A controversy has been roiling in Park City over an anti-bullying teacher training program at Trailside Elementary. A group of parents will host a public meeting Tuesday to address the controversial Welcoming Schools program.
Social media is rife with comments on both sides of the anti-bullying teacher training program at Trailside Elementary School. As reported Superintendent Jill Gildea told KPCW the state requires anti-bullying training for teachers. Due to concerns with bullying last year, Trailside Elementary selected the Welcoming Schools program which is endorsed by the Utah State Board of Education. Teachers have had three hours of training designed to give them tools to address bullying at school. They’re expected to have more training later in the school year.
Jennifer Brinton is opposed to children being exposed to the Welcoming Schools teacher training. She believes the content deals with traditional and non-traditional marriage, and traditional and non-traditional notions of sexual identity. Her understanding of Utah law is those topics fall under the state’s definition of sex education which means parents have the right to opt out. But she says it’s not possible to opt out of a teaching philosophy.
“Discussion of marriage, discussion of gender, discussion of sexuality. All of these things, I believe, are implicated by this program called Welcoming Schools. From what I understand, the way this is being implemented, there’s no real way to opt out. The teachers have been trained in order to interact with all students in a certain way. You can’t, as a parent, have your student stand in a hall during classroom time. That doesn’t make any sense.”
She’s concerned that teachers are using non-traditional pronouns in the classroom and she has seen books in the school that also deal with non-traditional sexual identity topics.
“I am a huge believer in the first amendment. But I also believe very strongly information should be given in an age appropriate manner. To the extent that the Welcoming Schools Program books are being introduced to students at Trailside, I am concerned that they are not being introduced in an age appropriate way.”
Brinton plans to attend the meeting but she says people are reluctant to use their name because the name calling on social media is also bullying.
“All the epithets that have been thrown out there. Homophobe's, racists, KU Klux Klan member, anti-Semite. So, you know all of those things have come out…and coward, is the other one that comes out right? And that’s not elevating the discussion and we need to elevate the discussion to be fair to our children.”
Parent Lara Valdez Postula is part of the group coordinating the meeting. She says the issue has taken on a life of its own and she believes there is very little to argue about if people have all the facts.
“This program, Welcoming Schools has absolutely nothing to do with sex education. It has nothing to do with teaching children about the LGBTQ community. Zero. And that is the intention of the meeting to dispel the myths and to get the facts and the truth out there. There is very, very, very little to argue about if you under4stand what it actually is.”
She hopes people from both sides of the issue will attend. Valdez-Postula says the panel can provide the facts and background on this issue.
They have a panel that includes, Valdez Postula, District PTO President Melanie Smith, Communities that Care Representative, Mary Christa Smith and Park City Board of Education President Andrew Caplan. They are hoping to bring in a moderator from Mountain Mediation and to have a Welcoming Schools Program representative. They’ll use index cards to present questions to the panel so people can ask questions anonymously. She says it’s not a forum to fight about opinions on gender identity or non-traditional families. She hopes people from both sides of the issue will attend. Valdez-Postula says the panel can provide the facts and background on this issue.
“Regardless of what your beliefs are, facts remain that there are kids that have two moms, two dads. They identify as a boy even though they’re a girl. You know, things like this. And there are people who are using derogatory anti-gay slurs, you know, in fifth grade.”
The meeting is Tuesday, October 29th from 4:30-6:00pm at the Park City Visitors Center in Kimball Junction (where Hugo Coffee is located) at 1794 Olympic Parkway