No graduating high school student should find herself in a social situation wherein she must choose between her heterosexuality and aligning herself with LGBTQ+ students. However, the parents of gay or lesbian students find themselves in a particularly difficult position in California, in the aftermath of former attorney general Kamala Harris’s decision to overturn a widely-praised 2005 law, Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
Those who oppose this unjust law argue that Harris has broken her own promise by going back on her promise. On October 3rd, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) will be conducting a workshop entitled, “You Make the Call: Understanding the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Questionnaire,” held in Lodi, California. The event, which will be led by a group of “LGBTQ+ parents from San Diego and the Sacramento area,” will offer parents advice on what to ask in a classroom setting.
Beyond the training, we intend to provide instruction on how to effectively teach children in school about sexual and gender identity. pic.twitter.com/Ld6ja0HNmy — ALDF (@ADF_Defend) September 27, 2018
ADF and the Institute for Women’s Rights are billing the workshop as something other than a training session but rather a primer, presenting it as a tour through the “whole problem-solving process” that takes place when educators are preparing for the opportunity to get children to think critically about gender identity and sex. Further, organizers will be discussing a school’s legal and ethical obligation to teach about, engage with, and advise on LGBTQ+ issues, or risk claims of conspiracy by those who oppose the notion that LGBTQ+ students should be able to belong to a club.
In an interview with California Watch, Jennifer Boyce, the co-founder of I’m Transgender and Proud, spoke about the need for “end-to-end sexual training,” and the need for the educational materials to be made accessible to all. Last year, the school district in Lodi refused to cooperate with Boyce’s efforts to train teachers, leading her to organize a workshop of her own.
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According to a statement made by the Department of Education, the workshop has been endorsed by Milo Yiannopoulos, Donald Trump, and Southern Poverty Law Center, and profited from monetary contributions from National Federation of Independent Business and Students United for Defending Freedom. “Their agenda for this workshop is, as usually, unclear,” Boyce told California Watch. “They appear to be pushing a political agenda which they know will dramatically impact my school district’s day-to-day operations.”
Last year, an all-day workshop by the same organization was revealed to violate state education law.
After this year’s workshop, California Youth Now and 50 organizations are asking Harris and the Department of Education to investigate the organization, the school district, and other groups associated with this workshop for violating the state education code, which prohibits organizations and associations from soliciting student participation, providing special treatment or accommodations, or providing direct access to students for the purpose of indoctrinating their peers on social and political issues.
On Friday, Media Matters released audio excerpts from the event, showing a group of carefully posed questions to attendees asking parents to weigh in on all aspects of their children’s education, including the conflicts that the school may have around LGBTQ+ rights. The questions then move to legally “justifying what they consider to be constitutionally protected student rights,” the statement says. “These questions not only illustrate where censorship and ideological indoctrination intersect with child welfare concerns, but also overstep bounds as mandated by state law.”
On Monday, as part of an ongoing debate between ADF and Save California’s Freedom (SCFF), the state’s Gay-Straight Alliance league, which has filed a civil rights complaint against ADF and the Sacramento school district over the event, the league put out a statement questioning the guest list of pro-LGBTQ+ advisors. “A school district would never be asked to assemble a panel of attorneys who would proffer law to support or negate California’s constitutional marriage equality law.”
As a former elementary school student and another former alum of a high school now closed, I share the concern of many about the message that this workshop intends to send. Two decades ago, teachers created a Gay-Straight Alliance club in my local school and it greatly helped a friend of