Parents are getting a sneak peek at new textbooks heading to Elk Grove Unified School District. But some say a lesson on honesty about a San Francisco drag queen caught them off guard.
“Did they research who these heroes were?” asked Greg Burt with the California Family Council.
Thursday night, parents had the opportunity to read through several textbooks aimed at meeting new state standards and decide for themselves if there is a place in their child’s curriculum for the material. California law now requires public school curriculum to include contributions from LGBT people and certain cultural groups.
“I want to make sure that it’s age appropriate and I want to know what is going to be taught to my child,” said Carrie Harrell.
On the back of the parental feedback form, there are two columns: one for “sweet spots” or positive comments and another for “red flags” or questions. Parents can choose from three sets of curriculum still in the pilot stage at this point. But some say lessons on gay rights aren’t appropriate for children of a certain age.
Burt has an issue with a second-grade textbook called “My World Interactive” by publishers Pearson, Scott Foresman and Prentice Hall. On the page with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, the name Jose Julio Sarria appears. He’s widely believed to be first openly gay person to run for public office.
One page highlights Sarria saying “He decided to be honest. He told people he was gay and that sometimes he dressed as a woman. He was the first person to do this when running for office…. It inspired other gay leaders to run for office too.”
“I just don’t think Elk Grove parents are ready or interested in having their second graders learn honesty from a drag queen who has a criminal record!” Burt said.
According to a New York Times article, Sarria was arrested on morals charges in 1947 in a public bathroom at the St. Francis Hotel.
But Elk Grove Unified School District Spokesperson Xanthi Pinkerton said that’s not the focus of the lesson.
“This chapter is about how people can make a difference!” She said.
“I’m not anti-LGBT,” said Carrie Harrell, a mom of three in Elk Grove. “I love all people.”
She told CBS13 she’s simply concerned about teachers discussing sexuality with her 7-year-old.
“It needs to be dealt with appropriately,” Harrell said. “I hope they read the feedback and I’m hoping it’s not just a piece of paper.”
Pinkerton said a committee plans to review the feedback and had a reminder for parents: the district is following state standards by including leaders from all walks of life.
“When that person is standing up for the rights of their people and the things that they believe in, that’s what we’re going to be talking about,” she said.
Several schools across the state are looking at how to meet the new standards. The books will be reviewed this winter and if approved, they’ll be in the classroom next fall. The next review session is on Nov. 6.