by Pafoua Yang
The West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area Schools district (ISD 197) is adding an “anti-bias” curriculum to its pre-K through fourth-grade classes.
The lessons will include a variety of material on gender identity and expression. It’s part of an effort to “build equitable systems and support throughout the district,” according to the district’s “strategic framework.”
“Equity” is one of the “focus areas” of this framework, which calls for training teachers on “anti-bias dialogue,” implementing “updated gender inclusion procedures,” and more.
Parents told Alpha News they are worried that this agenda will expose children to inappropriate content at early ages.
“What stuck out to me the most was gender ideology starting in kindergarten and bringing that through each grade level through fourth grade,” one concerned parent said. “I’m trying to understand why they’re implementing it at such a young age.”
During a May 16 school board meeting, Director of Curriculum Cari Jo Drewitz gave a presentation on what teachers and students can expect from the curriculum. The board meeting was not recorded but the presentation is available online.
“School District 197 has partnered with AMAZEworks to implement an anti-bias curriculum to align with the district’s strategic framework. AMAZEworks’s programs combine children’s literature and skill-building exercises to increase a sense of belonging for all students and spark age-appropriate discussions about difference,” a spokesperson told Alpha News.
The spokesperson noted that families can opt their children out of the curriculum if they want.
“Based on the feedback from staff, our strategic framework and the recommendations of our equity audit, to systematically include conversations about race, racism, equity, inequity, etc in the curriculum starting in elementary school, we have decided to begin implementing the AMAZEworks resources in our PreK through 4th grade classrooms,” Drewitz’s presentation states.
The presentation displays several examples of books that elementary students will read as part of the “anti-bias education.” In one example, second-grade students will read about a girl named Aidan who tells her parents she feels like a boy.
“[The parents] were responsive and fixed things in his life so they fit him better,” the description of the book says.
The description says that Aidan’s parents are expecting another baby and Aidan is concerned about “getting everything right for his new sibling.”
Discussion questions for this story could include, “How did Aidan and his parents know he was really a boy?” and “What preparations did Aidan and his parents make in order to make sure they didn’t misgender the baby and they could grow up to be whoever they are?”
Kindergartners will read a book called “Jacob’s New Dress,” a story that “speaks to the unique challenges faced by children who don’t identify with traditional gender roles,” according to an online description.
Teachers who opt to teach the curriculum will receive a $700 stipend for completing a “Training Academy” and another $700 for completing an “Action Research project.”
“Those who do not opt in during Training Academy will receive the materials and training will happen during the school day during the 2024-2025 school year,” per the presentation.
After reviewing the presentation, parents told Alpha News they are troubled by how much time and money schools spend teaching material irrelevant to academics.
“One of the goals of the district is to make sure all kids are reading at grade level by third grade. They’re putting all this time and effort towards this. Why aren’t they putting it towards making sure that the kids can be reading by grade level? I’m not seeing it,” a parent told Alpha News.
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Pafoua Yang is a reporter for Alpha News. She has worked as an on-air reporter for stations across the Twin Cities.