By Corinne Murdock |
Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) allows students to replace their legal birth names, called “deadnames,” on their IDs with their preferred names. The district folded to a push from a Gender & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) chapter at Cocopah Middle School: these clubs are part of a national network pushing a hyperfocus on a child’s sexuality while engaging them in social justice activism.
One GSA middle schooler revealed SUSD’s “deadname” policy during a testimonial video featured at the latest annual fundraising award ceremony hosted by the Phoenix chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN, pronounced “glisten”: an activist organization pushing for comprehensive LGBTQ+ sex education and other social justice activism), called the Sparkle Glitter GLSEN Remote Fundraiser and Respect Awards. Arizona Daily Independent first reported on the video. The mother of the anonymous student was also present; her daughter revealed that her GSA club pushed SUSD to create a “deadname” policy. The young students were instigated and aided by a teacher serving as their club sponsor, Laynee Langner, whose efforts helped them cinch the award “GSA of the Year.”
“One of my friends, who is trans, had their deadname on their ID and we thought that was kind of unfair because everyone was calling them by their deadname,” complained the middle schooler. “We took it to district board level and got it changed for the entire district so that the entire district’s students could have their proper names on the ID.”
Langner explained that the students do what they want, when they want in their GSA. She further explained that school policy forbade students from using chosen names on their ID for proper identification reasons.
“Every single student has to wear their ID all day every day, and these have their ‘deadnames,’ and they wanted that changed. The consensus is that we can’t because it’s their legal names, and we need to have their legal names on their IDs. And I came back and told the students and they were so upset,” said Langner. “I haven’t seen such joy on the face of a child when I told them they didn’t have to have their ‘deadname’ on their ID, that they could have their chosen name on their ID. It was just euphoria, and it brought – it’s just bringing tears to my eyes right now.”
“Deadnames” are the birth names that individuals reject upon transitioning genders. The lack of a space between “dead” and “names” wasn’t an oversight – that’s the spelling recognized by activists, and even Merriam Webster. Activists also use the verb “deadnaming” to refer to the accidental or purposeful practice of using an individual’s legal birth name.
GSAs originated with GLSEN in the late 1990s. GLSEN, established in 1990, not only promotes the sexualization of children, it intertwines the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in its messaging. In guidelines for promoting inclusivity through a GSA, GLSEN wrote that having black representation in GSA leadership was necessary, and touched on topics like intersectionality, solidarity, centeredness, anti-racism, and white supremacy. It also insisted that GSA engage in social justice activism.
“If you’re discussing gender identity, talk about the gender binary as a white supremacist concept, and share information about some of the many African and Indigenous tribes that have embraced gender outside of the binary for decades,” read the post. “Have in-depth conversations in your GSA about intersectionality, solidarity, and anti-racism. These conversations are incredibly important, but you must also ensure that you do not place any undue burden on Black club members to share their trauma or to teach non-Black club members about racism. Provide space for Black people to process during or after these conversations, if needed, and make sure students know that they can step out at any point if they’re uncomfortable or triggered.”
Last year’s GSA Summit focused on a partnership with Black Lives Matter (BLM). The National Education Association (NEA) was also involved.
The club has caused deep divisions on campus in its short existence within SUSD, also mentioned during the Sparkle Glitter GLSEN Remote Fundraiser and Respect Awards testimonial video. The anonymous mother-daughter duo who revealed that the GSA sixth graders pushed SUSD to create a “deadname” policy described the divide their GSA caused at Cocopah Middle School. The mother said that their activism caused “a whole lot of problems” and said that some parents threatened to leave their middle school while others brought GSA cake to thank them.
“There was a very clear divide in the sixth graders. Those who participated were called ‘gay’ and those who didn’t participate were called ‘homophobic,’” said the middle schooler.
This is the same district formerly led by Jann-Michael Greenburg, the SUSD board member removed from presidency over his connection to a dossier on political and parental opponents created by his father.
One legislator, State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), promised to intervene with a bill to require parental consent before a student can join a school club involving gender, gender identity, and/or sexuality, as well as require schools to give parents detailed information about those types of clubs. The representative asserted that the backdoor approach to sneaking in curriculum through clubs must come to an end.
“School districts should be serving the needs of families and students and not replacing their own ideologies with the beliefs of the parents. My bill would close a loophole that school districts have found in the state law that requires parental approval before students receive sex education,” explained Kavanagh. “They’ve taken LGBTQ+ politics out of the classroom and into the clubs to circumvent the law. My bill will require that parents consent to their child joining any kind of gender sexuality, or gender identity club before the students can join and the school will also have to send parents information about the club’s bylaws, rules, goals, and purposes.”
Jill Dunican, a Desert Mountain High School parent, told AZ Free News that it took her almost four months before she could get someone at her child’s school to tell her what GSA was all about after her high schooler told her about a “sexuality club” on campus. Dunican said that she recognized the harm posed by GSA immediately after obtaining more information on it.
“At first, the principal confirmed there was a Genders Sexuality Alliance, which she framed as a mere support group. However, it took almost four months before I was put in touch with the teacher who leads the GSA who was able to provide details about the agenda and source of curriculum,” said Dunican. “After reviewing the GLSEN website, it became clear how divisive the content is. These lessons are not something I want my children exposed to. Essentially, they ask kids to label each other based on skin color, gender and sexual identities in an effort to stack rank themselves into victim groups to establish the oppressors and the oppressed. I just don’t see how that helps any child.”
“Another concerning finding,” said Dunican, “was GLSEN’s instruction that teachers encourage students to become social activists for the abolishment of police, including school resource officers. In fact, GLSEN even promotes policing as a white supremist concept. In our home, we support police and first responders and value their contributions to the Scottsdale community.”
Dunican expressed that she’s not against providing emotional support to LGBTQ+ individuals or any children. Rather, Dunican has concerns that the GSA programming is indoctrinating children with a victimhood mindset and sexualized content that does not seem age appropriate, all without parental consent.
“I’ve heard others attempt to frame any criticism of the GLSEN indoctrination as anti-LGBTQ+. That’s simply not the case. If there was a Gay-Straight Alliance that truly promoted alliances and provided support, and didn’t push a sexualized ideology, I would be all in. Every child should be treated with kindness and respect, regardless of who they are. What GLSEN is pushing on our community and children is completely inappropriate.”