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Controversy Brews Over Gender Diversity Lessons At Oakland School

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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.

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