School Districts Become Less Inclusive: What Next? – Trinitonian

The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) in North Texas is notorious for several things: racist jokes against Hispanic students, the firing of their first black principal, and the recent enactment of a policy prohibiting any discussion of sexuality, pronouns, gender identity and racial discrimination, including the role of slavery in the United States. After spending twelve years in this school district, I’m always disappointed to read a new headline about them walking away from a tolerant environment. No one wants their former school district to be known for its discrimination and intolerance, but the problem goes far beyond just a tarnished legacy.

The new policy, adopted in late August, effectively prohibits instructors from teaching that “the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States was the true foundation of the United States” or “any idea, belief…link to…’critical race theory'” or that “gender fluidity” even exists. The policy continues to prevent students from using a bathroom other than the one designated for their biological sex, discourages the use of pronouns other than those assigned at birth, and prevents teachers from communicating anything about sexual orientation to children under grade 6. These points stack on top of each other, making GCISD schools an unwelcoming place for many marginalized students in the name of “protecting children” and strengthening their education.

However, this problem does not come from nowhere and is not isolated. GCISD schools have never been the friendliest. I remember growing up hearing slurs thrown around casually, gay being used as a slur and students who were visibly gay and/or trans faced with ridicule, both to their face and behind their backs. However, not only does this prejudice persist, but it has been codified in the very doctrines that define the way in which teachers present information to students.

Other schools across the country are facing the same problems. A 2019 study found that over 90% of LGBTQ+ middle and high school students in the United States grew up hearing negative comments about their sexuality or identity and viewed these comments as detrimental to their mental health. Another study found that 1.6 million students in the 2018-2019 school year experienced hate speech, most of which was related to their race or ethnicity. Across the country, children are growing up isolated because of their identity. The codification of this isolation limits their ability to understand or be understood, both now and much later in life.

The primary sources of early childhood socialization – or learning the basics of how to interact with the society around us – are family and school. Forcing schools to ban ideological discussions deprives children of the chance to get used to the world around them and to learn to accept themselves. However, some schools are going in the opposite direction, requiring students to receive education about race and sexual orientation as part of their curriculum. These schools express that if children learn these identities, not only will they show more tolerance towards others, but they will also feel safer themselves. These children enter the rest of their lives with the tools to accept themselves and show compassion to anyone different from them. They go to college with an open mind and enter the workforce thinking about more than just them. LGBTQ+ students and students of color feel less isolated in these spaces because they are taught that their identity is part of the norm, not the exception. They don’t grow up isolated, hearing derogatory remarks about who they are.

There is too much good potential in teaching about race and sexual orientation in elementary schools to let it go. GCISD is just one unfortunate example of school boards giving in to fear of “critical race theory” or LGBTQ+ activists indoctrinating their children. If we want to create a more tolerant and self-accepting population, we must ensure that these policies do not go unnoticed and that there are remedies to limit learning. GCISD students have already taken action by organizing a walkout to protest the new transphobic policies. We can also keep these policies in mind, so that when we vote for school boards – or maybe even are lucky enough to be on a school board – we have the ability to advocate for policies that encourage the emotional and mental growth of all, not just the majority.

About Leslie Schwartz

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