California School Stirs Up Controversy With Lesson on Transgender Clownfish

Finding Nemo...could be a girl?

A California school stirred the pot this week by presenting an introductory lesson on gender diversity to its kindergarten through fourth graders by featuring single-sex geckos and transgender clownfish. Not surprisingly, conservative critics are none too happy about it.

Also not surprising? Fox News somehow has their hands in the mess.

Students at Oakland’s Redwood Heights Elementary School learned about the topic at the beginning of this week from an outside anti-bullying educational group, Gender Spectrum, which was paid for by a grant from the California Teachers Union.

Joel Baum from Gender Spectrum asked the kindergarten kids to identify if a toy was a “girl toy” or a “boy toy” or both, and also asked which students liked the color pink. He let them know boys can like pink, too. In the fourth-grade class, Baum suggested, according to Fox News (who said they were invited to sit in on the lessons), that if someone was born with male private parts but identified more with being a girl, that he should still be accepted and respected.

Kids were also given cards with information on the aforementioned single-sex geckos and transgender clownfish to “illustrate the variations in nature that occur in humans, too.”

“Gender identity is one’s own sense of themselves. Do they know themselves to be a girl? Do they know themselves to be a boy? Do they know themselves to be a combination?” Baum said. “Gender identity is a spectrum where people can be girls, feel like girls, they feel like boys, they feel like both, or they can feel like neither.”

According to a school district spokesperson, the point of the lessons, which spanned a two-day period, was to promote a more welcoming and safer classroom environment and to emphasize to kids that it’s OK not to conform to gender norms and that they should be accepting of the differences in every kind of person.

Critics, however, cried the lesson doesn’t represent the values of their community. Three families chose to leave their kids home while the lessons were being taught. Those families have retained legal counsel.

“This instruction does not represent the values of the majority of families in Oakland,” attorney Kevin Snider of the Pacific Justice Institute said in a written statement to Fox News. “Though to many this may seem extreme, based upon some of the bills now pending in the Capitol, such as SB 48, this will be the new normal in California’s K-12 public schools.”

While I the applaud the lessons taught at this school and think every school should follow suit, the fact that Fox News was allowed (or invited to asked for permission) to “sit in” during the sessions leads me to believe someone intentionally stirred up the pot. If the idea was to draw attention to the lessons so that others would offer the same ones, I think that’s OK. But if Fox News was there to highlight the protests, I think that’s just icky. What is possibly wrong with kids learning about diversity?

It shouldn’t be controversial that gender diversity is being covered in schools, and it shouldn’t make news. Teaching respect and acceptance of every kind of person should be the status quo. How Fox News, or a parent or conservative group doesn’t see that is beyond me.

Do you think the transgender clownfish lesson is worthy of some kind of controversy?

Image: Creative Commons

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