A teacher training for a Texas public school district directed teachers to hide information about students’ gender identity from their parents in order to make school a “safe” place.
Teachers at Leander Independent School District north of Austin received a training presentation in October last year that instructed them to discuss gender identity with students and ask them whether it was okay to share students’ preferred pronouns with their parents.
The training, titled “Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth in Schools,” was led by two school social workers working for the district, Felix Barnhart and Monica Kelly, who describes herself as a “fat-positive, sex-positive therapist.”
“Add your pronouns wherever your name is published and then also whenever you are introducing yourself, just to normalize the sharing of pronouns,” Kelly suggested to participants in the training.
Another idea, she said, is to “let students identify themselves on the first day of class with their individual name and pronouns,” and make sure to inform substitute teachers and anyone else visiting the classroom of their correct pronouns, “so that way it protects that student from being misgendered or called a name that they don’t identify with.”
“We kind of do this already for students who have nicknames,” Kelly remarked. “We’re just asking to extend that courtesy to students whose gender identity may be different from their sex assigned at birth.”
However, in her next breath, Kelly appeared to admit that pronouns are much more sensitive than nicknames, encouraging teachers to ask students whether it is okay to refer to them by their preferred pronouns when speaking with their parents.
“May I use these pronouns when I contact home?” reads a question on a form Kelly suggested teachers have students fill out.
Another question reads, “Would you like to follow up with me in a private conversation about your pronouns?”
“A student may be out at school, but they may not be out to their parents,” Kelly explained.
She added that “if they are not out to their parents, it may be because it is not safe for them to be out,” and warned that some students may have “non-affirming parents or even parents who are shaming about a student’s identity.”
“It is incredibly important when school is a safer environment for students than it is at home to be protective of that and to continue to foster those relationships and up those resiliency factors for that child,” Kelly said.
The training goes on to offer guidance on how to respond if a student challenges a transgender student’s gender identity, such as telling a boy who transitioned to a girl, “you look like a boy.”
A teacher might respond, “there’s no one way for a boy or a girl or people of any gender to look or behave,” the social workers suggest.
The presentation also included a video on transgender “terms” by transgender YouTuber Chase Ross, whose other videos are mostly reviews of masturbation devices.
The training was not mandatory but was “an option for staff, amongst dozens of choices, during a staff development conference hosted by our Leander ISD district,” Matt Mitchell, a communications representative for Leander ISD, said in a statement to The Daily Wire.
“Our teachers and staff partner with parents and guardians to address concerns by students in our schools. As a practice, we partner with parents and keep open lines of communication and information sharing regarding their children,” Mitchell said.
The school district emphasized that the training and resources are “not intended or developed for students.”
This was unclear from the training, however, which included a cartoon graphic called the “gender unicorn” developed by the “Trans Student Educational Resources.” The presenter noted that teachers can use graphics from that same group “whenever we are talking about trans students and educating about trans students.”
The training caught the eye of some parents in the district, who are now demanding accountability from district leadership, saying the direction teachers were given violated their parental rights.
“I went, whoa, what do you mean, ‘can I share this information with your parents?’” Trista Parks, whose children recently graduated from Leander ISD, told The Daily Wire.
“I have a huge problem with that because you’re training the teachers to withhold information from the parent, no matter how big or small it is. That’s the bottom line,” she added.
“Whether it’s pronouns, whether it’s sexuality, they have no place having that discussion. They’re not the parents,” Parks said. “They have no idea what’s going on in that child’s mind or have the background to know or the training to know or the authority.”
This is not the first time the leadership of Leander ISD has sparked distrust among parents. This is the same district that placed pornographic books on its book club reading list for teens last year, angering parents who demanded the books be pulled.
The district apologized to parents, and some of the objectionable books were removed from the reading list. Others remained on the lists, however, and still others continued to float around in school libraries.
A slew of angry parents took the podium at the district’s September 9 school board meeting to express their disgust at both the pornographic books and the teacher training.
One mother, Crystal, began her remarks by reading a graphic passage from one of the books describing a gang rape. The book, “What We Saw,” was allowed to remain on the book club list for high school freshmen.
“Is there a class on gang rape for our students? On how to deal with gang rape? Are you going to process this with the students? Is this a sex-ed class or an alcohol prevention class?” she asked the board. “This book is definitely different from a classic. Goal achieved.”
Parks herself spoke at the meeting on behalf of a parent who learned in the spring that the school district had allowed their child to be “called a new gender identity opposite of his biological gender.” The parent accused the district of violating their trust and denying them the possibility of getting psychiatric care for their child for “at least a year.” The discovery also caused “extreme mental distress and conflict” in the family’s home, the parent said through Parks.
Incensed parents showed up again at the next board meeting on September 13, some calling on the entire board to resign, arguing that trust between the school board and the public has been severely damaged.
“We are a community divided as a direct result of a district that continually views education through a social and political lens,” one woman said, adding that for the last several years the board has “focused on nothing but social issues that are not reflective of our community.”