AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Eanes Independent School District is reassessing book titles being openly shared among elementary classes after one book, which explains the topic of transgender adolescence, was read aloud to a fourth-grade classroom, sparking parental concern.
Superintendent Dr. Tom Leonard said there was no district directive to share this reading material to students. Instead, a teacher had listed it with a group of other progressive books to correlate directly with Black and Women’s history months.
“Teachers have always shared resources, and not all open-source materials need administrative review. This specific list, however, was not appropriately reviewed before it was distributed more broadly and a book on the list contained sensitive material not appropriate to be read aloud to an entire elementary-age class.”Susan Fambrough, Chief Learning Officer, Eanes Independent School District
District officials made counselors available to students following the incident and explained that they are seeking parental collaboration when addressing sensitive topics like gender identity and sexual orientation.
“Some feel that this should be in the curriculum, and yes, maybe it should,” Dr. Leonard said. “But that needs to be a process questions, and we haven’t gone through the process yet, unfortunately.”
This comes at a time when the district is actively undergoing diversity, equity and inclusion training for staff and students.
For the past eight months, a diversity consultant, hired by the Eanes ISD Board of Trustees, has worked to uncover district shortfalls and develop a more robust, inclusive curriculum for all students, including race, religion, sexual orientation and beyond.
Dr. Leonard said, in the future, there will be books as part of district curriculum that tackle conversations like transgender adolescence. However, with the DEI consultation far from completing its one-year contract, Dr. Leonard said the district is not quite there yet.
It’s important to note that when hiring the diversity consultant eight months ago, the Eanes ISD Board of Trustees also specifically aligned LGBTQ+ inclusion into its list of goals for the future.
“In time, the subject of gender identity may be addressed instructionally – but only with proper caution and prior parent awareness. We recognize, while we have always tried to create a climate where all children feel they belong, we also have to be aware of the maturity level of children in the classroom regarding sensitive topics,” a district letter to families reads.
Experts say that kids begin to develop a sense of their gender at the age of three years old. By five, they will be displaying gender roles. So they say it’s perfectly acceptable to talk to students about the reality of the LGBTQ+ community around us.
“I think parents don’t always give credit to their kids. Because kids can hold and understand a lot more than we think they can,” said University of Texas College of Education Associate Professor of Practice Beth Bukoski. “I think it has to start at a young age. That’s how you normalize it. Normalizing that LGBTQ+ identities exist, have always existed and are, in fact, quite normal.”