Story by Noah Kuhn
Parents and students rallied in support of LGBTQ+ curriculum in South Pasadena elementary schools during a school board meeting Tuesday, June 25. Residents attended the meeting to protest a small group of parents who voiced their opinions against LGBTQ+ curriculum at a school board meeting two weeks prior.
Marengo parents Alan Ma and Linda Lu expressed their concern at a school board meeting on the 11th about books being read to their students containing LGBTQ+ characters and themes.
“We the parents feel extremely uncomfortable for our kids to be exposed to this LGBT content at this very early age,” Ma said. “We truly believe the LGBT content topic is not age-appropriate for elementary kids… teaching this LGBT topic at this early stage might confuse the young students and might mislead them.”
Fellow parent Lisa Petty recommended the option of opting elementary school students out of being exposed to LGBTQ+ curriculum. Resident Jonathon Eisenberg responded to Petty’s idea.
“I hope that you don’t set up an opt out because I think this curriculum is very important for my children and for all of the children,” Eisenberg said.
Many residents, including South Pasadena parent Eve Rubell, voiced their worries about this opposition to teaching LGBTQ+ material. Community members reached out via Facebook to encourage attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
“It’s the kids, the ones who already identify as LGBT or who might in the future; they need to know that they’re accepted and included,” Rubell said about why she came. “We need to teach tolerance in our schools.”
Dozens of other people spoke along similar lines, explaining how they were disheartened by the potential exclusion of the LGBTQ+ material. Multiple members of South Pasadena’s Asian Pacific Islander (API) community spoke about how the views of Lu and Ma were not shared by the greater API population.
In the spirit of Pride month, which recognizes the end of the Stonewall riots of 1969 and celebrates the impact LGBTQ+ people have had in the world, many people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community shared their experiences. Among them was Sun Se, the mother of a transgender son who represents the San Gabriel Valley API chapter.
“He didn’t come out until he was almost sixteen, and we didn’t know that he was struggling for so long,” Se said. “If he had curriculum like this, teachers who were educated, who knew about diversity, inclusion, I think life would’ve been easier for him. These books, I think, would have been life-changing for him.”
All five school board members made statements supporting the LGBTQ+ curriculum. Dr. Michele Kipke, the only openly gay School Board member, shared her thoughts.
“This discussion has afforded us the opportunity as a district and as a board to reaffirm our core values, which are inclusiveness and respect for all,” Kipke said. “To our families who were here at our last board meeting, who have such strong opposition to the manner in which we support our students… the factual data that they presented to the board is wrong. The messages that they shared are potentially harmful to all of our children. I am more than happy to gather data and to assemble evidence that speaks very strongly to how important it is that we support our diverse student population and we create a school climate that is safe for all children, regardless of their sexual or gender identity.”
Board member Jon Primuth explained how the situation with the parents concerned about LGBTQ+ curriculum had been addressed.
“Our administration sat down and listened to these parents, and they spent a lot of time just listening and encouraging and explaining and clarifying what we were doing and what we weren’t doing, where the boundaries were and how we could still protect parental authority,” Primuth said. “I want you to know that this administration does respect parent rights, and in this particular instance, I think they did a great job.”
Other speakers, like Ed Donnelly, plan to focus on actively setting up the inclusive education in all the elementary schools through fundraising efforts.
“I’ve had the opportunity in the last week to talk to dozens and dozens of parents in South Pasadena,” Donnelly said. “The folks here tonight and the dozens who couldn’t attend are launching a fundraising campaign to ensure that every teacher, every student, and everyone at South Pasadena has the resources they need to continue to teach LGBTQ+ curriculum in our schools, to our kids, now.”