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Should IDENTITY be addressed in public schools?

Updated: Jul 3, 2022

Since 2020 I have seen curricula and books from my children’s classrooms, and trainings for Murray’s public school teachers addressing identity (see attached photos). This has deeply concerned me.

When I teach my children about their identity, I focus on our belief that they are children of God. Their identity and worth are divine, and while there are other important aspects of who they are, the most important and defining characteristics of their identity are their divinity and their eternal relationship to God. I teach them that they can recognize their divine worth and identity through the Holy Ghost - which comes to them as a feeling of peace in their heart and a confirmation of surety in their mind.

This is a sacred teaching to me and my family.

The book Call Me Max, by Kyle Lukoff, is about gender IDENTITY. This book was read in my child’s 3rd grade classroom. The main character, Max, is a biological girl who decides she is a boy and changes her name and pronouns. How does she know she’s a boy? Well, as she states in the book, “Because I feel like one… on the inside.” It’s not science. It’s not logic. It’s an identity based on feelings.

I watched an interview on NBC Nightly News from April 2015 with Dr. Michelle Forcier, associate professor of pediatrics at Brown University Alpert Medical School. She is a pediatrician who offers “gender-affirming” care. In this interview she speaks of gender identity being connected to a child’s heart, mind and soul. Yes… SOUL. She says, “The big place for gender is our brain, our heart, and our soul. Identity - who we are. Which isn’t parts. It’s in here (gestures to face/head).”

Is it a scientific fact that gender identity is part of our soul? If a teacher (or a doctor, for that matter) tells children that they can and should determine their identity based on their heart, mind, and soul, is she teaching scientific fact and logic? Or is she actually teaching a belief system? I think the answer is obvious.

When my child’s teacher tells a classroom of 8-year-olds that Max determined her identity based on her inside feelings, and that the feelings found within Max’s heart and mind are TRUTH and must be validated, she’s teaching a belief system and calling it truth. In other words, a religion. Make no mistake - this is NOT scientific, this is NOT fact based, this is NOT academic.

If anyone is going to teach our children about determining their identity, who should be in charge of that? Schools, teachers, or social workers? Or parents in the home?

The First Amendment of the US Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thomas Jefferson later said that this Amendment built a wall of separation between Church and State. What I believe he and our country’s founders meant by this was that there should be no state-sponsored religion. When our public, tax-funded school teachers, classrooms, and curricula are encouraging a certain belief system based on inward thoughts and feelings, and calling it truth, to me that is a form of state-sponsored religion.

We shouldn’t have to wonder if “intersectional” race/gender/sexual/etc. belief systems are being taught to our children in public schools. These topics simply should NOT be addressed in school settings. If my (and many others’) belief system about divine identity and the feelings that accompany it are not allowed in the schools (and rightly so, according to our laws), then other belief systems about identity and the feelings that accompany them should also not be allowed in the schools. This is the separation between Church and State.

Teaching and promoting identity belief systems should not be happening in our schools, and it needs to stop now. Murray School District needs board members who are straightforward, not afraid to take a stand, and who will push back against these ideologies and the activists promoting them. Gone are the days of sitting on the fence and quietly attempting to go along to get along. It’s time to step up. As a Murray School Board member I will face these issues head on and take a hard stand for schools being academically focused, as they were originally intended and as they still should be.

April Wilde Despain

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