The son of one of our APC members came home from seventh grade at Williamsburg Middle School on Wednesday of this week and told his mom that the school counselor came to his English class that day to present a lesson entitled “Gender Harassment.” The definition of gender harassment given was “When boys or girls are bothered, teased, or bullied because they act differently from most boys or girls, or because they may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.”
He asked to be excused to use the restroom and was told he could leave after he watched the video, part of a unit from the curriculum provider Second Step, a subsidiary of the organization Committee for Children (CFC).
In other words, APS gave twelve-year-olds a lesson on gender without notifying parents, using a video that is not available to parents without a licensing code from Second Step, during a core class rather than during the Family Life Education (FLE) unit, and they refused to let a child quietly excuse himself from it.
This is exactly why APS’s FLE Opt-Out form is worthless. It wouldn’t have prevented your child receiving this gender lesson, because the lesson wasn’t taught as a part of FLE. It was shrouded under the guise of anti-bullying, which falls under the purview of the counseling office.
After viewing the video in the counselor’s office, the APC parent contacted Pam McClellan, Supervisor of Counseling at APS. Here’s what the parent said:
“I think we are all in agreement that there is a profound need to teach our children and remind each other about the need for mutual respect and kindness. The national tone is caustic. In addition, I can see the merits in the many products that APS purchased from CFC. However, I am deeply disappointed in the narrow scope and weighted preference of what is being presented ….
“[The counselor] emphasized that the APS goal is to increase kindness among students. Yet, the only group that is set aside and highlighted as needing acceptance and kindness are LBGTQ students. Why is that? Over my 18 years in APS, friends and neighbors have shared stories of mean-spirited or cruel comments and interactions based on differences of ethnicity, race, religion, political views, physical attributes, or special needs. Where are the videos to address those groups? Two of my own sons dealt with social backlash as they struggled with ADHD and high functioning autism. The training that [this counselor] and her colleagues are doing caters to one cohort of students to the exclusion of all others. It is stunning in its short-sightedness, and a missed opportunity to talk about the need for EVERY person to be worthy of respect and kindness.”
APS continues to behave with willfully arrogant disregard of the Virginia Department of Education FLE guidelines, which state:
An "opt-out" procedure shall be provided to ensure communication with the parent or guardian for permission for students to be excused from all or part of the program. (p. 8)
There must be evidence of broad-based community involvement and an annual opportunity for parents and others to review curriculum and instructional materials prior to the beginning of actual instruction. (p. 10)
Provision must be in place for an ongoing review of local curriculum and instructional materials before they are used in the classroom. (p. 47)
Discussions of gender and sexuality are unmistakably part of the FLE curriculum, whether APS chooses to house them there or not. For this reason, the Arlington Parent Coalition strongly recommends that all parents submit a Universal Opt-Out Letter for all topics regarding sexuality and gender that may be presented in any format and from any person during the school day.
APS has opened another community survey about the J-2 Transgender Student Policy Implementation Procedure that was put into place on July 1, 2019. Although the Arlington Parent Coalition leadership is skeptical that APS’s intentions for the survey involve genuine interest about parents’ opinions, this form does provide a place for parents to express their concerns. The survey closes September 30, 2019.
This most recent incident at Williamsburg Middle School is one episode in an emerging narrative of APS overreach of authority in the area of sexuality and gender ideology indoctrination. Arlington Parent Coalition continues to collect and document what we previously considered to be rogue sex-ed events. It seems apparent, however, that these incidents are perfectly in line with APS administration philosophy: that they have the right to teach our children whatever they want to, whenever they want to.
It’s time for parents to stand up, speak up, and take back the authority that APS continues to usurp.