Equality California has sent a letter to Rocklin Academy officials applauding the school for its support of a transgender kindergarten student following the reading of a book geared toward that age group by transgender teen and reality TV star Jazz Jennings. As a result of activities by right-wing advocacy groups, a number of parents complained after a transgender student brought the book “I am Jazz” to share with students in her kindergarten class. The book discusses Jennings’ childhood, what it is to be transgender and a message of respect and inclusion for everyone.
“’I am Jazz’ above all teaches children to be kind and have empathy for each other, and is entirely appropriate reading material for a kindergarten class,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “Children as young as three have a well-defined sense of gender identity, and children, unlike some adults, have no problem understanding that not everyone fits the same mold. We commend the teacher in question, Rocklin Academy and Rocklin Unified School District officials for working to make sure all students are safe, supported and have a welcoming place to learn. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s what state law requires. It is unfortunate that appropriate activities by a teacher to protect a transgender child were used by right-wing opponents of LGBTQ equality to manufacture a controversy and to spread misinformation about the school and about transgender people in general. Media reports have added to the confusion, incorrectly stating that the reading was part of a ‘reveal’ of the child’s gender transition and misrepresenting the American College of Pediatricians, a recognized right-wing hate group, as a mainstream medical organization.”
The American College of Pediatricians, quoted in several recent news reports about the Rocklin incident as a neutral medical authority, is a small and extreme right-wing advocacy group at odds with the mainstream American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) over issues including abortion, corporal punishment of children and same-sex parents. It has been branded as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and condemned by organizations including the U.S. National Institutes of Health for misrepresenting research. In contrast, the mainstream AAP issued a statement in July affirming that:
“As pediatricians, we know that transgender children fare much better when they feel supported by their family, school and larger community. Shaming children based on their gender identity or expression is harmful to their social-emotional health and may have lifelong consequences. This includes public discourse that de-legitimizes the contributions that transgender individuals make to society.
“The AAP supports policies that are gender-affirming for children – an approach that is supported by other key professional organizations. In 2016, the AAP joined with other organizations to produce the document, “Supporting & Caring for Transgender Children,” a guide for community members and allies to ensure that transgender young people are affirmed, respected, and able to thrive.
“We urge all the leaders in our communities to use language that inspires and empowers children, adolescents and young adults. Our nation’s future success depends on them.”
Thirteen states including California, the District of Columbia and local school districts across the country have proven that they can successfully implement laws and policies protecting transgender students from discrimination while still meeting the needs of all students.
The letter also invites district officials to participate in Equality California’s Safe and Supportive Schools Index, currently in development. The Index will track metrics including whether districts have fully implemented the new History-Social Science Framework mandating the inclusion of LGBTQ people and social movements, if programs supporting LGBTQ students are available on campus and whether gender-neutral bathrooms are available for transgender students, among other things.
It is being developed with the help of the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP, two advisory committees, and school district officials and teachers unions across the state, as well as with the office of California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.