A Teachable Moment? Explaining “Transgender” to 3rd Graders

The following is merely an excerpt from Nightmare at Franklin, by Tom Mountain, published Nov 8, 2006, by Newton Tab; we encourage you to continue reading the full story…

Emer O’Shea knew something was wrong the minute she picked up her daughter from Franklin Elementary School. The third-grader was normally very perky upon seeing her mother and new baby sister, but this time she glanced at her mother without indicating what was wrong, except to say that the school’s social worker had visited the class. But Emer soon heard from another parent about what had happened in her daughter’s class that day, and she was both stunned and mortified. The next day her young daughter finally opened up with a question that would baffle most parents of an 8-year-old child, “Mommy, is it possible for a man to have an operation to become a woman?”

Transgenders and transvestites. These were the topics that a staff member at Franklin School in West Newton chose to teach to a class of third-grade children. The school’s social worker described to the children that some men like to dress up as women, and yes, some men even have operations to change into women.

The opportunity for this “teachable moment” – the kind that Superintendent Jeff Young likes to portray as merely responding to some child’s “random questioning” – occurred when the social worker was describing various families outside of the traditional mommy-and-daddy norm and showed the class a picture of a woman with two children, asking what they saw in the picture. A child then raised his hand to tell her (are you sitting sit down for this?) that he thought the picture was of a man who had a sex change operation and was now a woman. Apparently, the child’s own father was undergoing such an operation (which he/she has since completed).

The social worker then elaborated on this “teachable moment.” But this wasn’t just any social worker employed by the Newton Public Schools. This was Laura Perkins, former board member of GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network; or rather, “Laura Perkins, MSW, Franklin School and the Newton Early Childhood Program,” according to the GLSEN Boston Conference, where she hosted a seminar in which the “Rationale for integrating GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) issues in the early elementary years will be presented” and “classroom lessons demonstrated.” (See 5C.)

As a result of this particular “classroom lesson,” Emer’s daughter was petrified. For an 8-year-old accustomed to a child’s world of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, the little girl had nightmares, and explained to her mother she was scared that her baby sister could turn into a boy.

So Emer did what any normal responsible parent would do – she demanded an explanation from the principal, Cynthia Marchand (617-559-9500). She and several other parents from this class met with the principal who, according to Emer, responded defensively and fully backed her staff member.

Emer then went to Superintendent’s Young’s office with her concerns. She handed Mr. Young a written description of what happened, whereupon the superintendent promised to respond to her soon. He didn’t. So after three weeks, she called to make an appointment. As Emer described it, Mr. Young remarked that the Parental Consent Law didn’t apply to this situation because, he claimed, the topic of discussion was not planned for. He concluded that it was really just “a teachable moment.”

Continue reading at TownOnline…

This article was posted on Thursday, November 9th, 2006 at 1:07 am and is filed under 04 - Gender Confusion (Transgender), Boards, Administrators, Teachers, Counselors, Gender 'Fluidity' (Confusion), GLSEN, News. You can follow any updates to this article through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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