Some parents of students at Rocklin Academy Gateway in Sacramento, California, are outraged that the book I Am Jazz was read in school, leading to online vitriol. Two kids have been pulled from the school.
This past June, a transgender kindergartner brought two books to share with the class. One of the books was I Am Jazz, the story of Jazz Jennings. In the book, Jazz says, “I have a girl brain but a boy body. This is called transgender. I was born this way!”
The other book is Red: A Crayon’s Story. It’s a funny book for young children about a blue crayon that accidentally gets wrapped in a label that says “red.” He expresses his feelings as others try to make him red (“Let’s draw strawberries!”). The book doesn’t mention gender identity directly.
The teacher read the books to the class. Some parents found out and became upset, saying they felt “betrayed.” Some went to a board meeting in June to say that they should have been informed that the books would be read, and two students were pulled from the school.
This prompted a review of the books by the administration over the summer. The school system’s executive director Robin Stout announced in a letter to parents last week that the books do not talk about sex, and, under the school’s policy, the teacher did not need to inform parents that they would be read.
That announcement led to more hatred and rumors online, and major conservative websites (no, I won’t link) started describing what happened as a “transition ceremony” or a “gender reveal,” where a student went to the bathroom dressed as a boy and came out dressed as a girl and everyone celebrated.
The school principal at the time, Jillayne Antoon, says that the “transition ceremony” never happened, but that the transgender girl did change into a dress one day when water play was canceled. “A couple of girls complimented her on her dress,” Antoon said.
At a board meeting last week, the kindergarten teacher who read the books defended her decision. “I’m so proud of my students, it was never my intent to harm any students but to help them through a difficult situation,” she said, holding back tears.
Some parents were not satisfied. “I want her to hear from me as a parent what her gender identity means to her and our family, not from a book that may be controversial,” one unidentified parent said.
Another parent at the meeting said, “My daughter came home crying and shaking, so afraid she could turn into a boy.”
Religious conservative organizations have also gotten involved in the debate. “These children belong to the parents and not to the Rocklin Academy,” said Karen England of the Capitol Resource Institute. “They shouldn’t have it forced upon them by the school.”
Stout stresses that most parents did not have a problem with the books. The Sacramento Bee talked to one parent of a child in the class who was fine with the book. “This is a topic that is very pertinent to our times. If I wanted to have this discussion with my child I don’t know of a mechanism that would work out better than this.”
The parents of the transgender girl who brought the books to school have not commented publicly on this story. The people who are outraged – parents and conservative organizations and rightwing media alike – have shown no concern at all for her well-being.