Rainbow Clubs, Checking Privilege, Pronoun Pins, and Christmas Isn’t for Everyone

Note – This is the first in what will be an occasional series entitled “Hidden in Plain Site” in which we shall look at various and sundry government websites to see what they really thinking.

It is a given that many many public school districts around the country see their mission not just to educate students but to “inform” them as well.

Exactly what they are being informed about has become a topic of serious and contentious debate across the nation – from Virginia to, well, everywhere, parents who noticed what was actually being told to their children while they were at home “learning” on Zoom were shocked at the nakedly political bent of much of the lesson plan.

The response of the education bureaucracy to such concerns? Parents have no business telling us how to teach their kids, parents should shut up and sit down at school board meetings, and parents who complain too loudly should be investigated by the FBI as potential domestic terrorists (see below).

When one is proud and confident in what one is doing one is happy to discuss it in detail, to explain why what you are doing is working well, to listen to other perspectives to learn how to possibly improve your work, and, if it comes to that, to politely agree to disagree.

When one is purposefully engaged in something they know may not go over well with others, one tends to blame, obfuscate, complicate explanations, ignore input, and vilify anyone who may have questions.

For example, on the topic of teaching Critical Race Theory in school the public has been told it is not happening, you don’t know what CRT is anyway, we don’t teach it but we should, and even if “our pedagogy is informed by similar concepts” it is still not actually CRT because we don’t handout to third graders Kimberle’ Crenshaw’s “On Intersectionality: Essential Writings” for homework.

Pure nonsense, of course, but the diversity-industrial complex is not exactly known for shooting straight.

Speaking of straight, it does not seem that the Office of Human Relations, Diversity, and Equity – a sub-section of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Student Health and Human Services Department (how’s that for a business card?) – is not terribly interested in that particular student demographic. In fact, it seems, quite the opposite.

The HRDE website – https://achieve.lausd.net/domain/156  is replete with LGBTQIA+ messaging, along with numerous other nods to other types of “diversity,” ‘social justice,” and other progressive topics such as privilege and whiteness. The Instagram and Twitter feeds of the office focus far more attention to gender rather than race issues though.

Let’s take a look see at what is being offered across the many digital platforms of the HRDE.  In no particular order:

  • Here’s a meeting announcement from earlier this year asking the District’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance’s (GSA) members to chat about the upcoming “Day of Silence – https://www.instagram.com/p/CbX2jSNpTUK/ .  In case you were wondering the Day of Silence is a national effort led by GLSEN (which used to stand for the “Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network” but that third thing is not so much there anymore) in which kids stay silent during the school day and then hold a loud rally afterwards – https://www.glsen.org/day-of-silence . While this may be convenient for teachers who can’t get their kids to shut up, it does necessarily impose certain restrictions on class participation.
  • Though the District received significant parental pushback on the idea, it appears to still be touting the Rainbow Club concept.  A Rainbow Club is a “space,” in this case a weekly Zoom meeting, where students, parents, educators, and “allies” come together as a virtual club to discuss gender-related issues.  Oh, and the students involved are from TK (used to be pre-K or nursery school) to fifth grade; in other words from the age of 4 to 10:  https://www.instagram.com/p/CiNb2MWrXD9/ . The idea, it seems, is to extend GSA concepts to an elementary school audience, as this background website shows (do note the site includes a reference to “queer collage” and how to fight the above-noted parental pushback) – https://www.genderinclassrooms.com/rainbow-club .
  • Interested in the District’s attitude towards the idea of “affirming” gender ? (in case you may be unaware, “gender affirming” medical care means you take the kids’ word for it no matter what and have no compunction about giving them powerful drugs and/or performing mutilative surgery on them because every 15-year-old knows exactly who they are and what they will be for rest of their lives.) Here you go – https://www.instagram.com/p/CidKDLaJlfs/ 
  • Looking for a new book to read with your little ones?  From “Julian is a Mermaid” to “Sparkle Boy” to “Neither,” the HRDE worked with GenderNation to have more than 7,000 such titles donated to schools throughout the District – https://www.instagram.com/p/CXOsJpgPZtL/ . And if your short on time to read to your kids, the HRDE has that covered, too, with District-wide reading events such as – https://www.instagram.com/p/CaIL0MNpFgx/  – which featured “from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea.” And if those titles do not fit the bill, the HRDE has a bunch more – https://achieve.lausd.net/Page/17935 – ready for kids.
  • All of this information should also be viewed through the lens, naturally, of privilege – 

https://achieve.lausd.net/cms/lib/CA01000043/Centricity/Domain/156/Privilege%20101.pptx notes that white, straight, able bodied, etc. all denote systemic advantage.  Also, these topics should be confronted in a courageous manner –https://achieve.lausd.net/cms/lib/CA01000043/Centricity/domain/156/pdfs/talking%20politics/HRDE_Courageous%20Conversations%20with%20Students_flyer%204.pdf – including creating safe and brave spaces, teaching resistance, not allowing students to remain silent, and, just in case things get a bit too much, offer psychological first aid and visits with mental health experts (note – this tiny descriptor does not do “justice” to this document – nor the dozens of embedded links to things like the “glossary for socially conscious conversation.”)

This is just a sample of examples of the mind-set of the HRDE and, clearly, a great part of the education community.  

There is no question that all students should be treated equally and fairly, supported in their talents and selves, and be free from the fear of bullying and being an outcast. However, one must ask if any of the above actually achieves any of that or just makes grown-ups with nebulous skills and obtuse job titles feel like they are actually doing something with their day.

Interestingly, while the District provides literally hundreds of links to documents, lesson plans, flyers, and numerous third-party supportive websites, the HRDE for some reason – even though it created much of the information – has the following disclaimer of sorts on many of its web pages:  Organizations, references, links, products or services that appear on this site do not constitute an endorsement of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Student Health & Human Services  (SHHS) or Human Relations, Diversity and Equity (HRDE), nor should an exclusion of other websites be considered intentional. Opinions expressed are solely those of the host website and not necessarily those of LAUSD, SHHS or HRDE. Any advertising presented is solely the responsibility of the host website and not LAUSD. “

But don’t forget: Not Everyone Celebrates Christmas and to have a Mindful Monday and a Wellness Wednesday.  Not sure about Taco Tuesday or Thirsty Thursday, but we can hope.

For more information and/or if you need either a good rage cry or an excuse to start drinking early, feel free to check out the home and Twitter  (one bright spot may be that the two Twitter accounts have a total of only 886 followers between them) pages yourself: https://twitter.com/SHHSLausd and/or https://achieve.lausd.net/Page/11883  and https://twitter.com/lausdHRDE or https://achieve.lausd.net/Page/631 .

Just remember to tell ‘em the Globe sent you.

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