So much for “parental rights.” As various religious-conservative school board members and candidates have made abundantly clear, their aim is not to empower parents but to use Colorado’s public schools to promote their faith-based agenda.
Barbara Evanson, the apparent victor in a Mesa County District 51 school board race, wants public schools to teach Biblical creationism as science. See my earlier article here and my column for the Colorado Times Recorder.
Evanson also answered questions from a survey put out by Andrew Wommack’s religious authoritarian organization Truth & Liberty, lining up her answers with the views of the organization.
As the survey makes clear, the aim is not merely to ensure that adults in schools do not exert undue influence on students to identify as a different gender. Rather, the aim is to refuse to recognize the gender identity of transgender students—even when parents are totally supportive of their children in this.
The survey states, and Evanson agrees: “Teachers have the right to refer to a student according to the pronoun corresponding to the student’s biological sex at birth.” In other words, according to this statement, a public-school teacher somehow has a “right” to refer to a transgender girl student as “he,” and a transgender boy student as “she,” even when the parents support their child’s transgender identity.
Can we now stop pretending that these religious conservatives care at all about respecting the rights and choices of parents? What they advocate, precisely, is the “right” of select parents who share their religious authoritarian beliefs to impose their will on other parents who do not share those beliefs.
The alleged “right” of public-school teachers to misgender transgender students is a complete fabrication. There is no such right. In the context of public schools, teachers have a moral and legal obligation to treat all students respectfully and without bigotry.
The next survey item states, “Biological males should be allowed to complete in girls’ sports.” There is no exception for ages before puberty, for relative weight or muscle mass, or for any other contextual matter. (I agree that, in certain contexts, such as high-level fighting competitions, there are good biological grounds to limit the participation of transgender women in women’s sports. I think ultimately sports should set tiers by directly relevant physical characteristics rather than by gender.)
Next: “Sex education should be age appropriate, emphasizing the abstinence-based model.” Beyond the fact that abstinence-based sex “education” programs are a complete failure, many parents want their children to receive real sex education rather than religious indoctrination masquerading as sex education.
Despite its obvious antagonism to parental rights, the survey claims to endorse them. It’s general thrust in this regard is fine; it says that “parents have the right to direct the education and upbringing of their children.” That’s true, excepting relevant cases of abuse. However, the details of the statement are unworkably broad. The survey claims that parents have a right to be notified and to “consent before their child receives advice” pertaining “mental or physical health, and medical, gender, and sexuality issues.” Taken literally, that would imply that the school nurse could not suggest that a student put a band-aid on a scratch, without first calling up the parents. If school boards get especially touchy about such matters, the consequence will be that schools will send out reams of legalese to parents to cover all manner of contingencies. We can hope that such demands would be interpreted through the lens of common-sense; schools already have notification policies for sensitive content.
The final entry of the survey is not specific to religion; it is a general conservative “culture war” item. It states, “The United States is not systemically and fundamentally racist, and students should not be taught that people are automatically privileged or oppressed based on their race or skin color.” The problem with this language is that it is ambiguous, and a likely outcome, if conservatives control school policy, is that schools will be purged of uncomfortable although accurate materials concerning race. For what it’s worth, I personally do believe that the United States remains “systemically racist” in important ways (certainly it was during the times of slavery and Jim Crow), as with the disproportionate harm imposed on minority communities by the drug war and by low-quality public education.
At any rate, letting conservatives rather than Progressives dictate school instruction on matters of race hardly is a blow for parental rights or choice. It’s just a case of some parents rather than others setting the terms.
Evanson is one of many candidates who answered the survey. Logan Davis writes, “Using the voter guide responses to identify those aligned with Truth & Liberty, I found 68 candidates across 30 districts. 27 of the 68 Truth & Liberty-aligned candidates won their races.”
In a document in which she endorses Evanson, Darcy Schoening of Smart Choice Colorado makes clear that her aim is not to respect the rights and choices of all other parents. Rather, her aim is to “move school policy towards the Right, rather than further left.” she writes to those who share her views, “We must take control of our children’s education.” Even if that means taking control of the education of other parents’ children too.