Controversy Brews Over Gender Diversity Lessons At Oakland School

OAKLAND (CBS) — Pink is for girls and blue is for boys. At least, that’s what we grew up being told. Now a very different lesson is being taught to some Oakland children, one challenging that gender-rigid mentality.

The lesson is so controversial that media outlets from Fox News to USA Today have come to Redwood Heights Elementary School, where the Gender Diversity Program is going on.

“We realize that it would be controversial for some parents at the school level. We didn’t expect it necessarily to receive national-level attention,” said Oakland school district spokesman Troy Flint.

Students from kindergarten to fifth grade are learning from the new program, which hosts activities such as “Three dimensions of gender,” and “Boy, girl or both?” They’ve read books like “My Princess Boy.”

“Our work is to help all children learn about all the different ways to be boys or girls or both or neither,” said Joel Baum, an educator with Gender Spectrum.

Baum spent an hour teaching second- and third-graders that even sea life can have blurry gender identities.

“Like sea horses where the female actually deposits eggs in the male and the male gives birth, or geckos in Hawaii that are entirely female,” he said.

Only the parents of three students decided to keep their children out of class.

“The kids get this, they are accepting,” said Baum.

The Conservative Pacific Justice Institute in Sacramento was not so accepting. Attorney Kevin Snider fired off a statement accusing the school of failing to notify parents of the lesson property.

“This instruction does not represent the values of majority of families in Oakland,” he wrote.

Principal Sara Stone said parents expressed broad support for the programs, which were funded by a grant from the teachers’ union.

“My question is how is it pushing an agenda to teach kids to be caring and kind to one another and accept themselves for who they are?” she said.

Stone said she has every intention of continuing the program, and Gender Spectrum, which has conducted hundreds of these lessons, is only picking up steam.

“We teach the material as we teach the material. It doesn’t change because of controversy,” said Baum.

The program costs $1,500 and Stone said she will pursue further funding. The Pacific Justice Institute said they don’t plan on interfering, they just want to be sure that parents know what’s being taught.

  • J.S.

    It’s not about “offering children a warm, welcoming, safe and caring classroom environment” and it’s not even about diversity. It’s about indoctrinating children from a young age to accept a ONE-sided view about human behavior. And don’t tell me that this effort will somehow combat suicides by engendering acceptance of diversity. There has never been more acceptance of being gay than the current time, and yet teen suicides are still on the rise. I hope that parents are allowed to op-out their children from such lessons that equates human behavior as being on par with animal instinct.

    • ARTSEA

      sorry to burst your bubble, but humans are animals. We are just another intricate organism with complex thoughts. Wild animals don’t care what others think. so to study their behavior is only to realize the grad spectrum that the universe has created for us. The world is a novelty machine. why not enjoy all its aspects of life?

  • Y.x.M

    Extrapolating wildlife behavior and instincts to the human realm is LGBTs worse argument ever!

    We are not animals like they are!

    • mike

      And, yet, that’s the anti-gay side’s biggest argument. “It’s not ‘natural'”, “peopl choose to be gay, and it isn’t found in nature”….

  • Victoria Dennison

    Gay bashing and bullying others that are different is not animaliist? I do agree though that using lower life forms as examples is a bad behavior.

    Prosecuting for hate crimes and suspending bullies is the way to go. For every suicide due to bullying the principal along with parents should be held responsble.

  • trish

    Don’t tell others how to wear their hair might be the idea here,

  • R T

    I wish we had learned things like this when I was in school. Instead we were taught boys beat each other up, girls always obey boys, etc. The kind of stuff J.S. (posted above) is still teaching others. I won’t even go into how much denial there was regarding gay youth and black youth. My education was wasted on conservative garbage that means nothing to no one except the right wing kooks that want to keep everyone down in some kind of denial of the truth..

  • Ann

    I love this lesson. It states the facts about animal behavior and lets kids draw conclusions. This is an ingenious way to teach fun science facts while, at the same time, introducing the reality that gender is not a rigid category

  • Philip Scharfy

    Why do so many who go into teaching reveal themselves to be just plain dumb and especially lacking in common sense.

    That’s why when the money runs out and they start getting pink slips, it is hard to feel sorry for them.

  • J Villegas

    The Kids are accepting this? this sounds like indoctrination of course they accepted it do they have a choice, there was no opt out and only 3 parents knew this indoctrination could be totally against the parents moral values, I don’t have a problem with people having sex with their same gender just don’t force it on me or my children

  • mike d

    schools should stick to academics and leave the personal/moral/spiritual/ stuff to parents and families

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