Outrage after Eau Claire School District teachers told parents are NOT ENTITLED to know their kids' gender identities
A Wisconsin school district has instructed its teaching staff that in case the students reveal their gender identities to them, they should not reveal the same to the parents of the students. The guidelines were conveyed to the teachers during a development training session with the Eau Claire School District.
The educators were told that if a student told a staff member they were gay or transgender, it should not be revealed to the child's parents. "Remember, parents are not entitled to know their kids' identities. That knowledge must be earned," stated a slide in the training presentation of the session. Meanwhile, the guidelines have sparked outrage among school board members.
"They're asking them to withhold that from the parents. They're asking teachers to keep secrets. They're asking teachers not to communicate with parents about issues that pertain to their child. I'm responsible for my child until they move out or they're 18 years old. And so I have the sole decision-making of what goes on with my child," Eau Claire School Board candidate Nicole Everson told WQOW.
She added, "Talking to community members including staff members, including students, a lot of people are concerned. Our city is not being heard. People in our district are not being heard." The joint media statement released by Everson along with board candidates Corey Cronrath and Melissa Winter said, "We are appalled that ECASD would display such blatant disregard for the parents and guardians of our community's children. We are equally dismayed that current school district leadership would pressure teachers into breaking a social contract that we all know and understand—that parents and guardians hold primary responsibility and decision-making for the welfare and care of their children."
Tim Nordin, Eau Claire School Board president, said, "This isn't about that slide alone. This was a professional development session talking about students who are LGBTQ and the extremely high rates they have of mental health difficulties, suicide attempts, and depression. It's a parent's responsibility to help their student become the best person that they can be, to live their true self, but when those students don't feel safe at home, where are they supposed to go? I'm unwilling to tell them you're not safe at our school. And that's what this is about. It's not about parents versus teachers. It's about students being safe in our schools and having every student have a safe place to go."
Eau Claire superintendent Michael Johnson's statement read, "The Eau Claire Area School District has a responsibility to maintain an educational environment that is equitable, safe, and inclusive of all students. As part of our ongoing work to support our students, our staff received training on February 25 with a focus on creating safe spaces at school for all students. Data shows that students who identify within the LGBTQIA+ community have a higher incidence of mental health issues along with a higher sense of isolation. For example, based on ECASD results from the most recent Wisconsin DPI Youth Risk Behavior Survey of high school students, 87% of LGBTQIA+ students report mental health concerns and just 44% have a sense of belonging compared to 46% and 68% for straight-cisgender students."
The statement added, "Our staff often find themselves in positions of trust with our students. The staff development presentation shared extensive data and information to assist our staff members in our ongoing efforts to create a safe and supportive learning environment for all students. The ECASD prides itself on being a school district that makes all students feel welcome and safe in our schools."
The statement from Marquell Johnson, a current Eau Claire School Board member, said, "The overall intention of the particular professional development training in question was 'Identity & Inclusion'. The underlining premise of such training is to assist educators in creating 'safe spaces' for students to become the best version of themselves. When speaking with students and families that are undertaking this journey or who have experienced the topic of 'Identity & Inclusion', safe spaces for communication are paramount and the home environment may not always be considered a suitable 'safe space'. I may have chosen different wording from what was included in 'Slide 56' and further dialogue was provided for teachers on this particular slide. It is important that the school environment be considered an additional 'safe space' for students to become the best version of themselves."