By DAVID BOYLE
Parents still have rights in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The Mat-Su School Board voted strongly in favor of supporting parents’ rights in educating their children. The vote was 6 to 1 with only board member Ted Swanson voting “no.”
Three areas were addressed in the policy changes: Parental rights with children’s pronouns, sex education, and restricting student counselors to only academic counseling. The first two changes merely implemented state law.
The first policy change requires parents’ permission for a school to use different pronouns that represent anything other than a child’s actual gender. Here is the exact change in bold and underlined:
The second change was to the policy on sex education that would require parents to opt-in their children for sex education rather than opting out. Why is that important? One parent testified that even when she opted her child out the student still got the education against her wishes. It also required parents to be able to review sex education materials at least two weeks before the class to ensure the parents knew what was being taught.
Here is the change to the current policy in bold and underlined:
The third policy change would mandate that student counselors only address academic issues when counseling students. This would prevent counselors from addressing transgenderism and gender identity, and keep that counseling agenda hidden from parents.
Opponents were organized. There was much testimony from parents and the teacher’s union members wearing their “Red for Ed” shirts. It was a sea of red at the meeting. They were there to voice opposition to the parents’ rights and their relationship with their children.
Many of the teachers believed they know better than parents on how to raise their children. One teacher voiced that he was against requiring parents’ written permission for a child to use a pronoun different than their gender.
Another teacher said that using a child’s preferred pronoun would lead to diversity and a more compassionate and just society. Another teacher said that gender identity was deeply personal. Nowhere did these teachers recognize parents’ rights in the decision.
A recent University of Alaska graduate said he was an aspiring MatSu teacher, and he totally disagreed with parents being in charge of a child’s education.
This aspiring teacher went so far as to say that some students’ only recourse was to turn to school counselors. He even said that the revised policy on limiting school counselors to academic issues went against the Professional Teachers Practices Commission principle of “protecting students” even from their own parents.
Others from the National Education Association group said that the new policies would lead to more suicide.
They also said that the new policies were transphobic and discriminatory, despite not being able to prove that. In the case of gender identity, these teachers felt the child’s thoughts were the only thoughts that mattered.
Several teachers threatened the district saying it will face lawsuits if it “messes with gender identity.”
The bottom line from those opposed to the policy revisions was that counselors and teachers know what’s best for all students. Parents have no rights when it comes to sex education and pronoun usage.
Parents testified that the district should focus on academics and leave the issues of sex education, gender identity, and pronouns to them—the parents.
Here is a link to all the policies addressed at the board meeting.