When a child at a Wisconsin elementary school quietly came out to administrators as transgender, the school did everything right. Sadly, it’s all for naught, as Liberty Counsel intervened and ruined a valuable learning opportunity for kids.
After a student came out as trans, Mount Horeb Primary Center scheduled a reading of I Am Jazz, a children’s book written by trans teenager Jazz Jennings.
The principal sent a note home informing parents about the reading, explaining that a student at school was transitioning, and allowing parents to opt their child out of the reading if they so desired:
“We have been working with the family of a student on your child’s floor who identifies as a girl, but has male anatomy. We refer to this as having a girl brain and a boy body. Together we have come up with a plan to support this student in living as her authentic self,” the letter said. “We are continually amazed by the compassion and acceptance our students show each other when they understand their differences. Please let us know if you have concerns about your child participating in this discussion; we respect the beliefs and convictions of all families.”
Unfortunately, that’s been called off.
Some “concerned parents” reached out to the conservative, anti-LGBT group Liberty Counsel, whose attorneys threatened a lawsuit if the school didn’t cancel the event. Their complaint was laden with transphobic claims that have been debunked over and over by major medical organizations:
The letter alleges that school administrators were seeking “to subject Primary School students to a discussion of gender confusion and sexuality, under the guise of ‘antibullying,’ ‘diversity,’ and building a ‘safe and nurturing environment.'”
The letter goes on to misgender Jennings, referring to her as “a male child ‘transgender’ activist, who has been permitted to undergo harmful gender reassignment drug therapy and hormone blockers, resulting in permanent physical changes to his body.”
Her book, which explains to children what it means to be transgender, is characterized in the letter as “false and misleading.” The Liberty Counsel maintains that its reading would result in “confusing many children,” “undermining modesty,” and “promoting non-factual, radical, and controversial assumptions about ‘gender,'” among other so-called harms.
Of course, the only thing non-factual about this situation is the propaganda that Liberty Counsel itself is spreading. And it worked; the reading was canceled.
The district released a statement Wednesday, saying the Board of Education needs time “to review the needs of all involved, and address a situation for which the District has no current policy.”
“Please know that our continuing goal is to protect all students from any bullying, harassing or intimidating behavior at school so that all of our students may learn together in a safe and caring environment,” it added.
Most recently, Liberty Counsel made headlines when they were caught lying on behalf of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after marriage equality was legalized nationwide. But the group’s history of anti-LGBT action is much more robust than that:
In 2012, the group applauded a decision by the Boy Scouts of America to keep gay scouts and scout leaders out of the group. The decision “will continue to protect young boys from homosexual pressures and predators,” the Liberty Counsel wrote at the time. Later that year the group compared homosexuality to “smoking or drug addiction.”
The group tells depressed young LGBT people that their sorrow comes from their sin rather than from social pressure and homophobia. It claims that laws protecting LGBT rights allow queer people to “entrap” and “groom” young straight people. It has also weighed in in favor of now-defunct state marriage laws, on the grounds that LGBT relationships present a public health risk.
For its body of work, the Liberty Counsel has been recognized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Again, this school did exactly what it should have in this situation: it created a learning opportunity for students who may not have been exposed to trans people before, but it ultimately gave parents the power to decide whether their children would participate. Still, Liberty Counsel had to meddle.
One day soon, schools won’t have to face legal threats for celebrating difference and diversity, and those who do can be confident they’ll have the support and resources to win. Until then, I hope parents are reading I Am Jazz to their kids and taking time at home to teach them about respect — a lesson they’re being denied at school.