Education , Culture & the Family

Teacher unions and the sexualization of children

Maddie Dermon | July 24, 2023

From drag show field trips to pornographic reading material, far too many public schools across America continue to embrace gender ideology in the classroom. Yet, an estimated 58 percent of teachers are dissatisfied with the way students are taught about issues related to sexual preference and gender identity at school.

As parents and educators alike continue to push back against gender indoctrination, the true culprit in the sexualization of children at school is clear: teachers’ unions.

With about 2.5 million working members, the National Education Association (NEA) is the largest teachers’ union in the United States. While the NEA engages in normal collective bargaining activities on behalf of its members, the union takes its responsibilities a step further.

According to NEA’s website, “We help teachers understand the unique challenges of today’s classrooms and develop groundbreaking solutions to strengthen public schools.” These “groundbreaking solutions,” however, often have more to do with the interests of left-wing progressives rather than the wellbeing of students and teachers.

To the NEA, one of the biggest “challenges of today’s classrooms,” is “LGBTQ+ bias and intolerance in our public schools.” Accordingly, the NEA’s website features a library of “NEA LGBTQ+ Resources,” including model school board resolutions, legal guidance on transgender students’ rights, and a pronoun guide.

The most alarming resource provided to teachers, however, is “Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools,” co-produced by the NEA in collaboration with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gender Spectrum, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Written in 2015 to, in NEA’s words, provide a “roadmap for educators and parents to provide safe and supportive environments for all transgender students,” the guidebook reveals the stunning groundwork laid by the NEA in the gender ideology movement long before the recent push for transgender youth gained widespread attention.

According to former NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the guidebook is an “extremely valuable resource for the 3 million NEA members” that serves as a “lifesaver for the increasing number of transgender students who are living as their authentic selves.”

Here are nine takeaways from the NEA’s guide to supporting transgender students:

  • The male-female gender binary does not exist.

    • “One of the most prevalent misconceptions about gender is that it is based solely on a physical understanding of sex, and that everyone fits into one of two opposite categories, male or female.” (Page 5)

    • “Given the numerous combinations these factors can create, gender is better understood as a spectrum.” (Page 5)

    • “The purpose of learning about gender diversity is to demonstrate that children are unique and that there is no single way to be a boy or a girl.” (Page 49)

  • The expression of transgender identity is healthy and appropriate for children.

    • “The expression of transgender identity, or any other form of gender expansive behavior, is a healthy, appropriate and typical aspect of human development.” (Page 3)

  • Children begin expressing their transgender identity at two years old.

    • “Children typically begin expressing their gender identity between the ages of two and four years old.” (Page 8)

  • Objections to child gender transition based on age are “irrelevant.”

    • “It is irrelevant whether a person’s objection to a student’s identity or expression is based on sincerely held religious beliefs or the belief that the student lacks capacity or ability to assert their gender identity or expression (e.g., due to age, developmental disability or intellectual disability).” (Page 3)

    • “While it is important to include a student’s age and grade level as factors to consider in the planning process, it should never be used to justify delaying or denying a student’s gender transition.” (Page 15)

  • Denying a child’s transgender identity leads to negative consequences, including suicide.

    • “The longer a transgender youth is not affirmed, the more significant and long-lasting the negative consequences can become, including loss of interest in school, heightened risk for alcohol and drug use, poor mental health and suicide.” (Page 8)

  • Parents don’t need to know about their child’s transition.

    • “Any decision to raise the topic with parents must be made very carefully and in consultation with the student. In some instances, a school may choose not to bring the subject up if there is a concern that parents or caregivers may react negatively.” (Page 14)

    • “Privacy and confidentiality are critically important for transgender students who do not have supportive families. In those situations, even inadvertent disclosures could put the student in a potentially dangerous situation at home, so it is important to have a plan in place to help avoid any mistakes or slip-ups.” (Page 16)

    • “Whenever a transgender student initiates this process, the educator or administrator should ask whether the student’s family is accepting in order to avoid inadvertently putting the student at risk of greater harm by discussing with the student’s family.” (Page 32)

  • Regardless of the feelings of their peers, transgender students must be allowed to use the restroom that matches their new gender identity.

    • “Providing transgender students with access to the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity is yet another way that schools adjust to meet students’ individual needs.” (Page 24)

    • “A transgender student should never be forced or pressured into using alternate facilities just to make students or school personnel more comfortable.” (Page 26)

    • “Respect for the transgender student should be the starting point…being uncomfortable is not the same as being unsafe.” (Page 26)

  • During overnight school trips, transgender students must be allowed to share accommodations with peers that match their new gender identity. Parents do not need to be informed.

    • “If students are to be separated based on gender, then the transgender student should be allowed to room with peers that match their gender identity.” (Page 27)

    • “Regardless of whether those roommates know about the student’s gender identity, the school has an obligation to maintain the student’s privacy and cannot disclose or require disclosure of the student’s transgender status to the other students or their parents.” (Page 27)

  • Transgender students do not have any athletic advantage and must be allowed to join sports teams that reflect their new gender identity.

    • “Even in states whose athletic associations do not have a written policy or rule on this topic, schools and districts should allow transgender students to compete on athletic teams based on gender identity.” (Page 28)

    • “Transgender students are just like their cisgender peers, including their hormone levels.” (Page 28)

Since 2015, the NEA has doubled down on sentiments expressed in “Schools in Transition” through its political agenda funded by membership dues.

Each year, NEA delegates from across the country debate and vote on new business items (NBIs) that create goals with corresponding financial commitments for the upcoming year. In 2021, the NEA adopted NBI 5, a $47,000 commitment to educating “state and local affiliates and members about the dangers of anti-transgender legislation targeting transgender youth in sports and/or restricting their access to gender-affirming health care.” Since 2021, NBIs are no longer available for public view.

However, a letter to the NEA from U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) and other senators reveals the contents of NBI 15, adopted by the union in 2022: “NEA reportedly plans to spend $140,000 to create an ‘enemies list’ of groups that have been identified as ‘actively working to diminish a students’ right to honesty in education, freedom of sexual and gender identity, and teacher autonomy.’”

In addition, the NEA advises congressional representatives to vote for or against certain legislative items. In 2023, the NEA advised representatives to vote against HR 734, the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, citing its “attempt to erase transgender students from schools.” The union also advised against voting for HR 5, the Parents Bill of Rights Act, including specific amendments that would allow parents the right to know whether their child’s school allows transgender students to participate in athletic events and use restrooms that correspond with their new gender identity.

In the controversial conversation surrounding transgender youth, the NEA has made its stance clear: “transgender” children need to be affirmed in the classroom, regardless of age, circumstance, or parental input.

Since the publication of “Students in Transition,” the union has become increasingly militant in its support of gender ideology. It is no coincidence that the number of young people who identify as transgender has nearly doubled in recent years. Ignoring decades of studies showing that the majority of transgender children eventually cease to identify as transgender by adulthood, the NEA has proven its commitment to using students as pawns in a society driven by identity politics and political correctness.

In recent years, it has become clear that teachers’ unions are more interested in indoctrinating young generations with progressive politics rather than protecting the workplace rights of teachers. To protect both the integrity of the public school system and the dignity of American children, teachers and parents alike need to recognize the exploitative nature of teachers’ unions, and act accordingly.

[Maddie Dermon is a policy and research analyst at the Freedom Foundation, where this article originally appeared. It is republished here with permission.]

Maddie Dermon

Policy and Research Analyst

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