A school health teacher has been suspended for teaching that gay and transgender people exist.
The teacher at Cambridge high school in Cambridge, New York was suspended this week after complaints from parents, according to the Post-Star.
The row erupted over handouts on sexuality and gender that were given out to students aged 12 to 16 during health class in the New York school.
The handouts were provided by the Pride Centre of the Capital Region , a New York based LGBT community centre, whose mission according to their website is to “promote the well-being of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified people and those affected by discrimination based on gender identity and expression.”
But in a Facebook Live video that received hundreds of thousands of views, a dad insisted content in the lesson referring to gay and transgender people was incompatible with his family’s “Christian values”.
The dad says: “We’ve got our Christian values and live by our own expectations. When it comes to teaching our kids certain things, that should be up to us, not health class.
He adds: “I understand, there’s gays, there’s straights, but I don’t need it being brought into a classroom where we pay tax dollars for you to teach stuff to my kids years before they should even know about this stuff.”
He then reads through the handout, mocking its contents.
Reading from the list of terms relating to gay people, he fumes:
“This is state funded porn. I don’t care. I’m trying not to get too graphic, but this makes me so upset. This is stuff that our kids don’t need to be learning in school.
“We have pages upon pages of this crap that our kids are learning, that they’re being taught. They’re desensitising all of our kids and it’s ruining America.”
The video has attracted hundreds of openly homophobic comments after being shared by anti-LGBT religious groups, and the school board was flooded with complaints.
However, rather than defend the lesson, the school board sided with the angry parents – and confirmed this week that the teacher had been suspended pending investigation.
Superintendent Vince Canini agreed with the concerns of parents that the content was “inappropriate” for children, despite being designed to educate school classes.
The teacher has not been named publicly.
Parents were notified about the lesson in advance, but the angry father claimed he “didn’t get” the notification.
Speaking to the Post Star, the president and CEO of Pride Centre of Capital Region, Martha Harvey, said she “doesn’t know of any previous time schools or parents have objected to the presentation in the 12 years it has been used in schools.”
But the school has been duly flooded with complaints following the Facebok video.
One complaint said: “Don’t let your children be brainwashed this is why they took God out of the classroom so they could put in Satan and they could brainwash America”.
Almost half of all transgender people in the US attempt suicide
It is estimated that some 150,000 teenagers in the States identify as transgender, and more teens are coming out every year. Yet, the statistics for suicide amongst transgender individuals are still shockingly high, with almost half of all trans people attempting suicide at some point in their lives, according to a study conducted by the National Centre for Transgender Equality.
Harvey emphasised the importance of giving children access to information on gender identity.
“This program saves lives,” she said.
Sex education often excludes information on sexuality and gender identity, in most cases only focusing on teaching students the physiology of heterosexual sex and changes during puberty.
The New York State Department of Education (NYSDE) legally requires one semester of comprehensive health education for all students in middle school (grades 6-8) and in high school (grades 9-12).
According to the NYSDE guidelines, one of the benchmarks required for high school sexual health education is “recognition of the diversity of sexual beliefs within the community.” There does not appear to be any benchmark for knowledge of the diversity of gender identity.
Educational packets like those created by Pride Centre of the Capital Region provide schools with concise and valuable information for students who may be questioning their sexuality or gender identity, while also giving key information for parents and teachers on how to be good allies.