The US national sex ed standards state that by the end of fifth grade, students should be able to “[d]efine sexual orientation as the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender.” Unfortunately, many of the country’s school districts are still stuck in the 1950s, teaching abstinence-only education that completely ignores same-sex attraction.
In one such school district, a substitute librarian defined “LGBT” for her fifth and sixth graders when they asked her what it meant. Within an hour, the substitute was dismissed for the remainder of the week for which she’d been scheduled to sub. She was given an “Unsatisfactory Substitute Evaluation” by the principal of the school, which led to a meeting between the substitute and the school district’s Library Services and Human Resources.
The substitute librarian in question, an acquaintance of mine, provided screenshots of the emails discussing the incident, and I’ve included them here with identifying information blocked out for privacy purposes. (Blocked out in rainbow colors, of course!)
This is just one example of a larger problem: the abysmal state of sex education in so many of our public schools. For instance, only “13 states require that [sex ed] instruction be medically accurate.” Only “12 states require discussion of sexual orientation.” Of those twelve, nine states require inclusive information, while the remaining three “require only negative information on sexual orientation” (emphasis added).
This particular incident took place in Nevada, a state which requires sex and HIV education, but does not require that education to be medically accurate. (There is also no regulation in Nevada that sex ed “be culturally appropriate and unbiased,” nor any restriction on sex ed promoting religion.)
Before you read the below emails, I want to state that I agree that the substitute librarian should not have told students about Maya Christina Gonzalez’s parents disowning her. Without knowing the home lives of the students in that library, she could not have known the distress it could have caused some of them.
However, I stand by the substitute’s decision to honestly answer children’s questions of the definition of a word, or in this case, an acronym. Yes, LGBT rights are (unfortunately) controversial. But so is immigration, and I’m certain that if she had defined “immigrant” to her students there would not have been a problem.
The difference is that a large portion of our society still think of LGBT issues as sexual issues, when they are simply relationship issues. They are human issues.
In her summary of the meeting, the Library Services Coordinator states that “[p]arent permission is required for all parts of the [sex ed] curriculum, and that only specific [school district] employees are to teach such curriculum.” But peer pressure is also an aspect of the sex ed curriculum, and again, I am certain there would not have been a problem if a substitute discussed peer pressure with students when asked.
The rules of this specific school district are against this substitute librarian, but that does not change the fact that this is a clear case of discrimination.