Middle School Students’ LGBTQ-Focused Curriculum Sparks Parent Backlash

By Elisha McNeil — April 07, 2016 2 min read
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A middle school in San Ramon, Calif., is facing backlash from parents after planning a LGBTQ “acceptance week” curriculum designed to teach students about the LGBTQ community and promote safety and respect for all students.

Windemere Ranch Middle School’s Acceptance Week, created last year by the students leadership committee, leads up to the National Day of Silence on April 15. Taught for half an hour a day for a week, according to the Mercury News the lesson and activity materials created by the committee were reviewed and approved by Windemere Ranch Principal Dave Bolin and the district’s superintendent, who believes they are focused on education, respect, and acceptance.

“This is a message peers wanted to get out to their peers to make sure all students feel comfortable on campus, and that’s something that’s important to us,” San Ramon Valley school district spokesperson Elizabeth Graswich said, according to a local news station.

But last week, after launching an online petition against the event, some parents at Windemere Ranch met with district officials to voice their concerns. The parents argue that the curriculum indoctrinates students, undermines parental guidance, and humiliates some religious and cultural groups. The petition reads:

Acceptance Week clearly involves public efforts that are focused on the LGBTQ community. Such public efforts are well beyond any activities for any other single group, and are believed to be discriminatory. Inequalities in such efforts are evident when comparing the time, resources and intensity devoted to lessons, activities, and promotional fanfare dedicated to the acceptance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender group while ignoring acceptance and promotion of values represented in other diverse groups within our community."

The petition clarifies that the parents are “not against LGBTQ” individuals, but are concerned about the discussions planned for Acceptance Week and issues they believe the curriculum fails to address—including promoting acceptance without condemnation of religion and without regard to race and culture. So far, over 740 supporters have signed the petition.

The petition goes on to list demands such as limiting the Acceptance Week to one day, the Day of Silence, and excusing any student absences for a “walk out” planned by parents on April 11, the day the Acceptance Week kicks off, if their demands are not met. The petition also threatens litigation in federal court if the district retaliates in any way.

In response to parent feedback, Principal Bolin agreed to edit the lessons and cut out images of intimacy from the videos being shown, and has made the course optional.

But as of now, Windemere Ranch Middle School plans to move forward with the LGBTQ acceptance week.

“It was prompted by our (leadership) students seeing an issue and seeing a need,” Bolin said, according to East Bay Times. “I feel pretty strongly that this is the right thing to do.”

Photo by Flickr user Matt Buck; licensed under Creative Commons.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.