KITTERY POINT, Maine — Officials with a school district in Maine are apologizing after a book about transgendered child was read to elementary school students without advance notice to parents.
An estimated 20 out of 22 classes in kindergarten through third grade at Horace Mitchell Primary School in Kittery Point were recently read the book “I Am Jazz,” written by and about Jazz Jennings, a 14-year-old transgender activist. The book was part of a lesson to children about tolerance and acceptance.
“I have a girl brain but a boy body,” it reads. “This is called transgender. I was born this way!”
But according to reports, the book left some students with a lot of questions and they came home asking their parents if they might be transgender. Some parents consequently contacted the school out of concern that they were never notified that the material would be read to their children.
“My right as a parent to allow or not allow this discussion with my child was taken from me,” one unidentified parent of a first-grader told conservative reporter Sean Hannity. “It is very upsetting to me that I didn’t have an option at all.”
She said that her son asked her if he might really be “a girl in love with a girl.”
“I was taken aback by [what was read to them],” the parent stated. “Being seven, once you put something in their mind they don’t forget so easily.”
The day after her words were published, Superintendent Allyn Hutton sent out a letter to parents about the lesson with an apology that prior notice had not been given about the reading.
“The Kittery School District embraces diversity and is committed to creating an atmosphere of respect and tolerance for all people, regardless of their race, religion, political belief system or sexual orientation,” she wrote. “… With this in mind, guidance staff of the Horace Mitchell School recently read aloud the book, ‘I Am Jazz,’ a book about a transgender student.”
“We have a practice of if a topic is considered sensitive, parents should be informed. In this situation, that didn’t happen,” she continued. “The whole culture at Mitchell School is about teaching tolerance and respect. The people presenting the lesson thought [‘I Am Jazz’] was one more piece of teaching that lesson. In retrospect, we understand that toleration is tolerating people of all opinions.”
However, the school’s guidance blog asserts that it is not inappropriate to teach elementary school students about gender identity issues.
“Some may think primary school students are too young to worry about addressing issues surrounding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students. Not so, experts say,” it reads. “It’s never too early to begin teaching children about respecting differences. When our students and their parents have questions related to LGBTQ issues, our goal is to foster healthy dialog, critical thinking and inclusiveness.”