An Osseo school board meeting grew tense Tuesday after public commenters spoke out in opposition to the board’s LGBTQ resolution passed last year, which directs teachers to adopt “gender-affirming curriculum and pedagogical practices.”
Other members of the public criticized the district’s “gender inclusion” policy, which mandates that all students be allowed to participate in “district programming” in accordance with their gender identity.
“I just want to say happy Pride month to all our LGBTQIA+ scholars, families, and staff,” Tamara Grady, an Osseo school board member, said during the June 20 meeting.
Osseo school board member Tamara Grady interrupts a meeting to read a speech on Pride month. pic.twitter.com/nwK9Dv1A6M
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) June 22, 2023
Grady was then stopped by board member Heather Douglass, who called a point of order, saying that board members were supposed to be discussing committee reports, not personal updates. The board chair intervened and asked if Grady was recounting her experience with the district’s Prism Club, a group of LGBTQIA students and staff.
Grady said she was and then continued speaking. Douglass called another point of order, saying that events and clubs are not committee reports.
Grady then said she would start her entire presentation over again, and spoke while glaring at Douglass.
This tense exchange followed several concerned parents pleading with the board to revoke its LGBTQIA resolution.
Parents urge district to remain neutral
Two parents read portions of an anonymous letter to the board written by an Osseo elementary teacher. In the letter, the teacher outlined an experience they had during a mandatory department training called “Creating Gender Inclusive Schools.”
The teacher said they were told “no matter what the pushback, we are not going back” regarding the district’s “gender inclusion approach.” Teachers were also told they would be “talking about this with young students,” according to the letter.
During the mandatory training, one speaker allegedly said that “because of white supremacy, gender expansiveness has been suppressed.”
According to the letter, teachers were advised that “students feel safer at school than at home” and were encouraged to use a Google form to access students’ preferred pronouns and names for school along with their preferred pronouns and names at home.
“Is it our job to keep secrets?” the teacher asked in the letter.
A dad of two children read the last half of the letter, where the teacher explained that they were told they need to ask students for their preferred pronouns. The teacher said they are concerned about the damage these policies will have on students and their families.
“Where’s the opt out?” the teacher asked in the letter, noting that the district is prioritizing identity politics at a time when students are not proficient in reading and math.
Three local Muslim men also spoke out at the meeting. Abdifatah Ali, who said he was speaking on behalf of the Brooklyn Park Islamic Center, said that because of their faith, Muslims do not agree with the teaching of LGBTQIA topics in schools. “We believe in teaching STEM,” he said.
Ali said that teaching students about sexual preferences is “grooming.”
“We’re talking about children here,” Ali said.
Community member Adrian Jackson said this issue is “putting us as Muslims, as parents, as leaders in this community in a tough spot.” He noted that students learn one thing at school and a different thing at home.
“We believe the education system should be a neutral spot for our kids to learn about math, science, reading, but not about sexual orientation. Leave that to the parents,” he added.
Another parent, Erica Foster, said she was told that gender ideology is “integrated into lessons” so that “parents cannot opt out of the content.”
In a comment to Alpha News, Foster said she believes the community’s concerns deserve to be heard. “There was an awesome community presence at the school board meeting. The diversity of voices brought a lot of concerns to the board about the LGBTQIA+ Culture and History Resolution as well as the Gender Policy 508,” she said.
She said that rather than allowing parents and community members a say in the resolution passing in 2022, “outside activists” were the ones who were in the know. “Parents, taxpayers, and staff are coming together to let the school board members that voted on the resolution know that we don’t agree with it or its implementation,” Foster told Alpha News.
The two commenters during the June 20 meeting who had positive things to say about the resolution were an Osseo employee and a district resident, neither of whom has students enrolled in the district.
The last presenter brought attention to graphic books depicting sexual acts and nudity that are available for high school students.
“I’m shocked to find books like this in the school library,” Natalie Sonic said. She printed out copies of the book’s pages to hand out to the board members. According to one attendee of the meeting who desired to remain anonymous, one board member refused to take the handout and threw it on the ground.
“Unfortunately, one of the board members acted unprofessionally. During the community comment section, she was handed a book excerpt from a parent during that member’s time allotment and threw it on the ground,” the parent told Alpha News.
“She was handed a new one and threw it on the ground again. That isn’t the example that we want for our kids. It is surprising that she can hold such a position and behave that way.”
“This is why parents do not trust our schools,” Sonic commented, holding up graphic images from the book “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel. She said she just wants age-appropriate materials available for students.