A teacher at Rocklin Academy Family of Schools (RAFOS) read “I Am Jazz,” a story about an 11-year-old transgender student, aloud to a kindergarten class in June 2017. That same month, RAFOS Principal Jillayne Antoon presented a five-year-old boy to the child’s class at a “transgender reveal party” and identified him by a new name and sex, saying the boy had become a girl. Parents were not given advance notice of either event.
Angry Parents, Unyielding Board
The sensitive topics of the lessons and the school’s refusal to provide advance notice angered parents. Parents told School Reform News after hearing “I Am Jazz” read aloud, some of their five-year-old children returned home and expressed worries their gender might suddenly change.
Parents troubled by the forced teachings met with Antoon and other administrators and expressed their concerns at board meetings. Despite the parents’ protests, the RAFOS school board voted unanimously in September to disallow parents from opting their children out of such lessons.
“After a five-hour, highly charged meeting attended by more than 500 people [in September], the Rocklin Academy School board rejected a ‘model parental rights’ proposal put forward by parents’ rights groups [sic] Capitol Resource Institute and backed by the California Family Council, Pacific Justice Institute, and Alliance Defending Freedom,” LifeSiteNews.com reported. “The model proposal would allow parents to review sensitive material before it hits the classroom and to opt their children out of controversial lessons that are not sex education. California law requires parental notice and opt-out for sex education.”
Unconcerned About Departures
As of late September, 71 students from 40 families had disenrolled from RAFOS.
A RAFOS spokesman said the students leaving is “really such a shame,… but this is one of the highest performing charter schools in the state of California, with a wait list of over 1,300 children. We anticipate there are other kids who are going to step into those slots.”
‘Turned into a Political Rally’
A Rocklin Academy mother who requested anonymity says school administrators overstepped their authority and used political tactics to subvert their opposition.
“They made their position clear that they know what they are doing better than we do, even parents who are credentialed teachers,” the mother said. “They said that our children need to be sensitized to this subject. The LGBTQ community came out of the woodwork for [one of the board] meetings. They had 500 seats in an event center, and parents couldn’t get in because our school board meeting was turned into a political rally via Facebook. That just added fuel to the fire.
“Out of the 108 individuals who publicly commented, only 38 RAFOS parents were heard, because of the statements made by LGBTQ activists, atheist groups, and Indivisible CA-04 [a progressive activist group],” the mother said. “Of the 38 parents from RAFOS who did speak, 28 supported parental notification.”
Ignored Parents’ Concerns
Another parent, who pulled two of his children from RAFOS for curriculum-related reasons, says the school dismissed parents’ concerns and kowtowed to outside interest groups.
“The administration and board left us no other choice after the dog-and-pony show they facilitated on behalf of LGBTQ activists,” the father said. “They told concerned parents that their rights are subordinate to the rights of narrow, left-wing special interest groups. [The administration] used a kindergarten class to bring a culture war to our community and then picked sides.”
‘It’s All Political’
Lance Izumi, senior director of the Pacific Research Institute’s Center for Education, says the educational elite doesn’t care about children.
“The bottom line is that it’s all political,” Izumi said. “It’s not about science or what’s best for the kids or families.”
Voting with Their Feet
Izumi says the lack of an opt-out policy at Rocklin Academy undercuts the notion charter schools are parent-controlled.
“Charter schools are supposed to be more responsive than regular public schools to the needs of parents and their children,” says Izumi. “That’s one of the selling points of charter schools.”
Izumi says parents can regain some control by refusing to let such people educate their children.
“The most effective way to get the message across, then, is to leave the schools,” Izumi said. “When those children, who represent money to the schools, are gone, the school will not receive its funding.”
Accused of Bigotry
John Jackson, president of William Jessup University (WJU) in Rocklin, California, defended parents’ rights in an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee.
Jackson told School Reform News he received an email response to his op-ed from a local public school superintendent who vilified WJU for “getting a Title IX Exemption allowing [his] institution to discriminate against other human beings for their sexual orientation.” The superintendent concluded his email with the line, “You, Sir, are a bigot.…”
‘Not about Intolerance’
A parent who disenrolled her child from RAFOS says fellow parents just want a say in what and how their children learn.
“This is not about ‘intolerance’ or ‘bigotry,’ nor is it in opposition to measures taken to fight bullying, harassment, and discrimination,” the parent said. “I do not, nor do the parents I know, condone hate or intolerance, bigotry, bullying, harassment, or discrimination. We simply want to be able to broach sensitive topics like that presented to our five- and six-year-olds in a manner and timing that is best for our kids. That is at the center of this controversy.”
Cassidy Syftestad (cassidysyf[email protected]) writes from Hillsdale, Michigan.