July 17, 2024

The Boston Globe

Andrew Harris a mother or father and educator in Lexington. Tannner Pearson for The Boston Globe

A city identified for its battle inexperienced is now the newest entrance within the combat over lessons about gender and sexual orientation, with Lexington mother and father debating the “Critical Talks” variety and inclusion curriculum because the district appears to be like to roll it out extra broadly.

The curriculum, which is now the topic of pushback within the type of an internet petition, has existed in some type for greater than a decade and is at the moment in use in a handful of faculties, in keeping with the district.

Mother and father and educators principally voiced help for the curriculum at a current Faculty Committee assembly, after an internet petition referred to as for the variety and inclusion program to be suspended.

The push to vary Lexington’s curriculum is the newest instance of what’s turn out to be a nationwide pattern of conservative teams and right-leaning mother and father elevating objections to sure packages that educate about variety and inclusion in public college districts.

Final yr, Mother and father Defending Schooling, a nonprofit primarily based in Washington, D.C., recognized 43 “incidents” in Massachusetts colleges difficult curriculums that educate about race, gender, and sexual orientation, the Globe reported. As of final week, the group had recognized 63 “incidents,” together with Lexington Public Colleges, in keeping with its web site.

The web petition started to flow into final month in regards to the Lexington curriculum, calling for “Age-Acceptable Schooling for Our Youngsters” and demanding the curriculum be eliminated.

However on the Faculty Committee assembly, greater than a dozen mother and father, lecturers, and college students mentioned the curriculum was important, whereas comparatively few questioned whether or not it’s age acceptable.

Andrew Harris, a father who identifies as nonbinary, applauded the curriculum and mentioned gender id isn’t “too complicated” an idea for 6-year-olds to understand, because the petition claims.

“I do know that my 6-year-old could be the primary in line to assist” trans and nonbinary college students really feel welcome, Harris mentioned.

Superintendent Julie Hackett mentioned the district is “unapologetically dedicated” to inclusion and she or he was “heartened by the exhibiting of help” on the assembly. She mentioned the district deliberate to proceed integrating the curriculum into its broader variety, fairness, and inclusion efforts.

Hackett mentioned it was finally the district’s, not mother and father’, accountability “to develop a curriculum for all youngsters which will or could not align with a mother and father’ beliefs about how we should always do it.”

The “Critical Talks” curriculum has been in improvement at Bowman Elementary Faculty since 2010 and broadly utilized by its school since 2016, in keeping with a report ready by Hackett’s workplace. Academics on the Harrington and Estabrook elementary colleges have built-in elements of the curriculum into their school rooms, and directors are working to include elements of the curriculum districtwide, in keeping with Hackett.

The curriculum “teaches college students in regards to the variety of our world, the worth every individual brings, the best way to look critically at bias and prejudice, the best way to perceive historic and present-day examples of energy, privilege, and oppression,” in keeping with Hackett’s report.

The petition, posted July 11 by an nameless Change.org person, this week had amassed round 1,700 signatures.

It alleges that the curriculum incorporates content material inappropriate for younger kids, excludes households with “numerous ethnic, cultural, and non secular backgrounds,” and was “quietly piloted a yr in the past with out discussions with mother and father.”

Ammie Jensen, a mom with three kids in Lexington colleges, mentioned her youngest little one was “having an id disaster” after a lesson on gender norms.

Jensen mentioned the curriculum doesn’t take into account the chance that younger folks can eschew gender norms with out questioning their gender id — that ladies “might be tomboys,” as she put it.

She mentioned this system is creating “nice confusion in gender id,” which can “trigger extra of a psychological well being disaster than the pandemic and separating them from all the opposite kids would.”

The petition precisely notes that there is no such thing as a means for households to choose out of the curriculum.

Hackett, the superintendent, mentioned in her report that the district’s dedication to variety is built-in into all its classes.

Talking on the Faculty Committee assembly, Hackett mentioned the district has all the time been clear about its use of the curriculum and emphasis on variety, fairness, and inclusion, however there’s a distinction “between transparency and settlement” with the mother or father neighborhood.

“This isn’t new, this has been round earlier than I ever acquired right here,” she mentioned.

Rina Mazor, a instructor at Lexington Excessive Faculty, mentioned she has seen the varsity’s tradition turn out to be extra accepting over her greater than 16 years working there, partly due to the district’s emphasis on variety.

“Our college students be taught to look after themselves and others, whereas celebrating their variations,” Mazor mentioned.

Shannon Davis, a mom who has had a son within the district for eight years, famous that the curriculum covers points past gender id and sexuality, together with “being a baby of immigrants, having two dads, or dwelling along with your grandparents.”

“You’ll be able to’t simply take away one part of ‘Critical Talks,’ as a result of that’s not honest,” she mentioned.

The district is at the moment working to develop and standardize its variety, fairness, and inclusion curriculum, with targets to implement 12-16 classes for pre-Okay via fifth grade college students by the 2025-2026 college yr, officers mentioned.