Gender Diversity Lessons in Oakland

It seems that many parents these days (especially our readers here on the SheHeroes blog) are always looking for ways to somehow balance out gender identity for our young boys and girls as well as ways to call out toy companies, TV shows and clothing makers that help force certain gender ideas on children in this day and age. And recently we saw in the news an example of school's stepping up and  trying to fight off those gender stereotypes on their own turf.

At Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland, California all students took part in a gender diversity lesson that featured single-sex geckos and transgender clownfish. The anti-bullying educational group Gender Spectrum performed the lessons, which were paid for with a $1,500 grant from the California Teachers Union.

The lessons given to Kindergarten and first grade children included asking the 5- and 6-year-olds to identify if a toy was a "girl toy" or a "boy toy" or both. Students were also asked which students liked the color pink, prompting many to raise their hands, to which they were told that that boys can like pink, too.

Meanwhile the lessons conducted for fourth-graders focused on specific animal species, like sea horses, where the males can have or take care of the children. Joel Baum, director of education and training for Gender Spectrum who performed the lessons, even suggested that if someone was born with male “private parts” but identified more with being a girl, that was something to be “accepted” and “respected.”

"What it does emphasize is that there are differences," Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint told "And that not all children will conform to gender norms around areas such as clothing or hair, or the colors they prefer. We should be accepting of these differences in the interest of creating an environment where all children are welcome."

The school has come under fire by critics for the lessons, but here at SheHeroes we have to wonder why more schools aren’t performing such lessons? Even if only a percentage of the kids who partake in these kind of lessons take it to heart and go on to apply the open thinking as teenagers and adults, then the school has succeeded at making the world better place. Certainly a more open place where girls and boys can strive to be anything they want to be without gender roles attempting to hold them back.

It’s also fascinating to see a school take such a string approach to teaching these kind of lessons during a time when things like the recent J. Crew ad which showed a mom painting her son’s toenails pink came under such scrutiny.

What are your thoughts on these lessons? Would you be open to them in your child’s school, why or why not?

This story is also a great opportunity to sit down with your children and ask them what they think about gender diversity lessons. Even if you don’t have the lessons available in your own school, you can use the story as a tool to open up a dialogue in your own home about gender diversity and what it means in your home.

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