The California Teachers Association recently held an event, the “2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities,” in Palm Springs, California.
Two middle school teachers taught a workshop, “How We Run a ‘GSA’ [Gay-Straight Alliance] in Conservative Communities.” The pair gave advice about recruiting kids into a GSA club and circumventing parents who ask questions.
Kelly Baraki and Lori Caldeira described their workshop this way:
In previous presentations, we shared how we started our middle school equity/diversity/GSA club. We shared how we recruited students, how we ran our meetings, and some of the activities we used to build community. We were riding high for several years…until we weren’t…we crashed spectacularly! When we last presented, we shared the obstacles, challenges, and failures we experienced. And yet, we persist. We are still here. And we’d like to share the story of how we rebuilt our program and clawed our way back to existence.
How do the two entice middle schoolers to participate?
Speakers went so far as to tout their surveillance of students’ Google searches, internet activity, and hallway conversations in order to target sixth graders for personal invitations to LGBTQ clubs, while actively concealing these clubs’ membership rolls from participants’ parents.
The teachers circumvent pesky parents who might want to know whether their children are part of the GSA. Shrier quotes audio of Caldeira who said,
Because we are not official – we have no club rosters, we keep no records. … In fact, sometimes we don’t really want to keep records because if parents get upset that their kids are coming? We’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe they came?’ You know, we would never want a kid to get in trouble for attending if their parents are upset.
The two teachers host a special anti-bullying assembly for their school each year where they discuss sexual orientation and gender identity, among other issues. One parent sent an email complaining about the presentation, saying she wasn’t intending to talk with her child about LGBT issues that were addressed in the assembly.
Baraki mocked her, saying, “I know, so sad, right? Sorry for you, you had to do something hard! Honestly, your twelve-year-old probably knew all that, right?”
At another point in the workshop, Caldeira crowed that she couldn’t be fired if parents objected to the assembly or the student club – which is supposed to be student-led. She said,
Plus, I hate to say this, but thank you CTA – but I have tenure! You can’t fire me for running a GSA. And so, you can be mad, but you can’t fire me for it. CTA has made it very clear that they are devoted to human rights and equity. They provide us with these sources, these resources and tools.
This was just one of the workshops at the “Beyond the Binary” event. The conference, where teachers could receive professional growth and university credits, featured other workshops, such as:
- Advocating for LGBTQIA Students in Rural and Conservative Districts
- BIPOC [black, indigenous and persons of color] Leadership & Engagement
- Decolonize the Classroom and Me
- Empowering Student Social Justice Activists
- My Identity is Not Up for Debate: Speaking Our Truth as Bisexual and Pansexual Educators
- Securing Our Queer Futures by Recruiting and Electing LGBTQ+ Educators to School Boards and Local Labor Councils
- Celebrate “Harvey Milk Day” at Your School!
- Trangender 101- Breaking Down the Binary and Acknowledging the Spectrum [sic]
To be clear, not all teachers are activists. Many teachers are wonderful professionals who do not try to push a radical agenda on children. And many are Christians who feel called to teach as both a vocation and a ministry.
But parents should be aware that teacher training colleges are churning out both teachers and administrators with extremist ideologies.
Parents should know, too, that they can positively influence what happens at their children’s schools. In an update to her article about the conference, Shrier said the Spreckels Union School District, where Caldeira and Baraki teach, has suspended the GSA club and has prohibited all teachers from monitoring students’ online activity – as the two were doing.
The district also promised to share sensitive themes in any presentation or assembly with parents, before being shown to students. And it requires all clubs to submit an outline of activities, have students sign in for meetings, and have attendees bring a parent or guardian permission slip.
In a second update, Shrier said the Salinas California district sent parents an email update saying the staff involved in the workshop were placed on administrative leave and a third party would conduct an investigation.
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