Stop Using Your Kids As An Excuse To Be Hateful And Intolerant

Stop Using Your Kids As An Excuse To Be Hateful And Intolerant

Image via Susanne Lewis Kearns

Some Austin parents protest inclusive, anti-bullying programs

There’s a training program that exists to make schools more inclusive spaces — it’s called “Welcoming Schools,” and it addresses things like family diversity, gender stereotyping, and name calling. Austin Independent School District has been using the program to train teachers to be more inclusive — by the request of schools — for the last three years.

“Elementary school students’ families are central to their understanding of who they are,” the training reads. “A range of family structures is represented throughout the materials to help ensure that no student feels either left out or singled out, and that all students feel welcome.”

“Every child should feel safe talking about who are the important people in their lives.”

Yes, they should. Regardless of whether they have one dad, two dads, two moms, or come from a single-parent family — every child should feel represented in a school setting. For too long we’ve let the traditional family structure be the only thing kids are exposed to in schools. It’s isolating and unfair. It’s past time for representation, and Welcoming Schools teaches districts how to make classrooms more inclusive.

It’s an amazing training program for teachers, but one that will no longer be offered to schools in AISD. A small but vocal minority of parents have come out against it. They call themselves the Concerned Parents of Austin. Here is an example of a recent flyer that was peppered throughout neighborhoods in the district, opposing the Welcoming Schools curriculum.

Image via Susanne Lewis Kearns

“For the last three years Welcoming Schools training was offered to elementary schools, upon request,” Tiffany Young, a spokesman for AISD tells Scary Mommy. “The new training will be more inclusive and will be available to all schools, including middle and high schools.”  The training will not be offered this year, however. When asked why, the district responded, “so that the department can focus on developing something new.”

Fortunately, it seems the “something new” will be even more inclusive than Welcoming Schools, and include key elements learned from Welcoming Schools plus add components about race, religion, immigration status, and disabilities. It’s called “All Are Welcome.”

So Concerned Parents’ strategy isn’t working — but it’s still disturbing as hell.  A look at the language the group uses proves that it’s purposefully sending a sensational, untrue message — that may spook parents that are uninformed about Welcoming Schools, or any other inclusive curriculum. “Are you aware of what the schools are teaching your child about SEX,” the handout asks. Then it proceeds to list things that are not offensive in the least.

“Detailed discussions and naming of genital parts in K-2” Any child development expert will confirm it’s imperative to teach children the appropriate names for their genitals to protect them from sexual abuse. What exactly is the problem with this?

“Presentations of options for one’s gender and sexuality in K-5.” Options? One’s gender identity is not an “option.” Deciding to stop pretending trans people don’t exist is long overdue.

This handout is absurd, but most of all it’s untrue — the Welcoming Schools curriculum does not deal with comprehensive sex education. The website for Concerned Parents of Austin would make any educated person’s head spin — because it’s ridiculous. Here’s a piece about the “LGBT agenda”:

“After having overtaken nearly all of society, the sexual revolution is now entering our preschools,” it reads. Really? No it’s not. Calm down.

In contrast, here are some shots from the Welcoming Schools site:

“Can girls marry each other?” This is not controversial. The answer is a resounding, “yes.” Dynamics that are not heteronormative should be explained, too. Funny how some parents have no problem with kids understanding that marriage exists between a man and a woman, but tell them that men can marry each other and all of a sudden their children are “not ready” to comprehend the institution of marriage. Sorry — your kids are ready. It’s you who is not.

A few months ago, my 4-year-old was playing with her dolls — Batgirl and Joy from ‘Inside Out.’ She put a shell over Joy’s head as a “veil” — she was role playing a wedding. I looked over and asked,

“Are those two girls getting married?”

And she said, “Yup! Then they get to kiss and have cake!”

My best friend and his partner are regularly around my children, showing them tons of love. My sister and her wife have been a constant presence in her life. It occurred to me then that even though I’ve never fully explained the intricacies of adult relationships to her — the idea that two women or two men couldn’t love each other and marry each other just like a man and a woman would never even occur to her.

Our kids are born full of love and acceptance — we’re the ones who plant the seeds to destroy that. That’s exactly what groups like Concerned Parents are trying to do; destroy the loving acceptance our children are born with and plant seeds of bigotry and intolerance.

We as a society are progressing. Those who are not should catch up. Welcoming Schools is a wonderful curriculum that should be implemented far and wide. All signs indicate AISD will develop a curriculum even more inclusive. One thing Concerned Parents actually has accomplished is bringing tolerant parents together to fight for what’s right for their children.  There are parents in Austin fighting hard against the ignorance and bigotry that the Concerned Parents of Austin are bringing to the table; Informed Parents of Austin is mobilizing parents to be just as vocal as Concerned Parents, and encouraging anyone who supports these programs that are meant to keep our schools a safe, tolerant, and loving place for all children to contact their school’s principal, the AISD school board, and the AISD superintendent.

It’s not the world’s problem that some people can’t move past their ignorance. We will keep advancing, and keep making the the world a more inclusive place. Small-mindedness is not an excuse to erase an entire segment of the population. We’ll no longer allow people to be forced into the shadows because of the sheltered upbringings of some. We’ll no longer allow kids to suffer in silence and desperation — living lives that make suicide feel like an only viable option.

The rest of the decent world will not allow it.