Last week an interesting document surfaced among parent groups in southern Nevada, and eventually made its way to the PROGRESS office. The document came from an interoffice communication at the Clark County School District (CCSD). It was a draft of a detailed lesson plan, designed for use in middle school and high school classrooms, which delved into the politically charged topics of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender stereotypes.
The lesson plan was apparently developed in response to a Nov. 2015 request from CCSD Trustee Carolyn Edwards for staff to provide materials for instruction on these topics. The document defined gender identity as “gender related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.” It defined gender stereotypes as a “popular belief about a group of people, based on assumptions that are often extreme and inaccurate, in this case, gender.” The lesson plan would then engages students in a series of learning activities that reinforce these principles.
There is no disputing there is a strong diversity of opinion on these topics. Indeed, they have long been the center of deep controversy in CCSD. Vocal advocates of these positions, mainly based in the urban areas, have continued the fight for their inclusion in the curriculum. Meanwhile parent groups and ecclesiastical leaders of many different faiths throughout the county, have filled auditoriums and meeting halls to oppose them. While these concepts are far from settled from a scientific, medical or even political standpoint; the battle rages on.
It is not our purpose here to debate the validity of either side of this argument. We will leave that for others. But either way, it is easy to foresee that forcing such a change onto the curriculum in Moapa Valley would be catastrophic to local schools.
The fact is that many local parents would strongly object to such principles being spoon fed to their children at school. That is because these concepts are far removed from what is being taught by them at home. Try as one might, forcing such ideas into the school curriculum will not shake the deep-seated values and beliefs that are held by the majority of parents in this community. The same could probably be said of parents in the other outlying small towns in the CCSD. In fact, if attendance at the recent marathon CCSD Trustee meetings on this subject is any indication, one could even argue that this majority parent position extends into much of the urban areas as well. But this doesn’t prevent the issue being raised again and again by its proponents.
In Moapa Valley, however, it is clear that the values of a small community will simply not always align with the political leanings of the urban-centered CCSD. If (and given the political realities, it would be wise to say ‘when’) such changes to curriculum are adopted by the district, many local parents will have absolutely no stomach for them. When that day comes these folks will see no choice but to pull their kids out of public schools. What may be best for the overall community of schools won’t matter to them at that point. It will happen sure as the sun will rise in the morning. Parents will quickly look to other options: home schooling, online academies, co-op organizations. Then, suddenly, an irresistible opportunity will arise for an outside charter school organization to come into the community and fill the void. Come it will, and that will only accelerate the vortex.
To be sure, this would be a tragic day for Moapa Valley and its schools. Given our relatively small student population it wouldn’t take much of an initial exodus to wreak havoc on the school budgets. The pinch would be felt immediately in staffing levels, then in academic programs; and would continue to ripple outward from there.
This irreconcilable difference between CCSD and the local communities, one of many, illustrates why it is time for decision-making to be brought back home to the local school level now. The contradictory winds of special interests may blow, back and forth, over the urban landscape of Las Vegas. But outlying communities like ours; which, on their own, would be perfectly able to maintain their own firm heading; should not be forced into, and dragged about by, that urban maelstrom.
If we cannot cut the lines that tie our little local vessel to the CCSD now, there is a strong chance that issues like this proposed change to curriculum will soon sink the local ship.