Parents of West Hartford Public Schools (WHPS) informed Parents Defending Education (PDE) the kindergarten reading list in the school district includes Introducing Teddy, a book described at Amazon.com as one that “introduces the youngest readers to understanding gender identity and transition in an accessible and heart-warming story about being true to yourself and being a good friend.”
According to PDE, parents reported West Hartford district officials have said children cannot be opted out of the curriculum.
“I am troubled by When Aidan Became a Brother (4th grade) which is full on gender theory, that the sex you’re assigned at birth is “wrong” and you’re actually a boy,” said one parent, PDE reported. “This is being presented as factual to very young children.”
“This sweet and groundbreaking picture book, winner of the 2020 Stonewall Book Award, celebrates the changes in a transgender boy’s life, from his initial coming-out to becoming a big brother,” states an Amazon.com description of the fourth grade selection.
Erika Sanzi of Parents Defending Education told The Daily Caller News Foundation the transgender book is confusing and manipulative:
Teaching elementary students that their parents assigned them their gender at birth but may have gotten it wrong because anatomy is separate from gender is an obscene example of adults using ideology to confuse and manipulate children’s minds. The fact that parents are not permitted to opt their children out of this content based in gender ideology is so sinister, it’s hard to believe it’s even legal.
PDE shared a memo dated October 14 from Dr. Roszena Haskins, director of equity advancement in West Hartford Public School District (WHPS) that indicated, in addition to instruction in transgender ideology, WHPS “has redoubled district-wide efforts to attend to the social and emotional needs of children and adults.”
Social and emotional learning (SEL) – a program of in-school psychological training – has become the major vehicle for teaching the tenets of Critical Race Theory and LGBTQ activism, Breitbart News reported in March.
“All K-12 students are provided assured instructional experiences to develop effective social emotional learning skills in a classroom community setting,” Haskins wrote, highlighting that SEL instruction in WHPS is “grounded in the framework of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).”
In February, attorney and education researcher Jane Robbins wrote at the Federalist that SEL champions such as CASEL are now “brazenly trumpeting an even more troubling aspect of SEL: the opportunity to turn impressionable students into leftist activists.”
She observed that CASEL CEO Karen Niemi announced last December her company “has revised its definition of and framework for ‘socio-emotional learning’ to highlight the value of SEL as a weapon for social justice.”
“Woke-speak pervades the new direction,” Robbins asserted. “In contrast to the previous fairly anodyne definition of SEL, the new one emphasizes student ‘identities’ and ‘marginalization,’ ‘equity,’ ‘just communities,’ and the ‘collective’ rather than the individual.”
In her memo, West Harford’s Haskins acknowledged a disclaimer from CASEL:
While SEL alone will not solve longstanding and deep-seated inequities in the education system, it can help schools to promote understanding, examine biases, reflect on and address the impact of racism … close opportunity gaps and create a more inclusive school community.
Haskins explained, however, WHPS also “teaches SEL through an equity lens, adapted from the Learning for Justice social justice and anti-bias framework.”
She added Learning for Justice insists children must master the “pro-social domains” of “identity,” “diversity,” “justice,” and “action.”
As Breitbart News reported in September, Learning for Justice is the latest project from the disgraced leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a reinvention of its former Teaching for Tolerance education program and one SPLC has touted aims “to dismantle white supremacy.”
“Learning for Justice seeks to uphold the mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center: to be a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond,” the website states.
To explain its name change, SPLC’s Learning For Justice says, “The fact is tolerance is not justice. It isn’t a sufficient description of the work we do or of the world we want.”
The website of WHPS states its “vision for equity and anti-racism”:
We, the members of West Hartford Public Schools, dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of equity. Equitable schools are those that value and honor ALL in our community as unique individuals capable of maximizing their true potential. We make a solemn promise to identify and dismantle all elements of systemic racism and historical inequities. We vow to clear paths, with a relentless duty to those in traditionally marginalized groups. We pledge to partner with ALL families in the service of the success of each child.
WHPS also states its “working definition of anti-racism in education” is “to actively and mindfully oppose and dismantle cultural messages, institutional policies, practices and all systems of advantage based on race.”
In response to national attention to his district’s gender and racial justice indoctrination, WHPS Superintendent Tom Moore said in a statement at WeHa.com “national forces” are “at play that continue to seek to tear us apart as Americans, and are attempting to use the children of West Hartford as pawns in their games of division.”
These are not grass roots parent groups – they are well funded advocacy political arms. We understand how they use media to generate controversy. First it was the boogeyman of CRT. That clearly did not work in Connecticut school board elections. Now it is “gender equity indoctrination” meant to frighten people about what their children are hearing, even though we rarely see any concrete examples, just books that people want banned. These outsiders even attack our commitment to social emotional learning at a time when children have just lived through a pandemic. To any West Hartford parent concerned with what actually happens in a classroom, by all means speak to your teacher, principal, and those of us in central office. Please remember – you know us; your teachers, your principals, and me. I have spent more than twenty five years here, and there is no cabal in the curriculum office seeking to overturn the social order.
“To those who seek to use West Hartford as a battlefield in their culture war, I am so proud to defend what we do, because it is simple,” he said. “We teach children that the child that they are sitting next to, no matter their color, their religion, or their identity, is a person just like them, and that they are their friend, and we need to be nice to them.”
PDE invites parents to “submit an incident report” via the organization’s website.