Parents in California have removed 650 children from a school district in a one-day protest over LGBTI-inclusivity lessons.
Rocklin Unified School District adopted the LGBTI-inclusive social science and history curriculum earlier this month.
The district introduced the lessons under the FAIR Education Act of 2011. This requires schools to offer lessons about people with disabilities, various sexual orientations, and racial ethnicities.
The lessons have created a polarising debate among the local community.
Some parents had argued that teaching historic LGBTI figures was ‘far too complex’ a topic for elementary school children.
However, LGBTI rights advocates have hit back, arguing it is important to teach diversity in public schools, and combat the notion ‘that straight is “normal”‘.
‘Let’s let kids be kids’
The district narrowly voted in the new curriculum by 3-2 on 1 May.
The curriculum is for social studies and history classes in grades K-5, which consist of students aged between 5 and 11.
Hundreds of people attended a school board meeting to debate the vote. This included members of Informed Parents of Rocklin, who oppose the LGBTI-inclusivity lessons.
‘We believe that anyone who has made a significant contribution to society should, of course, be included in our history textbooks,” said Rachel Crutchfield, a spokesperson for the group said.
‘However, the concept of sexual orientation is far too complex of a topic for elementary-aged children to be introduced to at school. Children in second grade simply do not have the tools to comprehend sexuality, nor do we want them to. Let’s let kids be kids.’
‘We’re just fighting against the idea that straight is “normal”‘
However, LGBTI rights supporters have rejected the notion that children are too young to learn about LGBTI issues.
Speaking to Yahoo, Rachel Henry, of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, said: ‘We know that teaching children tolerance, love, and kindness isn’t enough — we have to actively teach about diversity within our community. Because if we’re not naming those identities, we’re ignoring and silencing them.’
‘We’re just fighting against the idea that straight is “normal”,’ she added. ‘Aside from gay marriage — which is only one aspect of equality — gay people still aren’t a federally-protected class.’
A Rocklin spokesperson has said that partners are lawfully permitted to remove their children from classes on sexual health and HIV and AIDS prevention.
However, this does not apply to the new curriculum which unrelated to sex-education.
An example of the curriculum is one textbook which discusses astronaut and physicist, Sally Ride. The book describes Ride as a ‘good example for all females’, who ‘joined NASA and became the first female and first lesbian American astronaut’.
The LGBTI education debate
The classes in California are another example of the polarising debate over LGBTI-inclusivity lessons in public schools.
A number of other states in the US have begun to adopt pro-LGBTI lessons, such as New Jersey.
However, there have also been other instances of backlash against LGBTI-inclusivity lessons.
In the UK, there have been protests outside of a school in Birmingham which teaches LGBT-inclusivity lessons. Hundreds of people have protested outside of the school gates on numerous occasions since January, arguing that primary school children are too young to learn about LGBTI issues.
Rocklin has made headlines regarding LGBTI issues in the past. Last year, a lesbian school teacher experienced bullying by students and staff due to her sexuality.