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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Helicopter parents overstep

Last week, a Wisconsin elementary school canceled a planned reading of “I Am Jazz,” a children’s book written by activist and transgender teen Jazz Jennings. The book chronicles Jennings’ experiences growing up as a child diagnosed with gender identity disorder and the reading was meant to help students at the school understand the challenges faced by a transgender classmate.

The reading was canceled after Liberty Counsel, a “non-profit litigation, education and policy organization” (read: anti-LGBTQ hate group) sent a warning letter “on behalf of concerned parents.”

The letter threated a “lawsuit against teachers and staff in their official and individual capacities for violation of parental rights.” Liberty Counsel’s bullying and scare tactics worked, and the planned lesson was canceled.

Let’s take a step back and look at what really happened here: a school wanted to teach a lesson that would help a transgender child be understood and accepted by her classmates. Then, a hate group butted in and threated to sue educators for trying to help a child fit in.

That poor child.

The lesson was meant to teach the students that the little girl is just that: a little girl. Instead, the lesson the students learned was that we should continue to marginalize anyone who isn’t cisgender, pushing anyone else back to the fringe of society.

Liberty Counsel’s actions reflect the bigotry that is still so present in America today.

But this is America, the land of the free, and bigots have the right to be bigots. As much as I disagree with the hateful rhetoric that spews from the mouths of the leaders of groups like Liberty Counsel, I will always defend their right to speak their mind and hold whatever opinion they desire.

What I will not defend is their apparent belief that they can interfere with a school’s education of our future citizens. The event in Wisconsin surrounding the planned reading of “I Am Jazz” reveals that anyone can shape a school’s curriculum by threatening legal action that would be too costly for a school district or an educator to handle.

What’s to stop me from suing a school that teaches anti-bullying lessons? According to Liberty Counsel’s letter, a school does not have the right to “remake the moral beliefs of District students.”

Anyone in their right mind would agree that schools teaching units on bullying are doing the right thing by shaping the moral beliefs of students and teaching them to treat all of their peers with respect.

And similarly, anyone in their right mind would agree that a school trying to teach a lesson that would help a child be more understood and accepted by their peers is doing the right thing as well.

There is nothing dangerous about teaching students that some people don’t identify with the gender associated with the anatomy they were born with.

What is dangerous is to ignore those people, to hide their reality from our children. Keeping kids in the dark about what it means to be transgender, and the issues transgender children like their classmate face will only further the challenges faced by gender-divergent Americans.

The lives of transgender people are often fraught with discrimination and even violence. They face the challenge of trying to live in a world that does not fully understand them, and doesn’t seem to want to. This is exactly why we need schools like the one making headlines in Wisconsin.

We need to educate our children about the different kinds of people in the world and in their classrooms. We need to reveal to them the beauty in embracing the differences of all people. We need to show them how to hug, not how to hate.

And if we can do that, we’ll be leaving the world in good hands.

Follow Graham Place on Twitter.

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