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A school district in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has become the center of a parent-teacher firestorm after leaked documents revealed instructors told parents they must “earn” the right to know their children’s sexual identity, and showed the school pushed a “heterosexual privilege” checklist.
The district’s aggressive push for “gender-nonconforming” accommodations has irked parents and educators who say the school’s training and policy changes surrounding the issue have gone too far.
“The actions of the Eau Claire Area School District are not only dangerous to the mental, emotional and physical health of its students, but they also violate the constitutional rights of parents to make choices about their family life and upbringing of their children,” said Ian Prior, senior adviser at America First Legal and creator of the Fight for Schools PAC.
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Of particular scorn in the district’s guidance was a slide stating, “Some transgender, non-binary, and/or gender-nonconforming students are not ‘open’ at home for reasons that may include safety concerns or lack of acceptance. School personnel should speak with the student first before discussing a student’s gender nonconformity or transgender status with the student’s parent/guardian.”
Groups of parents expressed outrage at the notion they had to earn access to their children’s information.
“Remember, parents are not entitled to know their kids’ identities. That knowledge must be earned,” a training slideshow for the Eau Claire School District told school staff.
“Parents in Eau Claire need to use every legal means to fight back, including requests for documents under the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Act, requests for access to curriculum and teacher training materials under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, and litigation to protect their constitutional rights,” Prior added.
Eau Claire Area School District (ECASD) responded to a Fox News Digital request for comment, clarifying their motivations and future plans for the LGBTQ support programs.
“In the Eau Claire Area School District, we have a responsibility to meet the needs of all students. As part of this work, district staff received training on February 25 focused on creating inclusive and welcoming spaces in our schools,” Executive Director of Student Services Dr. Kaying Xiong told Fox News Digital in a statement.
“Data shows that students who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community experience mental health challenges and feel isolated at a much higher rate than their peers. For example, based on results from the most recent Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Youth Risk Behavior Survey of high school students, 87% of LGBTQIA+ students report mental health concerns and just 44% say they feel a sense of belonging. This is compared to 46% and 68%, respectively, for non-LGBTQIA+ students.”
Among the guidelines presented to school staff for support of “gender-nonconforming” youth is a clause that states students have a right to use any gendered facility that corresponds to their identity. This includes bathrooms and changing rooms with members of the biologically opposite sex.
“Schools maintain separate restrooms and locker rooms for male and female students (i.e. sex assigned at birth). Access should be allowed based on the gender identity (i.e., man, woman, trans, non-binary, etc.) expressed by the student,” the guidelines reviewed by Fox News Digital state.
“Any student who is uncomfortable using a shared restroom or locker room regardless of the reason, shall upon request, be provided with an alternative. This may include, for example, addition of a privacy partition or curtain, use of a nearby private restroom or office, or a separate changing schedule. However, staff should not require a transgender or gender-nonconforming student/employee to use a separate, nonintegrated space unless requested by the individual student,” an ECASD document reads.
Speaking on the controversial guidelines, Xiong told Fox News Digital: “Our staff often find themselves in positions of trust with our students. The professional development presentation in question shared extensive data and information to assist our staff as they strive to create safe and supportive learning environments for their students. In fact, our efforts to ensure students feel safe and welcome in our schools is a big point of pride for the ECASD.”
There has also been opposition to the district’s “heterosexual privilege” checklist, which includes such assertions as “My sexual orientation was never associated with a closet,” “I can kiss a person of the opposite gender without being watched and stared at,” “I’m not grouped because of my sexual orientation,” and “I can remain oblivious of the language and culture of LGBT folk without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.”
The checklist, obtained by Fox News Digital, went on to assert that these statements were evidence of a sexuality-based social privilege that should be acknowledged by students and staff.
“These dynamics are but a few examples of the privilege afforded to heterosexual people. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer-identified folk have a range of different experiences, but cannot count on most of these conditions in their lives,” reads a conclusion at the end of the checklist.
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Trainings at the ECASD have become so political that a teacher penned a letter to the school board announcing their intention to find work in another district, writing, “To say that I am upset about all of this would be an understatement. For you to understand the gravity of how I feel, I will let you know that I am actively looking for a job elsewhere.”
“When one person yesterday slightly spoke about the fact that this isn’t ‘their truth,’ more than one person had an extremely condescending response to it,” the email, obtained by Fox News Digital, continued. “How are we supposed to provide a ‘safe space’ for our students, when the adults in the building can’t even be open to the fact that other people don’t feel the exact same way they do? What about diversity of opinion?”
The educator, who remains anonymous, stressed that of particular offense was the district’s attitude toward religion and Christianity, saying such spiritual beliefs were cast in a “negative light” and ignored or derided.
“We acknowledge this is difficult work that requires our engagement and focus. However, we will remain steadfast in our efforts to meet the needs of all the students we serve,” Xiong concluded in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“As a district, we are continually evaluating and updating our professional development. We also work with our parents every day and welcome their engagement in the work of the ECASD. If parents have questions or concerns, we encourage them to contact their child’s teacher, school principal or the district office.”