Last week, CBLDF joined the National Coalition Against Censorship in asking a California school to uphold their policies for classroom reading. Earlier this week, the school board for Rocklin Academy Gateway voted to keep their literature policy unchanged.
In June, some parents in the community challenged the reading of a LGBTQIA children’s book in a kindergarten classroom. The controversy arose when a teacher read I Am Jazz and Red: A Crayon’s Story out loud to her students in order to help them understand a classmate’s gender transition. The student herself had brought I Am Jazz, co-written by Jessica Herthel and transgender teen Jazz Jennings with illustrations by Shelagh McNicholas, to share with the class.
According to a fact sheet on the RAFOS website, the district has a longstanding practice of “allow[ing] children to bring in books to classrooms to be read that are of interest to them or help classmates understand their heritage or culture.” I Am Jazz also appears on the California Department of Education’s Recommended Literature List for grades K-2. The teacher also chose to read Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, about a blue crayon that has been mislabeled as red.
The controversy has caused significant strife in the community. At least 14 families pulled their children from the school. Others have requested the ability to “opt out” their children from being in the same class as transgender students, which RAFOS explained would constitute illegal discrimination. Due to intense community interest in Monday night’s school board meeting, RAFOS held it in a ballroom with a capacity of 500 people.
While we applaud the school’s decision to stand by the policy and affirm the inclusion of LGBTQIA literature in classrooms, the board did make one decision that raises some concern: it has committed to forewarning parents about potentially controversial material. Previously RAFOS had maintained that gender identity does not fall under the umbrella of sex education or any other topic that would require parental notification, so it is unclear exactly how “controversial or sensitive topics” will be defined under the newly adopted policy. NCAC and other free speech advocates note that such flagging policies may invite complaints and disrupt the educational process.
Read the NCAC letter that CBLDF signed in advance of the school board meeting below.