In the handling of this delicate subject that was sure to ruffle the feathers of at least a few parents, Mount Horeb Primary Center in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, appeared to do everything right. The elementary school sent home a letter explaining that children would be reading I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings in class for the sole purpose of educating kids about a student with male anatomy who identifies as female. The letter beautifully stated, “We refer to this as having a girl brain and a boy body. Together we can come up with a plan to support the student in living as her authentic self.”
But after the Liberty Counsel, identified as an anti-LGBT and hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and known supporters of Kim Davis, allegedly received complaints from concerned parents about the book, the group threatened to sue the school, and the transgender lesson plan was shut down. (Never mind that parents were allowed to opt children out of the reading.)
In yet another school battle about a controversial social issue, who’s right? Most of the time the answer would depend on what you believe. After all, it is our differences in beliefs that make the world go round. But in this story, parents who oppose the book — written by a girl who was named the first transgender teen model for Clean & Clear and star of All That Jazz TV show — are acting worse than the children.
We already know that bullying in school is a major problem. And we also know that almost everything a child brings to school they learn at home. That is to say, while it’s possible for outside factors to influence a child’s worldview, like school administrators and even peer groups, a parent’s viewpoints and especially their behavior have the most influence of all.
What this elementary school is trying to do for one of its own students is beyond admirable in a world where Caitlyn Jenner is still being turned into Internet memes. And remember, it is adults with access to the Internet who are cracking cruel jokes and turning what could be an opportunity for inclusion into a nationwide shunning of a prominent transgender personality.
If this behavior was going on in a school, it would be called bullying.
Not surprisingly, it’s these same adults who think it is damaging to their children to read about a child who is “different.” These adults seem to forget that the inspiration for the children’s book, Jazz Jennings, is a real child who goes to a real school and interacts with other real children, just like their kids. Mount Horeb Primary Center also has a real student who identifies as transgender and needs all the support she can get, particularly from parents of other students.
These discriminating attitudes that have resulted in our bullying epidemic always shake down from the top and can have devastating consequences. TransKids confirms that transgender children face an even tougher bullying climate at school, leaving school earlier than any other group, with 25 percent attempting suicide and another 25 percent considering suicide. The recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey reveals that these high suicide rates may have everything to do with the exclusion of transgender students — some survey participants said they attempted suicide because they felt “hopeless and alone.”
As parents of real children who are going to face their own real issues at school, transgender or not, these heartwrenching statistics are the great equalizer. No matter how you may feel about the LGBT community and transgender children specifically, it helps to think of how you would feel if your child fell within that 25 percent. Because this much-needed attitude of inclusion is missing at home and at school, real children are trying to end their lives. Parents who support the inclusion of a transgender children’s book at school are doing nothing more than modeling inclusion for their kids.
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