When the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction unveiled its new learning standards for health and physical education, a particular topic drew the attention of many parents: gender identity.
Vlada Knowlton, of Bellevue, has three children, including her youngest, their transgender daughter. After hearing the state's new learning standards would address gender identity, she believes it will help children learn empathy.
"First of all accept themselves, love themselves and understand themselves for who they are," said Knowlton. "And it can only help kids respect and understand their peers and their friends."
OSPI revealed its Health and Physical Education Standards for the fall of 2017. When it comes to sexual health, there is now a self-identity component. It says that kindergarten students can be taught to "understand there are many ways to express gender."
In fourth grade, kids could learn about sexual orientation.
"The hope is that there is a built scope and sequence from grades K-12," said Marissa Rathbone, OSPI's director of learning and teaching.
Rathbone gave us an idea how it can be adopted into the curriculum.
"A very general example of that, regardless of your gender you can play any sport you want. Regardless of your gender, you can wear any color of clothes," said Rathbone. "Boys can wear pink. As an example of something that would demystify gender norms that were previously set for students."
Rathbone explains the core ideas are not requirements. Each school district can decide on its own how to apply them in class.
"I feel like it's really short-sighted," said Kaeley Triller Haver of Gig Harbor, a parent of two young children.
Triller Haver's daughter starts kindergarten next year. She worries how her kids will be graded on curriculum involving ideological differences.
"When you get into the more philosophical realm of things, that is a decision that parents need to be able to have with their children when they're ready for it," she said.
"Every parent voice has a right to be heard," said Rathbone.
OSPI says it will be up to districts to build their curriculum through a dialog with parents. The goal is to make sure all kids feel acknowledged.
For more information on the new standards, go to the O.S.P.I.'s website.
If you are the parent of a transgender child, here is additional information and resources:
- FAQs about LGBTQ youth from the Youth Suicide Prevention Program
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- Lambert House, a Capitol Hill-based center for LGBTQ youth
- Seattle Area Support Groups and Community Center for transgender individuals