body to more accurately understand the needs of all of the students and stakeholders involved, including but not limited to trans but undertaken. The following is a list of questions that may be helpful in this undertaking.
Our questions include:
- How big was the group that he is referring to?
- What percentage of students does the group represent in their views?
- What other subgroups of kids feel the same way as this group? For example, are there non-trans kids who are being subjected to slurs by trans?
- Are non-trans kids afraid to use the bathroom for fear of abuse such as has been seen in other schools, like in Loudon County, VA where a trans bio male who wore a skirt sexually abused a bio female on two occasions?
- What percent of trans overall have been verbally or physically bullied in schools in the district? What about the same question for bio-gender kids?
- What percentage of trans and what percentage of bio-gender kids feel a “sense of belonging” in the schools in the district?
After this study, it may be determined that there are some incidents of bullying of trans by bio-sex students and vice versa. Please note that as parents, we believe the best way to categorize negative verbal or physical experiences of students by other students is in terms of bullying since this is a longstanding program in schools.
As parents, we stand with the school administrators, teachers, and students against bullying of all students be it based on race, sex, gender, religious affiliation, or any other category that covers each student’s personal beliefs that are lawful.
These are just a few questions that we must help have a better understanding of what is happening in Roaring Fork Schools.
We suggest that this study include parental input and involvement per the parent-school compact found in the Every Student Succeeds Act, updated in 2015. For example, a parent committee could be formed with parents that represent students of varying different gender and religious persuasions to ensure all concerns are addressed.
As a follow-up to your meeting, be sure and share publicly about your meeting and what you communicated in the meeting. You can do that on social media and with members of the press or media that are sympathetic to your cause at best, or who are looking for education-related stories in general. Stay objective in how you share the incident to win respect.
Parents, we are here to help if you would like to take action and exercise your parental rights in your school and district! If you and other parents decide to act, we would like to hear from you. We are available to listen to your story, and coach you as you put a plan together using some of the suggestions above, and what the results were.
Tamra Farah serves as Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships with the Parents Know Best Education Initiative at FreedomWorks. At ParentsKnowBest.com, we fight back against the intrusive SEL agenda in government schools by training new and potential school board members, working to pass education choice legislation, and equipping parents to exercise their rights in the education of their children.