Parent Again Questions LGBTQ Curriculum

SPUSD parent Linda Liu presents objections to LGBTQ gender-identity education in elementary school to the School Board, Nov. 12.
Photo by Skye Hannah

The mother of two Marengo Elementary School students defended her concerns about the LGBTQ curriculum being taught in South Pasadena’s elementary schools — speaking up at Tuesday’s school-board meeting to reiterate thoughts she first expressed at the board’s meeting of June 11.

Linda Liu read a letter to board members similar to a lengthy one she authored and had read into the record on June 11 by several friends. Liu did not personally speak at that June 11 meeting. Tuesday she did speak, but when she ran over her allotted three minutes, she passed off to another friend, who finished reading the letter aloud.     

Echoing her June 11 thoughts, Liu on Tuesday again said she feels LGBTQ education at the elementary level is too early. Although she said she feels teachers have good intentions on teaching diversity within the classroom, she said she objects to education about gender identity with LGBTQ-themed books.

While board members are prohibited from engaging in dialogue with speakers during the public-comments portion of meetings, board Member Jon Primuth — asked for comment by the Review — defended the district’s curriculum and pointed to his own comments on the matter at the board’s June 24 meeting.

At that June 24 meeting, a large number of students, parents and professionals spoke to the school board in opposition to Liu’s original letter.

“The way we create a better community is through more understanding,” Primuth said in June. “More understanding requires empathy and understanding personal experience. If you don’t have personal experience of being ostracized or marginalized or in the minority, you have to borrow that from someone else, and the way to do that is … through friendship, through listening to other experiences, through stories, and if we can increase our capacity for empathy in our children, we can progress as a society.”

Liu’s June 11 letter said, among other things, “Those who design these programs probably believe they are offering hope to the children who may feel different, have flaws or are unloved. They believe it affirms children’s own LGBT identity as something positive and something that makes up a core of who they are as children to make them feel better. This is not the case.’’

Liu quoted data from the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank, that says “94 percent of school-age kids who identify themselves as transgender will grow out of their desires if parents in schools stop encouraging them to internalize and publicize their LGBT identities.” The Witherspoon Institute opposes same-sex marriage, among its positions.

On Tuesday, Liu said she was recently banished from a community Facebook group discussing the issue, and that she spoke up again because she wanted to exercise her parent/guardian rights to participate in the decisions to educate her children.

“I have both gay and lesbian friends,” Liu told the board. “I enjoy their company immensely and respect them as fellow humans. Therefore, I am at a loss as to how (and why) my letter was interpreted and transformed into gay-hating content.”

“We live in a diverse community where different beliefs and values are mutually respected,” she continued. “As a parent, I have deep concerns for my children being exposed to sexual orientation/gender-identity content at the younger age. It has absolutely nothing to do with hating gay or any group of people. Further, labeling people just because they have different opinions is bullying.”

She objected to parents being “forced” to “accept a scientifically inaccurate and age-inappropriate curriculum without option of optout.”

Liu encouraged the board to pursue diversity education “without the concept of gender identity.”

Of several books available at Marengo Elementary, she said she agreed with books illustrating families with two mothers or two fathers, but rejected the book “I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, which is the story of transgender child Jazz Jennings based on her real-life experiences. Liu called the book “risky for children” and that it involved “gender-bending.”

She said that the American College of Pediatrics (ACPeds), a socially conservative advocacy group of pediatricians and other healthcare professionals, said “98 percent of gender-confused boys and 88 percent of gender-confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.”

“What compassionate and reasonable person would condemn young children to this fate knowing that after puberty as many as 88 percent of girls and 98 percent of boys will eventually accept reality and achieve a state of mental and physical health?” Liu said.

ACPeds was listed as a hate group in 2018 by the Southern Poverty Law Center for “pushing anti-LGBT junk science,” protesting adoption by gay couples and promoting conversion therapy for LGBTQ students. Many national researchers have accused ACPeds of misusing or mischaracterizing their work to advance ACPeds’ political agenda.

ACPeds, founded in 2002 and reportedly consisting of 500 members, is different from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an academy with 64,000 members founded in 1930.

In 2010, Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health Francis Collins said ACPeds pulled language from his research “to support an ideology that can cause unnecessary anguish and encourage prejudice. The information they present is misleading and incorrect, and it is particularly troubling that they are distributing it in a way that will confuse school children and their parents.”

The AAP’s Committee on Adolescence issued a statement in 2013 that “although most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are quite resilient and emerge from adolescence as healthy adults, the effects of homophobia and heterosexism can contribute to health disparities in mental health with higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation, higher rates of substance abuse and more sexually transmitted and HIV infections.”