OAK PARK (CBSLA) — A school district in Ventura County will start teaching gender diversity for children in kindergarten through fifth grade to create a more inclusive environment for students, but some parents said they were not happy with the new curriculum.
“Many people, us in case, are not happy with what they’re introducing, because we feel it’s very inappropriate for kids that age, namely our son,” Carols Velasco, an Oak Park parent, said. “He’s in second grade.”
Oak Park Unified School District said the gender diversity program, that was passed back in April, teaches children — in age appropriate language — about expressions of gender, including male and female, non-binary and transgender.
“There might be some confusion getting that into kids’ minds,” another parent said. “That’s what I think.”
Students enrolled in the school district will learn about gender identity once per year in a 30-45 minute class taught by a school counselor using what the district said are age appropriate books and lesson plans.
“Well I think what we’re talking about in kindergarten and first grade are not what maybe a lot of people are imaging,” Dr. Tony Knight, superintendent for the district, said. “If you look at the kindergarten and first grade books, for example, they’re about a crayon that’s labeled as red, but is actually blue.”
According to the district, the course is not a sex education class, and parents cannot opt out of the program because state law requires districts to include the LGBTQ+ community in its teachings.
Along with educating students about gender diversity, Knight said the program is also designed to help curb bullying and prevent suicide among students in the LGBTQ+ community.
“One of the reasons this is such important work for us is that we don’t want to have a suicide over this issue, which is not something to be ashamed of,” Knight said.
The district said the program is designed to make sure all students, regardless of gender expression, feel safe at school. One parent, who asked not to be identified, has a child in elementary school who identifies as a gender different from the gender that was assigned at birth.
“I am profoundly grateful for how supportive the school district has been and how courageous they’ve been at opening the door for deeper understanding for kids like mine,” she said.
The first lessons will begin in the next couple of weeks. To find out more about the program, visit OPUSD’s website about the program.