Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Liberty Counsel bullies Mt. Horeb Schools, transgender student with legal threat

Conservative organization describes girl in school district as having a "mental disorder"

The Mt. Horeb School District’s Early Learning and Primary Center had planned to discuss an important topic with students in its care -- that is, before a conservative organization threatened them with legal action.

One of the students, born as a boy but who identifies as a girl, entered the district this year. In order to produce a hospitable environment for that child and others to learn in, officials in the school district determined it was imperative to explain to the children what that meant exactly.

But the district also understood that some parents would object to their children being exposed to the discussion. So they sent home a letter to parents alerting them that a conversation between teachers and students would happen regarding gender identification in general.

In the letter, they assured parents that they “respect[ed] the beliefs and convictions of all families,” and that, if anyone wanted their children withdrawn from the discussion, it was their right to do so.

The letter was sent four days before the talks were scheduled to occur. That’s admittedly not a lot of time for parents to get in touch with school administrators to let them know of any objections -- on that, the district erred.

Some concerned parents took issue with the timing, but also with the topic itself. The school had planned to read a book called “I Am Jazz,” which details the life of a child that identified more with the gender that was opposite to what they were genetically born as.

Those concerned parents contacted the Liberty Counsel, a self-described “policy organization with an emphasis on religious liberty issues.” They sent a scathing letter (PDF) to the district explaining that the short notice wasn’t the only issue they had with the topic at hand.

“The District is not free to override parental rights and religious beliefs, by subjecting impressionable children to confusion about something as important as gender and sexuality,” their letter stated, adding that, “If harm results to children, including gender confusion, violations of restroom privacy, or other harms, all options will be explored, including a federal lawsuit against teachers and staff in their official and individual capacities for violation of parental rights” -- emphasis theirs.

The Liberty Counsel seems to be concerned for potential “harm” caused to children by introducing the topic of gender identity to kids. But here’s the thing -- there’s no confusion brought in the classroom whatsoever. By the age of four, most kids already know what gender they gravitate towards being. In most cases, this gender identity corresponds with what the child is anatomically. In some cases, it doesn’t, and the child identifies with the opposite gender that they were born as. And in some cases, they identify as neither, or both male and female.

No discussion is going to cause children to feel differently about who they are. It might, however, open the eyes of some children who were already confused about their gender. That’s what the Liberty Counsel is truly afraid of.

What’s worse than these threats of legal action is how this family of the child involved must feel. All they want is a place that their child can feel accepted at -- but according to the Liberty Counsel, that child is experiencing nothing more than a “mental disorder” for identifying as a girl -- a stigmatizing classification that the American Psychiatric Association dropped years ago.

Just as it’s not the school’s place to tell parents what to believe, it’s not the Liberty Counsel’s place to tell students that they are broken. The school did the proper thing by telling parents they had the option to opt out of the lesson plan. The Liberty Counsel, however, decided to bully the school and this child’s family into canceling the lesson altogether.

I bet the Liberty Counsel feels like they won a big victory for “religious liberty” by shutting the district down. In reality, the Liberty Counsel has exposed themselves to be the real oppressors, disallowing open discussion on a topic that is very important to a little girl and her family in a small community in Wisconsin.

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