Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Transgender Teacher

From a local television station:

A music teacher at Foxboro Elementary School, who was formerly a woman, returned to school as a man at the beginning of the school year...

Some parents told Travis Unified School District that they feel like their rights to know were violated.

"All the information came straight from our kids and didn't come from the school board or the teachers ... this has all been second-hand information," parent Melissa Oiland said...

(Superintendent) Gavlak said the district consulted with lawyers and determined that legally, it could not disclose any information about the teacher's gender change...

So far, 23 students from 15 different families have transferred their children out of the music class and into a physical education class.

Honestly, this shouldn't be a big deal. Had the operation occurred during the school year, when students would be forced to address the sex change issue head-on, that would be a different story. But this occurred over the summer; the person who started school at the end of summer wasn't the same person who left in spring. Yes, it's a music class, so perhaps some of the students had previously had this teacher--but this still seems like a pretty weak reason to remove your kid from a class.

My opinion would change instantly if the teacher were talking about the operation, why she/he had the operation, etc. Absent that, the parents mentioned are, IMNSHO, overreacting.

It's opinions like this which cause conservatives in other states to think I'm a crazy California leftie wacko, while the liberals here in California assume my stance is the "duh" position so give me no "moderate" points for holding it.

In closing, let me be clear: I'm not saying the parents don't have a "right" to remove their kids from the class, I'm saying this is a weak reason to exercise that right.


Anonymous said...

The knee jerk reaction by the is indicative of a class of imature adults acting like spoiled brats.They like so many are misinformed people are declaring their rights while trampling the rights of the teacher.Grow up folks,what is the big deal? Still playing the old FEAR game.

Lily B. McBeth

Anonymous said...

I have two kids at Foxboro. I have not pulled my kids out of music. The issue for most parents is that we received no notification from the school or district so we could be better prepared to discuss this issue with our kids, so we would have the facts, and not have to rely on the info. my kindergartner and 2nd grader came home with. The teacher acted irresponsibly by not allowing the school district to info. us ahead of time.

This would be a privacy issue if the teacher decided to keep it private, but instead Abbey Clark decided to tell my kids on the first day of school that they were to now call her Mr. James Clark.

We have not pulled our kids out of music because Ms./Mr. Clark is a very good music teacher and my kids (my daughter especially) love music and we are not going to punish them because of a decision Mr. Clark made.

This is a parental notification issue.

Darren said...

Yes, it would have been *best* if the teacher had authorized the district, a priori, to notify parents so that *parents* could discuss this with their children. But since the teacher didn't, the district's hands are tied.

Anonymous said...

So a teacher goes out and gets a new set of boobs. Does that teacher need a permission slip from the school board or the parents once the boys come home talking about Miss so & so's new boobs? I have a hard time understanding the way people think. As if taking their kids out of this class is teaching these kids to deal with something that does happen in our world. How about offering some compassion to a person who's inner self was at war with himself. Not more critizism and hate!

Anonymous said...

Big difference here! If "boob-job teacher" stands in front of every student (K-6 grade) on the 1st day of school and flops the things out and says, "Hey, kids look at my new boobs...I got a boob job!!!", then yes, I think we'd have a problem.

Mr. Clark in essence did the same thing. On the first day of school he stood in front of every kid at Foxboro and announced, I am now a man, please call me Mr. Clark. Mr. Clark refused to allow the school district or the school to tell parents ahead of time so we could be prepared to answer our kids questions that night at the dinner table.

theinfamousj said...

Congratulations! Your post will appear in the Mole Day edition of the Carnival of Education. You can view the CoE here - - on 10/22 when the link goes live. Thank you in advance for any publicity plugs that you offer on your site.

Anonymous said...

I don't know--if it were me and my sexuality, I think I would prefer to be in control of how and what information was going to be disseminated. Sounds like he handled the issue in a pretty matter of fact way. Sometimes parents don't get to prepare. My gut reaction would be that I would rather deal with Mr. Clark than the boob job.

K.D. Reeves said...

I admit it: I'm as left as left can be on the sociopolitical spectrum, and I was flatly terrified to read this post. James is a friend, having lived with me for a time in college, who I met when he was Abbey, and I was absolutely thrilled to read, both as that friend and as an education professional, that this fell squarely into your "No Big Deal" category. James is a consummate professional and will in no way be forcing children of an inappropriately young age into a blazing examination of human gender identity. He'll teach music, and teach it brilliantly as all graduates of our alma mater do. I do indeed give you moderate points here, not having read much of the rest of your writing as of yet.

I'm a native New Yorker, so it certainly is the "duh" position to me, but now that I live in Virginia... it's refreshing to hear someone who says they're on the right say what is precisely that!

Darren said...

Well, KD, I'm of the libertarian wing of the conservatives--not the social wing.

I didn't offend you in this post, but I'm sure I will soon enough if you read more! But that's what diversity is all about, in reality.

Anonymous said...

First of all, this is not about the man's sexuality, this is about his gender identity/expression; for whoever that was that said this was about sexuality.
I would like to say to all of you, think about yourself in this situation (question your gender here for a minute, i know its hard cause your all rooted in modern theories of thinking), but think if this was you and how you would feel in this situation, meaning if you were James. Would you want people telling you that you have to display your gender identity to the whole town so that ignorant people can feel alright having their kids in the class? Better yet dont all of you "come out" at your occupation as the gender that you identify as. I bet that there will not be media all over it. That's because we live in a heteronormative society where something that is not "normal" has, no must, be completely examined by the rest of the society, because they are ignorant to the situation. Wake up people and start educating yourselves about issues involving everyday people. I bet that every single one of you comes in contact with somebody who is transgender every single day of your lives and you have no clue, and there is not a fucking media frenzy about it. As a matter of fact, you are coming in contact with one right now if you are reading this.
I dont care what your politics are, society has no right to pry into the personal life of somebody. If somebody has a sex change, they have a sex change, and people do not have a say in the matter. And the parents have NO RIGHTS in this matter. They do have the right to except this person for who they are, and not ask any questions...PERIOD!

Darren said...

Anonymous, it would be nice if your comment contained a little more rationality and a little less drama.

Parents absolutely have a right to remove their kids from a music class. They don't have a right to tell the teacher they can/cannot have a sex change, but at least be honest and recognize that that's still exceedingly rare in our society, and some might want to shield their children from something like that. It's *not* normal, however much we agree that it should be allowable.

Please don't assume that anyone who holds a view different from you is ignorant ("wake up people and start educating yourselves")--there are quite a few intelligent people who comment here, and one who writes the blog :-)

Besides, had you read instead of just vented, you'd have noticed that the author (that's me!) and a few commenters actually thought the parents in this story overreacted. So your response here is like that of the parents you decry--overreacting.