Education

Here’s why 1,000 people are expected at a Rocklin charter school board meeting

Administrators at a Rocklin charter school system are asking their school board to stand by policies that allowed a book about a transgender child to be read during a kindergarten story time.

They offer upset parents a concession: Teachers will try to inform parents if they know a controversial topic will be discussed in class.

The children’s book “I am Jazz” was brought to Rocklin Academy Gateway School on June 7 by a transgender student who wanted to share it with classmates. “I am Jazz” is the story of a real-life transgender girl named Jazz Jennings.

The controversy surrounding the story time grew over summer, with some parents and activists calling it a coming-out party for the child. Conservative activists condemned the school on national television and hundreds of angry calls and emails flooded the school’s in-boxes.

A meeting abotu the issue at 6 p.m. Monday at the Rocklin Event Center Ballroom, 2650 Sunset Blvd., is expected to draw 1,000 people, said Elizabeth Ashford, spokeswoman for Rocklin Academy Family of Schools. Rocklin police will provide security at the meeting.

Angry parents and activists lined up to speak at a June meeting of the Rocklin Academy Family of Schools, but school board members couldn’t answer them because the issue wasn’t on the agenda.

The school board will vote on the following recommendations Monday:

▪ Affirm the district’s literature selection policy without revision.

▪ Adopt new language in the parent-student handbook that says teachers will notify parents about plans to discuss controversial topics in class whenever it is possible.

▪ Affirm Rocklin Academy’s commitment to ensuring students aren’t bullied, harassed or otherwise discriminated against for being in a class protected by law.

▪ Affirm its policy to allow any student to request a special accommodation if they are uncomfortable using a particular bathroom.

▪ Deny a “Model Parental Rights” policy proposal from Capitol Resource Institute, a group that has opposed trangender bathrooms. The policy would have allowed parents to remove their children from sex and family life education and to review related materials, among other things.

“We’re very hopeful that the policies put forward today will allow the school and community to move forward and focus on the school and educating children,” Ashford said.

Parents upset by the June 7 storytime asked the charter school to change its literacy policy to ban certain books, notify parents about books being read they deem controversial, begin an opt-out policy for parents who don’t want their children to hear about controversial topics and prohibit school employees from telling students they should refer to students by their preferred names or pronouns, according to a Rocklin Academy press release.

Some parents also asked that their children not be put in classes where there are transgender children, asked the school to prohibit children from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity and requested that personnel action be taken against the teacher who read the book.

The charter school met with parents and reviewed its policies and state law and made the recommendations that are on Monday’s agenda, Ashford said. “We want to find a constructive path forward,” she said.

She said that approximately seven families have pulled their children out of the school because of the controversy.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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