Editor’s note: The subject material of this op/ed is not suitable for young readers.
On Tuesday, March 9th, leaders from the Ames Community School District testified at the House Government Oversight Committee hearing concerning the district’s “Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action” curriculum. Representing the Ames School District were Dr. Jenny Risner (Superintendent), Dr. Anthony Jones (Director of Equity), Dr. Monic Behnken (School Board Member), and Dr. Jeff Hawkins (Director of Education).
Before the hearing, members of the Oversight Committee received numerous emails from concerned parents, teachers, and community members about the controversial classroom materials. On Friday, January 22nd, the school district published a link to an outside source with voluminous amounts of links to articles, graphs, coloring pages, and teaching materials from many sources for all grades K-12. The school district said it would be deriving its curriculum for the week based upon the “13 Guiding Principles” of Black Lives Matter that were posted on their website and teachers could use the posted link as a resource in the classroom. The school district then held a public meeting on Monday, January 25th for the parents to voice concerns before the week would begin on Monday, February 1st.
This timeline gave parents a single weekend to review this huge amount of material that would potentially be used to instruct their children. However, when the House Government Oversight Committee invited the school district to testify before the committee, district officials initially agreed, and then asked to reschedule their appearance, indicating they needed two weeks to be able to review their own documents before they could testify before the committee.
During the hearing, committee members raised concerns over the sources that were linked on the school’s website, some of which have since been edited and/or removed. District officials told committee members that the material on the website was not necessarily taught to the students. Dr. Risner acknowledged that more time should have been given to parents to review the information, and that the communication about the source material and the posting of all of the information on the website created confusion.
Republican members of the committee received an 8-page list of vocabulary words that was handed out to a 4th grade class. It included terms such as “androsexual,” “bicurious,” “biphobia,” “cisnormativity,” “hermaphrodite,” and many more. When specifically asked about terms on the list and the list in its entirety, district officials were unable to answer any questions; claiming they were unaware that it was being used in the classroom.
During the hearing, school district leadership repeatedly rejected statements from Republican legislators that there were parents and community members that raised concerns. Dr. Risner claimed that she only knew of three people that raised concerns at the public meeting, yet on the YouTube stream of the same meeting at least eight people spoke up with their concerns about the curriculum. Many of the emails sent to legislators, and that I received, indicated fear of repercussions for their children if they spoke out or opted their children out of the curriculum. District officials seemed unable to grasp the reality that community parents and teachers reached out to legislators instead of school officials out of fear of retaliation.
Listen to the committee hearing below:
The Ames Community School District appears to have used public resources for blatantly political purposes, may have violated civil rights laws, dismissed concerns of many parents and teachers, and attempted to indoctrinate students by providing only one perspective as fact on highly controversial issues. Furthermore, when confronted with examples of their materials that were not age appropriate, district officials claimed ignorance regarding certain information being distributed to students. They claimed to be unaware of a booklet distributed to an elementary school that had a cover picture with images to “Defund the Police” predominantly displayed, along with other controversial statements. Republican committee members heard from law enforcement parents and others on the pain and confusion these images and materials caused their children.
Why the Concern About the Black Lives Matter Curriculum in Ames?
The Black Lives Matter movement’s founders are Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. In 2015, Cullors said of the three co-founders, “We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on, sort of, ideological theories.” Schools once taught the reality that Marxism is explicitly anti-capitalism and advocates atheism. Republicans and Democrats were once united in their opposition to Marxism and the destructive concepts it embraces. Apparently, not anymore.
Here is a small sampling of curriculum material the Ames Community School District posted on their website:
The National Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action Starter Kit takes direct aim at the values of a colorblind society based on equality and toleranceby saying, “Relying on colorblind rhetoric around kindness and tolerance only perpetuates the issues at hand and does nothing to challenge structural racism and white supremacy.” The principles embraced in these teachings turn the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., upside down, by teaching to judge by skin color instead of character.
The Black Lives Matter organization is devoted to 13 Guiding Principles. Four of those principles are:
- Empathy – one’s ability to connect with others by building relationships built on mutual trust and understanding. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.
- Transgender Affirming – the commitment to continue to make space for our trans brothers and sisters by encouraging leadership and recognizing trans-antagonistic violence.
- Queer Affirming – working towards a queer-affirming network where heteronormative thinking no longer exists.
- Black Villages – the disruption of Western nuclear family dynamics and a return to the “collective village” that care for each other.
The leaders of the Ames Community School District insisted that the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action was not about politics. This is ridiculous on its face; consider that one of the things distributed on its website was the Black Lives Matter National 2020 Voter Toolkit. The toolkit pushes:
- Promotion of “strategic political actions.”
- Overt left-wing political messages such as defining Voter ID requirements as part of “the long history of voter suppression in this country” and “racist political maneuverings.”
- Links to left-wing organizations/people like:
- Zinn Education Project – Named after political scientist and left-wing activist Howard Zinn who is best known for writing “A People’s History of the United States” which he described as a biased account of history.
- Ibram X. Kendi – Author of “How to be an Anti-Racist” and purveyor of Critical Race Theory.
- Brennan Center for Justice – progressive public policy institute at NYU College of Law that promotes universal mail-in ballots and endorsed Pelosi’s 2021 “For the People” Act.
- Color of Change – Online Racial Justice organization that “challenges racist and anti-progressive Trump administration and state policies” along with “ending voter intimidation and voter suppression policies, including Voter ID laws” and “building momentum for progressive tax, labor and education policies.”
A 216-page planner for the school year from the Education for Liberation Network called the Plan Book for Social Justice Educators was distributed to teachers in the district. The Education for Liberation Network is a national organization of teachers and activists who advocate for ideologies that support left-wing political agendas. The introduction to the planner says it is “packed with important social justice birthdays and historical events – especially those that may get left out of mainstream textbooks – as well as lesson plans and teaching resources, words of wisdom from visionary leaders, and more,” (p. 3).
Some of the teaching resources are:
- Nov. 26 – Thanksgiving (Day of Mourning) A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving for Educators and Families and Rethinking Thanksgiving: Myths and Misgivings. Targeted to elementary students, (p. 143-144).
- March 21 – The White Supremacy and Me Workbook – A text and a process for those holding White privilege to examine and dismantle their complicity in White supremacy. Targeted to teachers, (p. 161).
- April 1 – How My Third Graders and I Address Consent – In the wake of #MeToo and the Kavanaugh hearings a teacher shares her strategies for addressing consent with elementary students. Targeted to elementary students, (p. 163).
- April 17 – Fidel in the Cuban Socialist Revolution – by Fidel Castro. A selection of speeches and television appearances by Fidel Castro during the first two years of the Cuban Revolution. Targeted to high school students, (p. 166).
- May 1 – Fighting for a Living Wage – A collection of links and resources related to organizing for the “Fight for $15” a national struggle to increase the minimum wage to $15. In the section titled, “Make the Fight for Living Wage a Teachable Moment” are lesson plans and multimedia resources related to the “Fight for $15”. Targeted to high school students, (p. 168).
- May 6 – The Body is Not an Apology – This book uses a framework of radical self-love to heal the wounds inflicted by violent systems such as patriarchy, White supremacy, and capitalism. Targeted to high school students, (p. 169).
- Two of the visionary leaders quoted in the planner are U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., (p. 5, p. 29).
It only gets worse. During the Oversight meeting on March 9th, officials from the Ames school district repeatedly said the material used was age and grade appropriate. I’ll let readers decide for themselves; listed below are terms from a vocabulary sheet of 89 LGBTQ+ supplied to 4th graders:
- Androsexual/androphillic – adj. being primarily sexually attracted, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to men, males, and/or masculinity
- Asexual – adj. experiencing little or no sexual attraction to others and/or has a lack of interest in sexual relationships/behavior. Asexuality exists on a continuum from people who experience no sexual attraction or have any desire for sex, to those who experience low levels, or sexual attraction only under specific conditions. Many of these places on the continuum have their own identity labels (such as demisexual). Sometimes abbreviated to “ace.”
- Bigender – noun. A person who fluctuates between traditionally “woman” and “man” gender-based behavior and identities, identifying with both genders (or sometimes identifying with either man or woman, as well as a third, different gender).
- Constellation – noun. A way to describe the arrangement or structure of a polyamorous relationship.
- Gynesexual/gynephilic – adj. being primarily sexually, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to woman, females and/or feminity.
- Sex Assigned at Birth (SAAB) – abbr. a phrase used to intentionally recognize a person’s assigned sex (not gender identity). Sometimes called “designated sex at birth” (DSAB) or “sex coercively assigned at birth” (SCAB), or specifically used as “assigned male at birth” (AMAB) or “assigned female at birth” (AFAB).
- Skoliosexual – noun. Being primarily sexually, romantically and /or emotionally attracted to some genderqueer, transgender, transsexual, and/or non-binary people.
- Spiritual Attraction – noun. A capacity that evokes the want to engage in intimate behavior based on one’s experience with, interpretation of, or belief in the supernatural (e.g. religious teachings, messages from a deity), experienced in varying degrees (from little-to-none, to intense). Often conflated with sexual attraction, romantic attraction or emotional attraction.
- Stud – noun. Most commonly used to indicate a Black/African-American and/or Latina masculine lesbian/queer woman. Also known as ‘butch’ or ‘aggressive.’
- Ze/zir – alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by trans people. They replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” respectively. Alternatively, some people who are not comfortable/do not embrace he/she use the plural pronoun “they/their” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun.
It is hard to believe that these materials and ideas were actually shared in a school district in Iowa to very young children, but they were.
The actions of the Ames Community School District have prompted calls for greater parental choice in education by parents who will not tolerate the indoctrination of their children into a radical ideology they view as anti-American, divisive to society and a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs.
Hopefully, this week’s hearing will help provide needed sunlight on what the Ames school district plans in future curriculums. More importantly, it should alert parents across the state to monitor what their children are being taught. It should also be a wake-up call for citizens to get deeply involved in local school board elections and elect leaders who will not tolerate schools becoming indoctrination centers for the far-Left.
My thanks to caucus staff for their comprehensive work on this profoundly important issue. Legislation is coming to address some of what happened in Ames with the intent that this never happen again in any school district in Iowa, but citizen engagement is the best way to stop this.