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Students Don’t Need Special Flags to Be Safe at School But They Do Need Safer Gender Policies

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Why is Natick Public Schools so committed to keeping certain student groups "safe" by displaying flags and symbols but so uncommitted to protecting young students from the real harm of age-inappropriate gender instruction and parental exclusion policies? Doesn't the real safety of all students matter?

The safetyism culture in schools make students who are safe more fragile

In his book The Coddling of the American Mind, renowned psychologist Jonathan Haidt powerfully explains the dangers of a culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger.

This type of culture—he calls “safetyism”—is obsessed with eliminating threats (both real and imagined) to the point where people are unwilling to make reasonable trade-offs demanded by other practical and moral concerns. This deprives young people of the experiences that their anti-fragile minds need—making them more fragile, anxious, and prone to seeing themselves as victims.

Our School Committee, administrators, and teachers often say we need special flags and classroom "safe zones" to “make students safe.” We reached out to the Natick Police Department back in June to see how truly unsafe the schools or the Town of Natick might be for these students. According to the Chief’s office, the department received one report of a hate crime against an LGBTQ+ school-aged victim in 2022-2023. That’s a singular reported incident among a total of 5,300 Natick Public School students.

We also asked more specific questions about the unsafe school environment for these students. The Chief’s office let us know they have not been in touch with our School Committee on this matter, and members of the police department have not been consulted.

Most if not all well-adjusted people we deal with throughout everyday life—neighbors, colleagues, community members, classmates, and friends—aren’t a threat to our safety. We actually know how to coexist. And that's a great thing!

If the district wants to help address the serious mental health issues of students, enabling the idea that LGBTQ+ children are only safe when they see a flag or a "safe zone" feeds anxiety. It doesn’t quell it. As adults, it’s our job to help children overcome their fears and foster resilience by facing adversity. We should care about all children and support anyone who needs help, including LGBTQ+ students. But we should also be allowed to challenge whether or not flags and "safe zones" really solve safety issues.


Parental exclusion policies and harmful, confusing content is a real safety risk for students

We do know that there are real health-related safety risks for our most vulnerable students. NPS elementary school teachers are reading transgender-themed books like Call Me Max to 7-year-olds that say you might not be a boy or a girl, or you could be a little bit of both or neither, and that when babies are born, sometimes adults make mistakes about your gender. We also know through public records that children of NPS parents have been distressed and confused by this harmful, age-inappropriate content.

“[child] gave a lot of pushback about going to school today because of a nightmare she had last night. She told me in her dream her teacher cut off all of her hair, put a wig on her, and made her be a boy. She told me she didn't want to go to school because that will happen…I stand very firm in thinking 7 years old is far too young for this topic.”

“I’m writing because a colleague shared a concerning text with me about a book that was read to second graders called Call Me Max. Their second grade daughter came home and told their parents, my colleague, that they thought they were a boy. This is a very controversial topic, specifically the social contagion aspect of girls identifying as transgender."

We submitted a student exemption proposal to the district to allow you, as a parent, to opt your child out of this age-inappropriate content; NPS has ignored our request in the name of "inclusion." This takes away your constitutional right as a parent to guide the health, education, and upbringing of your child.

This also demonstrates how the district disregards the wellbeing of certain students by placing a higher value on others. Good school policies take care of all children equally; bad ones prioritize those perceived as the only victims. Moreover, as our legal statement indicates, there is no state or federal law that prevents NPS from offering your child a student exemption from gender identity content.

We also know Natick Public Schools supports a destructive parental exclusion policy that takes away your right as a parent to consent to your child socially transitioning. While our schools need to get your parental consent for your child to play sports or to take medication at school, they don't need your consent to help your child socially transition to another gender at school. Look at these others questions (in addition to the Parent/Guardian Involvement questions in the above form) from the district's Gender Support Plan Questionnaire:

As well, DESE guidance to public schools, which is included in the district’s Gender Identity Support Policy, says that a letter from a clergy member, coach, family friend or relative stating that the student has asked to be treated consistent with his/her asserted gender identity, or photos at public events or family gatherings are forms of potential gender confirmation. In essence, school administrators and Massachusetts bureaucrats can make decisions that impact the health and wellbeing of your child by keeping parents removed from the process of their child socially transitioning at school!

When will Natick Public Schools take seriously the health-related safety of all students?

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