School board to consider books to replace Lesson 9
Alameda’s Board of Education is set to consider a list of books for grade schoolers at its meeting tonight that’s intended to bolster the school district’s anti-bullying efforts – and replace the district’s anti-gay bullying Lesson 9.
The 21 books on the district’s proposed list are intended to bolster understanding of people of different races, ethnicities and nationalities; genders; religions; sexual orientations; and people with disabilities in order to curb bullying based on those differences. The books would supplement those already in the district’s elementary schools and a generic anti-violence curriculum approved by the board late last year.
They would also replace Lesson 9, the anti-gay bullying lesson the board approved adding to the district’s existing anti-violence curriculum in May 2009. The lesson was generated to address what some felt was a lack of positive images of gays and their families in the district’s existing curriculum.
Supporters said the lesson offered a much-needed bulwark against anti-gay bullying which they said began as early as grammar school and had devastating consequences for children on the receiving end of it. But opponents said the lesson went too far, trampling on religious beliefs that condemn homosexuality and their authority as parents to tell their children right from wrong.
Opponents also criticized the district for failing to make the same efforts to address bullying based on race, religion and other factors. District officials ultimately conceded that more could be done to address those issues, and they pledged to broaden the curriculum’s scope.
The school board voted in December 2009 to add new anti-bullying lessons for students in grades 3-5 and a literature guide, and to put together a list of new books to address race, religion and other groups that are to be protected from bullying and harassment as a matter of state law. The list was generated by a group of teachers with input from interested community members.
Teachers looked at a state literature list, took community suggestions and also looked to see what books that addressed the district’s anti-bullying efforts were already being taught. They found books on race, religion, gender, nationality and disability, but none that addressed gender identity or sexual orientation.
The proposed final list includes a book on sexual orientation for each grade. The list includes “The Family Book,” which introduces an array of different types of families that would be taught to kindergartners; “Heather Has Two Mommies,” about a preschooler with two moms who learns about her classmates’ different families, for grade two; and “And Tango Makes Three,” a story about two male penguins raising a baby penguin, for grade three.
The list (which is below) also includes books that deal with disabilities, religion, gender, race and ethnicity. The list also includes “My Brother Charlie,” a book about a girl and her autistic twin, which would be taught to kindergartners; and “The Golden Rule,” a book about the rule and how it is considered in different religions, for first graders.
Alameda Concerned Parents, a group of parents that has opposed Lesson 9, issued a statement Monday opposing the district’s book choices dealing with sexual orientation, and they want five of the books taken off the list. They said inclusion of four of the books – “Heather,” “Tango,” “In Our Mother’s House” and “The Harvey Milk Story” – would violate the school board’s policy on controversial issues. And a fifth, “All I Want to Be is Me,” could create gender confusion, they said.
“Eight out of the 21 books promote changing gender or claiming homosexual identity, and none of the books protect children who respectfully disagree,” Kerry Cook, a member of the group who worked on the district’s recent anti-bullying efforts, said.