A handful of Minneapolis schools use a curriculum that exposes kids as young as five to the concepts of “gender identity and expression” and teaches that kids “begin to develop and express gender identity” at age three.
AmazeWorks is one of the most controversial curriculums for elementary and middle-school students because it uses content on gender identity from an early age, according to Cristine Trooien, executive director of Minnesota Parents Alliance.
“[AmazeWorks] promotes Social Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL seeks to transform a school culture based on gender ideology and critical race theory. These programs are deceptive because they sound like something virtually no one would object to. But when you flip through the pages of this curriculum, you’ll quickly find that it plays on the natural empathy of children,” Trooien said.
A Somali father with students in Seward Montessori School told Alpha News he does not want his children exposed to content that encourages them to question their gender or explore an LGBT lifestyle. He said when he requested to review the AmazeWorks curriculum, Principal Ana Bartl directed him to the Amazeworks website and instructed him to purchase their materials to find out what is in the curriculum.
At first, the parent said he was told he had “no choice” but to expose his children to the curriculum. However, after Alpha News contacted the district, the father was notified that he would be allowed to opt his children out of the curriculum.
A spokesperson confirmed the district uses AmazeWorks but would not answer additional questions.
“I do not understand why a child as young as six-years-old should be forced to learn about sex. I don’t understand why they have to teach them something that’s against my values,” the parent said.
The Somali father said he sends his children to school to learn and to become responsible citizens.
“I want my kids to learn math, science, and engineering, not about people who decide to do something different on their body. People can do whatever they want. But I don’t want my kids to learn about it,” he said.
What’s in AmazeWorks?
The AmazeWorks curriculum includes a book for kindergarteners called “Jacob’s New Dress,” a book about a boy who wants to wear girls’ clothes to school, according to a presentation available through Burroughs Community School.
The curriculum includes discussion questions for the book. A series of questions ask, “Has anyone ever told you that you shouldn’t play something or wear something because of something about you, like being a boy or girl or how you look or sound? How did that feel? How did you respond?”
The curriculum also includes a book for second-graders called “When Aidan Became a Brother.” It is about a girl who tells her parents she feels like a boy. “When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl,” a description of the book says. Her parents are “responsive and fixed things in his life so they fit him better.”
A book for fourth-graders called “It Feels Good to be Yourself” teaches that “people experience gender in many different ways.”
“How might someone feel when they realize the adults guessed their gender wrong as a baby? How can you support someone going through a gender transition?” the curriculum asks, according to the presentation.
An AmazeWorks document available through Kenny Community School says three-year-olds can “begin to develop and express gender identity.” By age five, they can “express that their internal gender does not match their sex assigned at birth.”
According to legal experts, Minnesota law says parents have a right to opt their children out of anything they find objectionable.
James Dickey of the Upper Midwest Law Center said every school should have a procedure to allow parents to review curriculum. If parents opt out, the school must make “reasonable arrangements” for alternative lessons.
“It’s always disturbing when parents are not seen by school districts as the most important in their child’s upbringing,” said Dickey. “From a legal perspective, there are two problems. First, the curriculum is public data, which parents have access to. They should be able to inspect it without paying for it. Parents have a right under Minnesota state law to opt their children out of objectionable material, including content about gender ideology.”
The father Alpha News spoke with said school administrators are “easily dismissing” immigrant families. He said he’s spoken to other parents who agree.
When parents feel they are being dismissed by the school administration, they should address the situation one-on-one first by sending an email or discussing the matter with school officials, Dickey said. The back-up option is to contact an attorney.
“We can provide some advice and can help them find attorneys that can help them as well,” Dickey said.
Rebecca Slaby, executive director of AmazeWorks, said anti-bias education is “about affirming the identities and lived experiences of ALL children and people, whether or not we believe in, acknowledge, or understand each person’s different identities and lived experiences.”
“Gender identity is not an ideology. Gender identity is exactly that — an identity, how a person feels about who they are on the inside, and each person gets to decide that for themselves. Young children are aware of gender differences, roles, and expectations (as early as 2 and 3 years old), even if they don’t have the language to express what they see, experience, and feel. They also are quickly learning the values that society places on different genders. They are picking up on social cues as to how they are supposed to think and behave in their gender roles and expectations and how they’re supposed to express gender,” she told Alpha News in an email.
Slaby said teaching about gender diversity “provides children with language and tools so they can develop healthy identities for themselves, respect across differences, and learn to notice, name, and reject bias.”
“Whether people like it or not, or are aware of it or not, there are gender-diverse children and families in every school community, and they deserve to feel seen, valued, heard, and affirmed,” she explained.
“Children cannot learn if they feel like they have to hide parts of themselves or are being mistreated because of an aspect of their identity. Using the AmazeWorks Elementary Curriculum helps provide children with a windows and mirrors experience around gender diversity — a window into a gender identity or lived experience that is different from one’s own and a mirror for gender diverse children to see themselves positively reflected in school,” Slaby added.
She also provided a list of FAQs for concerned parents.
Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.