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ROCKLIN, Calif. (KCRA) — Hundreds of parents packed the a school board meeting for the Rocklin Academy Family of Schools Monday for a passionate debate about gender identity and its place in the classroom.
Some parents proposed a new policy requiring the charter school to let them know if controversial topics, like gender identity, would be discussed in class and allow their students to opt out.
“For them to say that they can teach my child about transgender without me even knowing about it is wrong,” said parent Chelsea McQuistan, who has two children who attend Rocklin Academy Gateway and a third who is about to enter kindergarten.
“Gender and sexuality are not the same thing, and I think we end up in a place where parents can opt out of anything they find offensive, which is subjective,” said Jen Hansen, another parent in the charter school.
The debate was sparked in June when a Rocklin Academy Gateway transgender student brought the book “I Am Jazz,” to her kindergarten class. She then asked the teacher to read the book, which is about a transgender girl’s transition, to the class so other students knew what she was going through.
Some parents said their children came home questioning their gender after school.
“This book was outside the curriculum and I see it as a controversial subject to discuss with a kindergartner,” said Wendy Sickler, who is the parent of two kids at Rocklin Academy Gateway.
Ankur Dhawan’s daughter was in class when the teacher read “I Am Jazz” to students and was taken aback when she told him about it.
“I’ve struggled with the question of parental notification quite a bit. But when I put my need against the child who’s going through that transition, I realized it’s not the same thing,” Dhawan said. “This child needs us to come together as a community and respect their dignity and their character.”
California law allows parents to opt out of sex education, but gender identity doesn’t fall under that category.
“It’s like race or religion or ethnicity. It’s a protected class but it’s not sex ed so parents actually don’t have the opportunity to opt out and it would be illegal for the school to make it possible to opt out,” said Elizabeth Ashford, who works for Fiona Hutton and Associates, the public relations firm hired by Rocklin Academy to serve as spokesperson.
“It does not prohibit an opt-out provision for school districts, so for them to say that is just disingenuous,” California Family Council Director Greg Burt said in response to Ashford’s statement.
The school board heard more than three hours of comment before they voted late Monday to not to change their current literature policy, which allows the inclusion of transgender characters, and “endeavor” to notify parents about controversial topics.
“The school is going to endeavor to do that,” Ashford said. “If they can’t get to it ahead of it, they will try to inform the parents after the fact.”
The board also struck down a proposal to allow parents to opt out of gender identity topics in class.
Rocklin Academy said 14 families have chosen to disenroll from their charter schools as a result of this issue, and they expect more families to withdraw in the wake of the board meeting.