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West Chester Area School Board to Vote Again on Proposed Charter School

Despite a possible second rejection by the West Chester Area School Board, supporters of the Valley Forge Classical Academy, a proposed charter school, say they plan to forge ahead.

After several years of development, proponents of a classical charter school in the West Chester Area School District filed their proposal last year, only to have it rejected by the school board in August. They reapplied in December but say another rejection is likely later this month.

VFCA Board President Jen MacFarland gave a presentation on the new charter at a July 2023 meeting. The school would use a curriculum developed by Hillsdale College that emphasizes classic literature, Singapore Math, Latin, and phonics. The history program would be Hillsdale’s 1776 curriculum, which teaches both good and bad things that happened in America.

At that same meeting, Sandra Schaal of the West Chester NAACP said she opposed the charter school. Schaal said her organization had “great concerns” that the curriculum was “too Eurocentric” and emphasized American exceptionalism. Other concerns were that kids would bring brown bag lunches that poor children might not be able to afford and that students were required to have “traditional” hairstyles.

Other speakers said they thought the school might discriminate against LGBTQ students, and some said the school would teach Christianity. McFarland denied those contentions.

In a recent Facebook post to supporters, VFCA board members MacFarland, Charlie Beatty, Shelley Sanders, and Michael Peterson said they plan to continue to focus “on our end goal of providing a high-quality, challenging academic program for children and parents.”

If the West Chester board again denies the charter, the VFCA board plans to appeal to the State Charter Appeals Board for a hearing. West Chester rejected the charter proposal last August.

“We re-submitted the charter application on Dec. 1, 2023,” said MacFarland. “Per the Charter School Law, the district has 45 days to review and vote on the application. We anticipate that they will deny (it) again, and that will require us to solicit 1,500 or more signatures from supporters in the WCASD to be able to appeal to the state Charter Appeals Board for approval.  We would have 60 days to get the signatures.”

A meeting is scheduled for Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Spellman Education Center (782 Springdale Drive, Exton, PA 19341).

She added, “We will continue to move forward and make every effort to ensure that Valley Forge Classical Academy opens its doors with full enrollment in the fall of 2024.”

Charter schools offer students alternatives to public schools and are supported by tax dollars, so students do not pay tuition.

In a press release after the August rejection, West Chester stated it had comprehensively reviewed and evaluated the application and heard comments from the public.

“Ensuring the highest quality of education for our students is our utmost priority,” stated Sue Tiernan, WCASD Board of Directors President. “The decision to deny Valley Forge Classical Academy’s charter application was made after careful evaluation of the application’s alignment with Pennsylvania’s educational goals and standards and the charter school’s ability to educate to the caliber our community expects.”

The release added, “The board acknowledges the effort invested by VFCACS in the application process and commends the commitment to education exhibited by the applicant. The decision, however, was made based on the determination that the charter application did not fully align with the educational needs of the community and established criteria in Pennsylvania and the district’s charter policy.”

The idea of a charter school in the suburban district faced pushback during public hearings.

If the West Chester board again denies its application, the VFCA board will ask supporters to field petitions on behalf of the proposed charter school.

“We are committed to seeing this through, but we need YOU [emphasis original]. Working together, we can make this school a reality for your kids!” the VFCA board said on Facebook.

“For parents, taxpayers, and most of all our students, everyone should support having multiple good school options so that every child has a chance to succeed. VFCA is using a proven curriculum—and once opened, it will help improve the quality of education for everyone in the great West Chester area.”

“Politicians should stop worrying about the name on the school and focus on whether there are good school options so that parents can find a good school—and, all schools will be accountable to parents and taxpayers,” said Guy Ciarrocchi.  Ciarrocchi is the former CEO of the Chester County Chamber and serves as a volunteer board member of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.

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West Chester Area Parents Complain About ‘Fight Club’ Middle School

Welcome to “Fight Club Middle School.”

That’s what kids have started to call Fugett Middle School in the West Chester Area School District. Parents gave the school board and superintendent an earful recently about the lack of discipline at the school, which serves around 900 students in grades 6 through 8.

Classmates attacked one student in the gym, resulting in a concussion. Two teachers were present during that incident, a parent said.

Fights, as many as four a day, break out in the hallways, said Stephanie Beisser.

“We are in a crisis,” she told the school board at the May 24 meeting.

“Our kids are afraid to go to the cafeteria,” she said. “They hide in the bathroom or don’t go to school.”

A district survey found that nearly 30 percent of students in the district report they have been bullied. That compares to 22 percent nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, the other two middle schools apparently are not experiencing the same issues with bullying and fighting as Fugett.

And, Beisser said, Principal Dionne Fears, D.Ed., does not respond to parents’ emails, or if she does, she does not take responsibility. One email from Fears said, “This is the society we live in,” said Beisser, who spoke on behalf of several parents who worried that if they spoke out, their children would face retaliation.

Another parent said teachers are not allowed to intervene to stop fights.

That is “unacceptable,” he said.

Morale is low for students and teachers, another parent added.

“I literally have to pull my son out of bed every day,” a parent said. When they talk to school officials, they are “told what I want to hear.”

The school district has convened focus groups of parents, students, and teachers. Substitute Superintendent Kalia Reynolds, D.Ed., met with 20 parents Monday night. One father attending the meeting who asked that his name not be used told DVJournal he is unsatisfied and concerned about his children who attend the school.

“From my perspective, this really boils down to a lack of leadership at the principal and superintendent levels,” he said. “They’ve been listening a lot. But at what point do you take action and start communicating your progress? And that hasn’t happened. And need to know they’re aware of bullying, they’re aware of fighting, but there is very little action taken so far in the school year. Inbound sixth graders have already named it ‘fight club,’ and that’s not right.”

“It seems like no action is being taken with very little communication, and it’s like a sweep it under the rug. It’ll maybe get better next year. And that’s not the responsible approach that we parents are looking for.”

Beisser, who has two children at the school, told DVJournal one suggestion that came out of the focus groups was for student mediation, “which is one of the worst suggestions because when another student bullies students, the last thing you want is for them to sit the bully across the table from the person that they’re bullying because they then you’re just re-victimizing them.”

She said there is an outpouring among parents who want to fix the school.

“We want our kids to be happy and feel safe, and right now, that’s not the situation. It’s hard when the leader doesn’t want to step up, embrace the community, and make things better.”

Gemma Hrevatis told DVJournal that she and her husband will send their son to a Catholic school in the fall rather than let him start 6th grade at Fugett.

“It was very heartbreaking,” she said. “I went to the parent middle school information session, and everything looked great. They have their own floor, so they don’t have to mingle with the older kids, and I thought my son would thrive there. Then I began to hear stories about the lack of communication, the bullying, the whole morale…I don’t think it would be a good place for him to continue growing into the person we want him to be.”

When they checked out the Catholic school, she said people in the office already knew his name.

“The kids made him feel so welcome,” she added. “It just felt good.”

Mary Schwemler, a spokeswoman for the district, said it is working to improve things.

“The West Chester Area School District appreciates that some of our Fugett Middle School families have voiced not only their concerns but also their strong desire to collaborate with school and district leaders to ensure that Fugett is an environment where students thrive,” she said. “We are prioritizing clear communication, engagement, and transparency as we work together to further develop an action plan to address the issues brought up at the board meeting and in recent focus groups. We look forward to making adjustments to continue to strengthen our Fugett community over the summer and into the coming school year.”

Sources at No Left Turn in Education alerted DVJournal to this school board meeting.

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MACFARLAND: Why Chester County Families Need a Charter School

In May 1, 2023, the Board of Education of the Valley Forge Classical Academy submitted an application for a Charter School to the West Chester Area School District (WCASD).  The application and addendums were over 500 pages.  Additional documents, including the complete K-8 Alignment of the curriculum to the PA Standards and the entire Program (Curriculum Guide) totaling over 900 pages, were submitted a week later at the request of the District.

Already, school choice detractors are spreading misinformation about charter schools.  I am taking a few moments to ensure that the facts about charter schools are available.


Charter Schools MUST abide by the same laws that the traditional public schools must follow.  That includes implementing IEP’s and 504s, non-promotion or teaching of religion (except in its relation to historical events), accepting ALL applicants regardless of race, color, religion, and no screening of applicants (such as entrance tests).


All of Hillsdale’s Member Schools provide an education that is both classical and American in its orientation. It is rooted in the liberal arts and sciences, offers a firm grounding in civic virtue, cultivates moral character, and teaches and supports universal values.


Charter Schools bill the child’s home district for the instructional expenses needed for the enrolled child. The billed amount is not 100 percent of the per pupil expenditures of the district.  In fact, the district subtracts transportation and administrative fees off the top, and the charter school is provided about 70% of the per pupil expenditure.  So, for example, if the home district has approximately $20,000 per pupil expenditure in the district, as in the case of the West Chester Area School District, the charter school payment is about 30% less than that or approximately $14,000.  Consequently, the WCASD is paying LESS to educate charter children than those enrolled in the district and keeping the difference of $6000 in their pockets! Right now, WCASD budget shows only about 2 percent of its funds go to charter schools….and those funds are educating children residing in the WCASD, not those coming from another nearby district!

The truth is that the taxpayers of the West Chester Area School District DO NOT “pay for the school” as I heard someone claim. The district pays only for the students in the WCASD that attend the charter. Your taxes are not going up because of the addition of a charter school.  Public schools in Pennsylvania are allowed by law to raise taxes per the Act 1 index for their school district EVERY YEAR, and they do so, with or without cause.  Charter schools are just the scapegoat.

In addition, right now we have 93 students pre-enrolled, and most of them are NOT from the WCASD.


Charter Schools must hire at least 80 percent state certified staff.  They are given some leeway in hiring non-certified staff for in-demand positions, such as a high school physics or math teachers.  The state requires that person be emergency certified, meaning a temporary grant of certification, while completing the requirements over a specific time period.  Or in the case of a drama teacher or the like, in which there is no state certification, yet the program is offered at the school.  ALL staff must provide clearances and background checks to be hired.


Forbes Magazine ran this story in 2018, by Emily Langhorn: Five Reasons Why Independent Charters Outperform In-District Autonomous Schools.  The article states they have autonomy; are schools of choice; are held accountable for student performance; go through a careful authorization process; are sustainable.


Valley Forge Classical Academy Charter School is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  All of the people working on bringing this school to the community are VOLUNTEERS and have generously donated their time and talents to ensure a strong application.  None have received any remuneration for their work.  All of the people who have donated their time and talents strongly believe in parental choice and in this particular school model.  We believe that a curriculum that meets or exceeds Pennsylvania State Standards and has high expectations for all students is sorely needed, not only in Chester County, but across the nation, and we are willing to devote our energies to make it happen.

The real argument here is whether or not you believe in parental choice.  Do you believe that all children must attend the public school supported by their parent’s tax money?  Or do you believe that parents should have the right to determine where their children and their tax money should go? Does one teaching style serve all learners? Do larger schools turn out better students and citizens?  Are smaller schools safer?

The beauty of a charter school is that if it doesn’t fit your child or align with your beliefs, your child doesn’t have to attend there!  Doesn’t a parent of a child for whom the traditional public schools aren’t working deserve the same?

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ROSICA: Back to Basics West Chester Candidates Advance to the General Election

Back to Basics West Chester endorsed five school director candidates, and based on the unofficial results of Tuesday’s primary, all candidates will advance to the general election in November. The candidates were cross-filed on both the Democratic and Republican ballots, and each candidate won the Republican nomination by a large margin.

The candidates include Nick Spangler and Bob Rafetto in Region 1, Amanda Greenberg and Peggy Schmitt in Region 2, and Alain Oliver in Region 3.

Back to Basics West Chester is a nonpartisan political action committee (PAC) founded by local parents committed to bringing balance to the West Chester Area School District board. The PAC does not endorse candidates based on their party affiliation. The five candidates were endorsed based on their diverse backgrounds, commitment to serving the community, alignment with the platform, and their balanced views on how to best approach the school district’s myriad issues.

One endorsed candidate, Peggy Schmitt, is a registered libertarian. She could not vote for herself in the primary because Pennsylvania only allows registered Republicans and Democrats to participate, though she appeared on both the Democratic and Republican ballots.

(From left to right)  Nick Spangler, Alain Oliver, Peggy Schmitt, Amanda Greenberg, Bob Rafetto

“I am encouraged and hopeful after Tuesday’s win,” said Schmitt. “Parents and taxpayers have spoken to us, and we agree that it is time to bring the West Chester Area School District back to excellence. We owe it to our children.”

The current board is comprised of eight Democrats and one Republican, partially as a result of two directors who changed their party registration from Republican to Democrat in advance of Tuesday’s primary. The PAC founders believe diversity of thought and ideas will improve student academic performance, a better work environment for teachers, and greater accountability and transparency for taxpayers.

Back to Basics was founded on five main issues: academic excellence, transparency, parents as partners, keeping politics out of the classroom, and fiscal accountability. As a result of the thousands of doors knocked on by the candidates over the last two months, the PAC added school safety to its campaign platform. Many parents expressed concerns about bullying at school and how it is handled. The candidates are committed to listening to the voters and addressing their concerns.

“We are thrilled with the results of our primary races,” said Greenberg. “The hours we spent talking to parents and hearing that they are ready for a change is paying off, and we know where we need to continue to work. This summer and fall will be very exciting.”

Alain Oliver, Region 3 candidate, said, “The primary election day experience was great. It was fun to have so many people come up and say they recognized me from door knocking and that I earned their vote.”

The general election is on Nov. 7. All five candidates will be on the ballot, and every registered voter will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate(s) in their region.

To learn more about each candidate, visit Back to Basics West Chester. 


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‘There is No Research’: Speakers Decry ‘Dangerous’ Transgender Trend for Children

A panel of activists on Saturday warned against the growing trend of transgender-style medical procedures being performed on minors in the U.S.—a forum that was so controversial that event planners originally did not reveal its location to attendees until just 48 hours before it occurred.

At the event, sponsored by the conservative group No Left Turn in Education, speaker Chloe Cole, 18, told of starting the medical “transition” from a girl to a boy at 13 and of having her breasts removed at 15, only to realize at 16 that she had made a mistake.

Cole, who in recent months has appeared at multiple events and protests around the country sharing her story, told attendees that she started “transitioning” in public around age 12, wearing boys’ clothing and cutting her hair short.

At 13, doctors put her on puberty blockers and testosterone. At 15, she said she had the mastectomy procedure. A year later she realized she was a in fact a girl and wanted to “de-transition.”

Cole recently sued the doctors and hospitals that treated her. She still has problems from the treatment, including skin grafts on her chest that haven’t healed properly, she said. Her growth has also been stunted.

Forensic nurse Tammy Hartlaub also spoke to the group about the dangers of transgender surgery and medications given to children to attempt to switch them from one sex to another.

She noted the brain’s frontal lobe, which controls judgment, is the last part to mature when people are in their 20s. And the drugs used to block puberty “have significant side effects in adults.”

As to their long-term effects on children and teenagers: “We don’t know,” Hartlaub said. “There is no research.”

Elana Fishbein, Ph.D. founder of No Left Turn in Education

About 100 people came to the event.

The forum itself almost did not happen. Its location was kept a secret until just two days before it was scheduled. During a radio interview on the Dom Giordano Show on Friday, it was revealed it would be held at the Sheraton Great Valley in Frazer. The hotel reportedly began getting threatening phone calls. By 5 p.m. the event was canceled.

The radio station employee who accidentally gave the location on the air called the Rev. William Devlin of Widows and Orphans to see if he might know another meeting venue. Devlin contacted Pastor William Covelens of New Life Community Church in the village of Huntingdon Valley, who said was willing to host the panel discussion.

Stressing the growing spread of transgender ideology throughout the country, No Left Turn founder Elana Fishbein noted there are now at least 100 clinics nationwide that perform transgender surgery.

“In the last five years, there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of minors who report some distress about their sex and the perception of their gender,” said Fishbein. “For minors between ages 6 and 17 between 2017 and 2020, there was an annual increase of 20 percent. Between 2020 and 2021, there was an 80 percent increase.”

“This is a substantial increase,” she said. “This is not just minor.”

At the event on Saturday, speaker Sara Higdon warned against transgender activists who seek to target children for ideological exploitation.

“They simply believe there is no such thing as absolute truth,” said Higdon, a spokesperson for the group Trans Against Groomers. Higdon was born a male but now identifies as a woman.

Higdon indicated that there are considerable social justice incentives for men to begin identifying as women. “What way can an oppressor maybe become part of an oppressed class? They can transition,” said Higdon.

“And there are (upper-middle-class White) parents who think if they have a trans child they can say, ‘Look what a good parent I am.’

“And there’s a lot of eugenics at play,” Higdon added. “You are sterilizing an entire group of people. …They want to make your kids wards of the state. You can’t usher in Marxism without kids being wards of the state.”

Multiple school districts in Pennsylvania, including many in the Delaware Valley, are teaching the educational doctrine known as “Queer Theory,” deploying curriculum on gender for students as young as kindergarten.

Some districts, including the Great Valley School District, also tell teachers to hide from parents any information related to their children’s claims about transgender identities.

Though Higdon claims to have discovered an internal transgender identity at a young age, the speaker nevertheless criticized and dismissed major popular assertions about gender ideology at it applies to children.

“No child is born in the wrong body,” Higdon said, “It’s not the body that’s wrong. It’s the mind that’s wrong. My gender dysphoria went all the way to adulthood. At the age of 28, I had to tell somebody.”

Cole said that doctors “failed to address the fact that I might have had underlying issues” connected to identifying as a woman.

Cole said she “wasn’t forced into transition by my parents,” as critics often accuse some parents of doing. They took her to a therapist, she said, who allegedly told her parents that she would commit suicide if she wasn’t allowed to begin identifying as a boy. “[It] wasn’t true,” she said.

Cole said social media also played a large role in transmitting transgender ideology to her at a young age, particularly after she got her first mobile phone that allowed her unrestricted access to the Internet.

“I felt I would be better off as a boy,” she said.

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New ‘Classical Education’ Charter School Planned for West Chester Area School District

When Jennifer MacFarland saw a homework assignment her grandson, then in second grade, brought home in 2020, she was concerned. And MacFarland, a former teacher, assistant principal, and charter school CEO with 30 years in public education under her belt, was also suspicious.

She sent a right-to-know request to the West Chester Area School District and found a company providing training to teachers was teaching Critical Race Theory, which she believes is filtering down into the curriculum for the students.

“That’s what really got me started,” said MacFarland. “Because the more I found out what was going on in the West Chester Area School District, the more I felt compelled to open a charter school.”

So, MacFarland took action.

First, she convinced her grandson’s parents to enroll him in a Catholic school. Then she began to work on opening a charter school.

“It took us three years to find a building,” she said. Having a building is required before a group can apply for a charter school charter. And when they did, Valley Forge Classical Academy Charter School was born. The West Chester Area School Board must still approve it and MacFarland, who is the VFCACS board president, hopes it will open its doors in 2024. Her brother, Charles F. Beatty, is the board vice president. Beatty was an Avon Grove School Board member for eight years.

“We are a Hillsdale College-licensed curriculum school,” said MacFarland. “The curriculum is a truly classical education, based on classical literature and history as told by original documents of the time. Singapore Math will be the math program, (which is) a highly recognized and effective program.

“We will teach reading through phonics and science through the core curriculum,” she said.

Students will be reading books that have long been recognized as great literature.  Elementary school students will read “The Velveteen Rabbit” and “Aesop’s Fables.” Older students will read Homer and Mark Twain, she said.

“I believe it will be a great school,” said MacFarland.

Also, students will learn Latin so they can understand the roots of many English words. History will be the 1776 curriculum from Hillsdale, not the controversial 1619 curriculum from The New York Times. Art, music, and physical education will be taught.

“All programs are recognized as high quality, engaging, and rigorous. Teachers will teach via the Socratic Method, leading the instruction (cooperative dialogue based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and finding truth). VFCACS will also teach and reinforce core values that are identified with every culture on earth…wisdom, integrity, honesty, compassion, hard work,” said MacFarland. She noted the people who founded the U.S. were educated using the Socratic Method.

“It’s a much more thorough way of learning,” she noted.

She said the school will start as K through 8 and will add grades each year until it is K through 12.

If parents are interested in sending their children to VFACS, MacFarland recommends supplementing what they are being taught in their current school with Hillsdale’s homeschool curriculum to “make sure our kids are ready because, quite frankly, we are concerned their education at this point hasn’t brought them as far as it should be.”

Hillsdale, a classical liberal arts college in Michigan, provides that curriculum for free, she said.

“I recommend that parents look into that and hopefully supplement what they’re learning in the public school or what they’re doing in home school so they can ensure their kids will be ready for the grade they’ll be placed in.”

Computers will be limited as well. But cursive writing will be taught.

“At this point, most students, especially most students in Chester County, have access to computer technology,” she said. “In fact, many of them are on computers way too much.

“Our philosophy is you don’t need computers to learn,” she said. “You need the basics of education. You need to learn deeply and have a rigorous education that helps you learn how to think on your own without depending on technology.”

Anita Edgarian, a WCASD parent, said, “An alternative for our kids’ education is always a good thing, especially when parents can’t afford private schools. I personally like the traditional approach to education, (such as) books, and notebooks, logic and Latin classes, handwriting, limited time on electronics, building relationships, etc.

“This would be an accepting and comfortable environment for all children to thrive and grow their love of learning, free from the pressures of the world,” she added.

MacFarland would like to eventually open similar charter schools across the state that offer “a high-quality classical education.” Also, nonunion teachers will be hired.

The Valley Forge Classical Academy Charter School will hold an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 25 at 21 Hagerty Blvd. in West Chester.  [email protected] or (610) 730-6931.


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West Chester Superintendent Defends District’s Gender-Related Curriculum

West Chester Area School District Superintendent Bob Sokolowski admitted during the Oct. 25 school board meeting that the district does, in fact, teach children a gender-affirming curriculum.

His remarks came after several residents spoke out against the controversial curriculum, which the Delaware Valley Journal found had permeated to the kindergarten level.

Connie Halloway spoke to the board about a document obtained through a right-to-know request showing the district does not necessarily tell parents if their child is using another gender at school than at home; rather, it depended on if the parent or guardian is supportive of the child’s seeking to change their gender.

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear,” said Halloway. “We are not co-parenting with the government. This is not the Soviet Union or Communist China. You do not have the authority to determine what parents deserve to know about their child’s health.”

“Does West Chester Area School District hide a student’s gender transition from parents?” Halloway asked.

Sokolowski said, “One of the things I can share is those plans are very specific. They are very personalized. I can share with you that when I was the principal at Henderson High School, there was a student that was transitioning to a different gender and that was something this particular student was very uncomfortable sharing with one of her parents…We exclude those plans in the fullest protection of the students.”

West Whiteland resident Mike Winterode said a right-to-know request had confirmed a teacher training at Fern Hill Elementary School in August, where teachers who taught children as young as kindergarteners were instructed on gender education.

“While teachers did learn how to introduce gender education to kids who still believe in Santa Claus, they didn’t really learn all about gender. They didn’t learn what happens once we get beyond pronouns and name changes.

“And kids grow older and they decide to continue down the road to gender transition, the medical realities, such as puberty blockers, shrinking brain development, or freezing the growth of the pelvis in a prepubescent state,” said Winterode. And “cross-sex hormones possibly destroying the ability to orgasm later in life or how during a double mastectomy the nipples are repositioned…killing the ability for a woman to breastfeed.”

Winterode added, “there is a harsh reality that suicide rates go up 20 percent after gender-affirming surgeries.”

He offered to bring two young women, who went through gender transition and then regretted it, to the district to speak at an assembly.

“There is a storm brewing, and that is the growing number of young men and women who realize they were manipulated, they were manipulated at a time in their lives when they needed the guiding hands of responsible adults,” he said. He urged the district to be one of the first in the country to host an event like this. “The de-transition community is growing, and all of us need to listen to them. They have a lot to teach us.”

Parent Dan Hill also spoke about the Fern Hill Elementary School gender teacher training, saying that he did not want his daughter exposed to this. He pointed out the trainer said on her Twitter feed that she was a “radical activist.”

And the books she recommended were “controversial” and “inappropriate.”

The stated goal of the training was “challenging gender limits,” which will “instill confusion in little children” and promote a “multi-billion-dollar gender-affirming care industry…that encourages chemical castration and surgical manipulation.”

And, Hill noted, as an election approaches, the state Department of Education had “scrubbed” its website of the page that promoted gender education.

“This is no longer about tolerance and being inclusive,” said Hill. “It is about celebration and recruitment in order to sustain this industry.”

Sokolowski justified the district’s gender-education policies, saying the district creates a “positive school environment” that promotes academic learning and “life-long success.”

He noted previous articles brought to light the Fern Hill teacher training.

“I understand that many of us did not experience school that way when we were growing up. But there is a need for this,” Sokolowski said. “This is a reality. We do have transgender students in our schools and we are best preparing our students, our teachers, as well.”

He said feedback from the Fern Hill teachers who took the gender training was positive with 94 percent finding it “relevant and practical.”

He said it was harder for students to learn academics if they can’t go to school “knowing they are safe, respected, and valued.”

“This responsibility to help our students achieve their goals is one we do not take lightly,” he said. And it is one “we will continue to strive toward as a district.”

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West Chester Elementary School Trains Kindergarten Teachers in Gender Curriculum

A ‘woke’ curriculum complete with transgenderism, Critical Race Theory, and an emphasis on drag queen performances rather than reading, writing, and arithmetic has permeated some Delaware Valley public school districts.

It has also become a hot-button issue in the governor’s race.

“Schools should be teaching children how to think, not what to think,” said state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican running for governor. “Sadly, classrooms across Pennsylvania have turned into indoctrination facilities that are pushing radicalism on young kids.

“As governor, I will place an immediate ban on Critical Race and Gender Theory Studies in Pennsylvania schools on my first day in office. Unlike my opponent — who has been endorsed by groups who support irreversible medical transitioning of kids — I will protect young girls by ensuring that biological males are not allowed to use girls’ locker rooms. As your governor, I will put an end to the era of radical indoctrination of children once and for all,” Mastriano said.

Democrat gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro declined to comment for this article.

Part of the gender awareness curriculum

However, as attorney general, he signed an amicus brief in support of “transgender rights” to allow biological boys to use girls’ restrooms and locker rooms in Virginia. He also opposed a Pennsylvania bill, vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D), which would have prevented biological males from competing in girls’ sports.

And while Mastriano opposes obscene books in school libraries, Shapiro said, “I don’t want the politicians in Harrisburg telling my kids what books they’re allowed to read.”

But even as education becomes a cudgel in Pennsylvania politics, another program for kids as young as 5 years old has come to light.

Documents released through a right-to-know request and first reported by the Daily Caller show teachers at Fern Hill Elementary in the West Chester Area School District went to a training session about how to talk to children as young as kindergarteners about being transgender.

The materials also include a warning to keep children’s gender secret if they prefer: “Also, remember student privacy—it can jeopardize a student’s safety and well-being if they are outed by their peers or non-affirming adults.”

Some of the bullet points in the presentation were: “Moving beyond boys and girls, explaining what gay means, using picture books to challenge gender limits,” and “responding to concerned parents.”

Other topics included “gender inclusive classrooms” and “tackling bullying.”

The discussion included several books for kindergarten and up, including “Jacob’s New Dress,” and discussed with the children what pronouns the character Jacob uses.

The training includes, “Let your students know that there are lots of different ways that children can dress. There are lots of ways to be a boy or a girl or both or neither. Also, “home and school can be different. Here at school, students can wear whatever makes them happy.”

Another book, “Red: A Crayon’s Story,” talks about a crayon labeled “red” but is blue.

According to the materials, the teachers were also taught to use children’s preferred pronouns and teach children to use preferred pronouns.

Yael Levin, a spokesperson for No Left Turn in Education, a nonprofit that opposes student indoctrination, called the curriculum “disturbing.”

“Elementary schools serve children ages 5 -11. Elementary education should consist of reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, and as much play time as possible. Children in that age range do not need to learn about sexuality and gender identity or expression. We should not be having these discussions at all as a society with children. If parents want to discuss these topics with their children, then they can do that. Generally, children in that age range are not even thinking of life and their friends in those terms.

“Why are we bringing such topics to the forefront of elementary school education? Especially considering how behind our children are due to the unnecessary COVID school shutdowns. We must get back to basics. Parents in West Chester and across Pennsylvania and the nation must demand that their public schools focus on academics. We have to be competitive in this global market. The USA is now ranked 30th in math out of 79 countries, while our spending per student is among the highest in the world and increases every year,” she said.

“It’s time for parents to demand a top-notch education for their children. On top of the poor performance and the learning loss, this particular training (and we have seen this in other trainings as well) mentions evaluating students based on their use of the term gender expression and their understanding of the meaning of the word,” said Levin. “It also references assessing students on their behavior around gender expression – if they are behaving like allies or not. This is reminiscent of a social credit system such as is used in China. This is not compatible with a constitutional republic.”

However, the school district defended the teacher training.

“The West Chester Area School District is continuously looking to improve our ability to provide supportive, welcoming environments for our students and families,” said Molly Schwemler, manager of district communication. “The training at Fern Hill Elementary School focused on developing staff awareness and understanding of gender-based information. The training was not focused on sharing the many elements of transgenderism with students, rather it shared additional ways that our staff can create an environment where all students can achieve their best and where all families feel welcome, valued, and respected.”

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WCASD Responds, Parent Says They Are ‘Blowing Smoke’

Delaware Valley Journal’s coverage of parents pulling their children out of the West Chester Area School District over incidents relating to Gay Pride Week celebrations garnered widespread community comment and national attention, but no comment from the district itself.

Until now.

A week after DVJournal’s reporting on incidents ranging from middle school boys being encouraged to dress as girls, to students being told they couldn’t display American flags the way other students displayed pride flags, the school district commented.

“The West Chester Area School District (WCASD) is committed to providing our students and staff with a welcoming and supportive environment, and as such, we are always saddened to hear of instances in which our families do not feel that is the case,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “However, we do believe that the acknowledgment of Pride Week that was held at Stetson Middle School this June was in keeping with the numerous other awareness and spirit days and weeks that were held throughout the school year.”

Jim Jacobs told DVJournal he was concerned about the disparate treatment his 11-year-old son experienced compared with what Stetson Middle School officials permitted for other students during the Pride observances.

For example, while a male teacher wore high-heeled shoes in class and male students were encouraged to wear dresses, his son was told he could not wear Uggs footwear to school, although he had been permitted to wear them the previous year. And his son and friends were told they could not wear American and Blue Lives Matter flag capes, although other students were permitted to wear gay pride rainbow flags as capes.

In a separate incident, Jacob’s niece, who will also be transferring from the district to a private school in the fall, was required to write a book report, but only books with Black or transsexual characters were allowed, Jacobs said.

“We moved here for the public schools,” said Jacobs. “It was a great public school district. (What) the public school has done is gotten away from its roots. It’s my way or the highway. What they have done is creating a completely adverse climate.”

The WCASD statement disputed those claims.

“The district did not and does not instruct either male or female students or staff to dress in a particular manner, but rather our dress code does allow for any student or staff member to dress as is comfortable for them provided that the clothing is safe, appropriate, and does not disrupt the school environment. As with all other awareness events such as Breast Cancer Awareness Week or Crazy Sock Day, student and staff participation is always voluntary and any demonstrations of support are to align with the dress code or student code of conduct.

“During the recognition of Pride Week, students and staff were allowed to wear pride-inspired clothing and accessories if they wished to do so, which included a pride flag on a specific day of the week. While some of our students instead chose to wear the flag of the United States of America in the same manner as a show of respect and patriotism, it was explained to them that it is actually under the U.S. Code that in respect to the flag it is never to touch the floor, to be worn as a cape or apparel, or used in a manner that may permit it to easily be torn or damaged. Our students understood the grave and special place the flag holds in our country and returned them safely to their lockers.

“Helping our students to grow in their knowledge and awareness of the many different facets that make up our vibrant community while also supporting them to join and better that community through their unique talents and perspectives lies at the heart of our work as a district.”

Jacobs said the district’s response was “blowing smoke.” He does not believe it was concerned about the American flag and its response did not mention that a student was offended by the American and Blue Lives flags and complained.

“It’s selective enforcement of the dress code,” he said. “It’s wrong.”

And teachers and students who disagree with the district’s “woke” agenda are afraid to speak up because they will be called racist or transphobic.

“They put the fear of God into everyone.”

As for his son, “He doesn’t have to be indoctrinated at 11 years old,” Jacobs said.

Elana Fishbein, the Lower Merion mother who founded No Left Turn in Education, a parents’ group that is holding school districts accountable for left-wing indoctrination, said the district’s remarks were not factual.

“The West Chester Area School District’s reply is disingenuous,” said Fishbein.  “No Left Turn in Education has received many complaints from parents that the district’s schools spread racially divisive propaganda, denigrate our country, practice reverse discrimination, and broadcast phony race-blaming.

“Students are given intrusive surveys that collect personal and family information from students without parental consent,” she said.  “Sexually explicit, suggestive, manipulative, and pornographic books and material have been readily available to minors and promoted in the school libraries, classes, and lessons.  So it comes as no surprise that many parents are fed up and plan to enroll their children elsewhere for the fall.”

A teacher who is a local member of No Left Turn in Education, but asked that their name not be used because of their job, said about the WCASD statement, “Sounds like spin to me. Are they saying the boys allowed the flag to touch the floor? Are they also saying that another student did not complain about the American flags as originally reported? Considering the rest of the story–the teacher parading the pride flag around the cafeteria, students being asked to pose in front of the pride flag, the student being told he couldn’t wear slippers (which were actually Uggs) while his male teacher wore stilettos– it’s hard to believe the school here.”

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Families Fleeing WCASD Over LGBTQ Curriculum, Dresses for Boys

At least two families have decided to remove their children from Stetson Middle School after over-the-top gay pride celebrations this year.

Jim Jacobs said he and his brother have decided to send their children to different schools because of what he believes is cultural indoctrination instead of education occurring in the West Chester Area School District.

“The last thing I wanted to do was to transfer my son for his 8th-grade year, but enough is enough,” said Jacobs. “At Stetson, there is no freedom of speech but freedom of ‘woke’ speech. The tolerance promoted by Diversity/Equity/Inclusion is not practiced towards those who have disagreements with or dare to question the ‘woke’ agenda.”

During the gay pride celebrations, boys were encouraged to wear dresses during Gay Pride Month and a male teacher taught in high heels. However, Jacobs’ son was pulled out of class for wearing Uggs that officials deemed slippers, although the youth had worn Uggs the previous year without incident.

“So my son gets disciplined for wearing Uggs (which are said to not adhere to the dress code), but boys are encouraged to wear dresses and male teachers can teach in stilettoes! Really?” Jacobs said. “I called Assistant Principal (James) DeWitt to ask if that was true. He verified it and told me that ‘boys dressing as girls and a male teacher wearing high heels is perfectly acceptable and not in violation of the dress code.’”

And DeWitt also told Jacobs, “This teacher has worn high heels on multiple occasions and that if the teacher is comfortable wearing them, then the school supports him.”

“My son told me that the same teacher who wears high heels would wave the gay pride flag and march it through the cafeteria at lunch and that this was completely accepted and encouraged,” said Jacobs. “How are these not clear-cut examples of indoctrination and the promotion of a specific social agenda?”

“The final straw was the fact that students were encouraged to wear ‘gay pride’ flags for Gay Pride Week. My son’s friends were wearing American flags, and he wanted to wear a Blue Lives Matter flag. I saw nothing wrong with that since if students are allowed to wear Gay Pride flags, others should be allowed to wear an American flag, right?

“However, a gay student opposed the American flags being worn, so Mrs. Heather Selgrath, the 8th-grade counselor, told students who were wearing American flags and Blue Lives Matter flags (my son) that they had to take them off and put them away in their lockers,” said Jacobs.

“It’s selective enforcement of the dress code,” Jacobs said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Also, Jacobs said his 12-year-old niece had to do a book report this semester, but her only option was to do one on a Black or transgendered person.

“Why?” he asked.

“My brother is flipping out,” Jacobs said. “They had his daughter wearing all this make-up and posing with another girl because that’s what they’re encouraging.”

Both Jacobs and his brother are sending their children to Catholic schools in the fall.

“Students were encouraged to take pictures with same-sex students in front of the gay pride flag at school,” he said.  There were also pictures on the wall for students to pose with. “When the LBTGQ display by the pride flag is examined closely, pictures of various individuals on the school wall can be seen,” he said.

“Googling two of their names gave extremely disturbing results,” he said. One was Frida Kahlo, “who was a Communist artist ‘regarded as an icon for Chicanos, the feminism movement, and the LGBTQ+ movement,’” he said. “And another was Bianca Del Rio, who is a drag queen comedian, ‘whose YouTube videos contain off-color raunchy, comedy routines and discuss heroin usage and men’s penises.’ One has to question the academic value of displaying these pictures in a middle school for 11 to 13-year-old children.”

“These activities and displays are unquestionable distractions and liabilities to academic learning, which should be the primary purpose of our public schools,” Jacobs continued. “Promotion of political and social agendas should be verboten. Unfortunately, freedom of speech doesn’t exist anymore in public schools such as in the WCASD…there is only freedom of ‘woke’ speech and selective enforcement of dress codes. Taxpayers should not be required to fund this nonsense.”

“This is unbelievable, crazy stuff,” Jacobs said about the school’s emphasis on LGBTQ issues. “It’s not enough to be gay. You have to be flamboyantly gay.”

Elana Fishbein, a Lower Merion resident and founder of No Left Turn in Education said, “Our schools have been completely derailed by woke people who call themselves ‘educators.’ These woke mobsters hijacked the schools and are suffocating and sexualizing our children with their perverted ideology. For them, furthering an ideology is their mission, not imparting knowledge and skill building. And while religion was chased out of school halls long ago, this ideology has become, ironically, not only a new religion but a cult. Today, they are the true schoolyard bullies.”

A spokeswoman for WASD did not respond to a request for comment.

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