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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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New Website For Parents to See Ratings, Excerpts From Explicit School Library Books

Parents around the country are concerned about explicitly sexual books in their children’s schools.

A website developed by a Utah mother lists a number of those books with excerpts and also rates the content of books from 0 to 5, with 5 being the most explicit. A teacher living in the West Chester Area School District, who is also concerned about the books children are being exposed to in their school libraries, identified books and began an offshoot website for WCASD books.

“For the past several months, I have been part of a team that has been doing a deep dive into the obscene books in the West Chester school district’s libraries,” said the teacher, who asked that their name not be used out of fear of potential retribution. “This has culminated with the creation of a website that contains all of the obscene titles, along with excerpts from the books. This will serve as a one-stop resource for parents, residents, political leaders, and anyone else with an interest in protecting our children.”

The books that many parents find objectionable are not just books related to LGBTQ topics, but also graphic discussions of heterosexual sex.

Image from “Gender Queer”

“There’s a lot of straight content that’s just as explicit,” the teacher said. “Or violent. Or includes drugs. It’s all explicit. It’s got obscenity in it.”

“The sole purpose (of these books) is to corrupt,” the teacher said. “They are downright sexual and have cartoons. They’re pushing an agenda.”

“We tried to have ‘Gender Queer’ removed” and were not successful, the teacher said.  However, the West Chester Area School Board “decided to keep that book.”

A spokeswoman for the district did not respond to a request for comment.

Website creator Brooke Stephens, a mother of four living near Salt Lake City, said she discovered the problematic books when she was given a copy of  “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” It is a memoir by George M. Johnson about his experiences growing up LGBTQ and his first experiences with sex.

Stephens decided to take action. She has spent hours reading the books and creating her website.

Ironically, she and her family moved to Utah from California because they wanted to live in a more conservative area, but she found the public schools have the same books on their shelves.

“There’s a problem with very sexualized content,” she said. When she asked the Davis School Board to remove the book, it refused. Thatwas when she decided to create the website.

Stephens blames the American Library Association for the graphic books turning up in school libraries nationwide. It cites the First Amendment to promote these books with school district librarians, but fails to take into account whether they are age-appropriate, Stephens said.

The Library Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Stephens sometimes shows people the content so they believe her and they tell her, “’I wish you’d never shown me this. It is so graphic.’ You can’t unsee it,” she said.

There is “truly obscenity, truly vulgarity that is harmful to minors,” she said.

Stephens is working to review school library books with other parents in Utah Parents United and No Left Turn In Education, which was begun by Lower Merion parent Elana Fishbein.

Stephens said while she wants educational content to be inclusive, she does not think it needs to be so graphic. For example, the books in category 5 include discussions of bestiality and necrophilia.

“Who doesn’t want to be inclusive?” Stephens asked.

She urges parents to be aware of what their children are reading.

“There are probably thousands of parents out there that have no idea that these books are in the school libraries,” the local teacher said. “And unless they come to the school board meetings, or have social media contact with people who do know, they’re not going to find out. So this was an easy way to provide a one-stop resource.”

Parents should take a look at the website and see the books their children could be reading that are in the school libraries, the teacher said.

“If you don’t like what you see, you need to start speaking up or you need to make sure your kids don’t read them,” the teacher added.

 

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Chester County Judge Orders Five West Chester School Board Members Removed

In a stunning move, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Judge William Mahon ordered the removal of all five Democrats on the West Chester Area School Board on Tuesday in a dispute over the district’s mandatory mask policy.

Mahon wrote his decision was a “procedural result” of the school district attorneys’ failure to comply with a March 15 court order instructing them to respond to a removal petition filed by upset mother Beth Ann Rosica, who has children attending school in the district.

Because of that, West Chester Area Board President Sue Tiernan and board members Joyce Chester, Karen Herman, Kate Shaw, and Daryl Durnell — all supporters of increasingly unpopular mask mandates — are now out of jobs. Meanwhile, the district’s legal team is looking to address the procedural gaffe on the back end.

It is unclear whether Mahon will entertain their arguments as to why the district did not follow the deadline order. The parties now have seven days to provide to the judge a list of names of five replacements, according to the order.

However, school district attorneys filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing the deadline for a response was actually April 4, WHYY reported. The motion asks the court to vacate the order and reinstate the board members while allowing district attorneys until April 4 to file a written response to the petition.

The judge’s initial ruling is a stunning move considering that Rosica, who has no formal legal training, faced long odds of getting the board members removed under the Pennsylvania Public School Code for favoring masking policies amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

She and another mother, Shannon Grady, mobilized parents in other districts to take similar action against school leaders. They said in their petitions mask policies caused students “permanent and irreparable harm” by “fabricating, feigning or intentionally exaggerating or including a medical symptom or disease which results in a potentially harmful medical evaluation or treatment.”

“I was kinda crying and happy and laughing,” said Grady, who is awaiting the outcome of a petition calling for the removal of Downingtown board President LeeAnn Wisdom, Vice President Caryn Ghrayeb, and board members Jane Bertone, Joyce Houghton and Audrey Blust. “I’ve never been in court before, and that’s why it’s so funny. So many parents reached out to attorneys, and none of them took this route. It just shows what perseverance can do. There are ways for the people to have justice. This could change the landscape.”

Rosica called the decision a “pleasant surprise.”

“It’s very gratifying to have the judge rule in our favor,” she said. “It’s been a long two years of feeling like we’re not heard by our school board. This was a way to hold them accountable for the decisions that they’ve made.”

The judge scheduled a hearing for 9:30 a.m. Friday to hear the reconsideration motion. Rosica said she is prepared to move forward with presenting her case if the judge decides to give the district another chance.

“We feel we have a valid legal argument,” she said. A provision in the code allows residents to push for removal of board members who “refuse or neglect to perform any duties.”

The mothers were emboldened by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in December that said Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration had no legal authority to require masks in schools and child care centers. West Chester continued to impose the mandate even after the ruling declaring the state’s policy unconstitutional.

The justices did not touch upon whether districts could enact such policies. Instead, they focused on the Department of Health’s limited scope of authority to protect public health so long as it did not “act by whim or fiat in all matters concerning disease.”

In a message to parents Tuesday night, West Chester Superintendent Bob Sokolowski said attorneys for the district were “in the process of preparing a substantive response” to the mothers’ claims in the petition.

He did not say why the district’s legal team didn’t meet the initial deadline to file a response to the removal petition.

“While we do not have all of the answers at this time, please be assured that the West Chester Area School District and I remain deeply committed to the mission of educating and inspiring the best in our students,” Sokolowsi said. “As many of you who have emailed or spoken with me over this past year know, I strive to connect with each and every member of our community to answer questions and address concerns in a timely manner.”

Mahon’s decision comes after a federal court judge in another case in the Perkiomen Valley School District in Montgomery County issued an injunction keeping the district’s masking policy in effect after school leaders relaxed it to optional in January.

Parents complained the school’s decision violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because immunocompromised children were more susceptible to contracting and dying from the respiratory disease that has claimed millions worldwide.

The judge in that case, Wendy Beetlestone, wrote that district leaders faced “excruciating choices” trying to keep students and staff safe from the virus while ensuring everyone has equal learning access. However, by March 14, Beetlestone had reversed her decision and ruled that Perkiomen Valley students and staff no longer had to wear masks.

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Chester Co. Judge Allows Cases to Advance Against Two School Boards Over Mask Policies

Common Pleas Judge William P. Mahon permitted recall petitions against the West Chester Area School Board and Downingtown Area School Board to go forward. It is the first hurdle in recalling members of the two Chester County school boards over COVID mask requirements.

The school districts have 20 days to file their responses.

“We are pleased that the judge has ordered the West Chester School Board to file a response explaining why they should not be removed from office,” said resident Beth Ann Rosica, executive director of Back to School PA PAC. Her organization supports school board candidates who promise to avoid lockdowns and keep kids in school. “It shows that the claims made have, at least, some level of merit. Our position is that this is a legal question, plain and simple. Either the board members have the legal authority to mandate masks, or they do not.  We believe that they do not have the authority, and we hope that the judge agrees with us. We believe that is important to pursue this petition in order to hold the Board members accountable for their actions and to hopefully prevent our children from being forcibly masked again.”

Shannon Grady, who filed the petition against Downingtown, said that “the biggest challenge” was figuring out the rules since neither of the petitioners is a lawyer and they filed the petitions without legal counsel.

“We’re just moms,” said Grady. “It’s really encouraging that it hasn’t been thrown out. We’re optimistic.”

The petitions seek to remove the school board members for “neglect of duty, regarding imposing the mask mandates. The parents are “trying to hold (the board members) accountable.”

Grady said she is seeking justice for every child. By making children wear masks, “you are harming children,” she said. At public meetings, parents have spoken to the school boards, and “they ignore you.”

“I sent my district very amicable notices, and they did not respond,” she said. “The crux is you don’t have authority (to impose mask mandates),” she said since the state Supreme Court ruled the state Board of Health did not. “School boards don’t have that authority.”

Meanwhile, Downingtown Area School District spokeswoman Jennifer Shealey said, “Because this is a case that is currently in front of the courts, we are unable to comment at this time.”

Similarly, a spokesperson for West Chester said the district would not comment on “an ongoing legal matter.”

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West Chester Area School District Promises Policy Review After Political Survey Distributed Schoolwide

The West Chester Area School District on Monday said it would review its policies after controversy arose about a schoolwide survey in which high school students were asked about the politics and news-consumption habits of their homelife.

“WCASD is aware of questions regarding a high school student’s survey,” the district said in an email to Broad + Liberty from its communication director as well as in a Twitter thread.

“The survey being shared was created as part of a student’s advanced placement project and intended only to assist with the student’s research. All AP surveys are completely voluntary and anonymous. Once District administration became aware of concerns due to the political nature of the survey, it was reviewed, taken down, and any previously recorded responses were deleted. WCASD is examining its procedures regarding the distribution of surveys to students and taking necessary steps to ensure that future student research projects and distribution occur in a fashion consistent with Board policy.”

The promise for a policy review comes after Broad + Liberty published a story Friday afternoon about the survey which had become a controversy in social media in previous days.

The survey asked students at Bayard Rustin High School how their parents were believed to have voted in the last election, as well as what sources of news the student’s parents relied on the most. Students were asked whether their parents were liberal (“believe in…equality) or conservative (“resists change”).

After the original story, Broad + Liberty also obtained a screenshot copy of an email allegedly sent by the school principal that distributed the survey to all students at Bayard Rustin. The district, however, did not directly confirm or deny the provenance of the email when asked, and instead only produced the above statement.

That email asked students to complete the survey, mentioned that it was in support of a student Advanced Placement Capstone project, but did not specifically inform students that they could opt out.

One person who responded on Twitter to the district’s statement suggested that a review of the survey is first needed, at a minimum.

“Any true (as defined by the HHS 45 CFR 46) research conducted with humans as participants should go through an Institutional Review Board, does the district have one, or an IRB they utilize?”

Other instances show that districts often go to significant lengths to notify parents of when students will be surveyed.

For example, the Penns Manor district in Indiana County sent out a press release to news outlets in late January to let parents know a questionnaire would be distributed asking students “how they feel about themselves as a learner and how they feel about school.”

The press release also provided contact information for parents with concerns or questions to reach out to the district.

Screenshots of the survey in WCASD reportedly first were circulated on Facebook, a claim which Broad + Liberty has yet to confirm.

But other screenshots were circulated on Twitter by the account “Libs of Tik Tok” which has more than 545,000 followers. That tweet was sent on Thursday, two days after the survey was distributed.

 

 

That tweet from LibsofTikTok had already racked up thousands of likes and retweets by the time Broad + Liberty published on Friday.

This article fire appeared in Broad and Liberty.

UPDATE: West Chester Area School District Stays Silent on Allegations of Politicized Surveys Given to Students

2-19 Update: After being contacted by a student in the district who offered context on the survey, we have updated the story to include some of those ideas which we only became aware of thanks to the student who emailed us Saturday afternoon.

Broad + Liberty reached out to get the district’s explanation prior to publication, and also sent district communications officials a link to the story minutes after it was published on Friday. Despite that outreach, Broad + Liberty has yet to be contacted by any official from the district to offer an on-the-record response. *End of update.*

The West Chester Area School District is keeping quiet for the moment about a social media post that has ricocheted across the internet alleging students in the district were given surveys to learn more about their politics and home life.

However, a student in the district said the survey was part of an innocuous student project, in which another student was only gathering information for the purposes of writing a research paper.

An item posted about midday on Thursday by the Twitter account “Libs of Tik Tok” included several screenshots of an online survey with more than two dozen questions.

“To the best of your knowledge, in the most recent 2020 presidential election, who was your mother most likely to vote for?” one such question asked, according to the screenshots.

Broad + Liberty requested comment from the district on Friday, but that email was not returned by the deadline provided. If the district provides comment later, this story will be updated to include it.

Broad + Liberty asked WCASD if they refuted the allegation of the tweet. If the district did not, Broad + Liberty requested information such as the context around the survey, the survey’s purpose, how many students took it, and where the data was kept.

A student who reached out said the survey was part of a research project undertaken by another student. The student who contacted Broad + Liberty said the age and pronouns of the respondent were gathered, but beyond that, no other identifying information was taken, making the surveys essentially anonymous.

The student also said they felt that undertaking the survey would help them support the academic endeavor of the student doing the research project, and that they did not feel forced to answer.

At the time this story was published, the Tweet from @LibsofTikTok had garnered 4,972 likes, and more than 1,750 retweets.

A verified user on Twitter, @joepabike, said in the thread, “Wouldn’t be surprised if they asked about parents’ gun ownership, too 😒

But another verified user suggested the issue was overblown.

“I mean, when I was in 5th grade at a private Catholic school we were asked to draw a picture of who our parents were voting for. I drew Bob Dole. We learned about the election. Everyone survived,” the person tweeted in the thread.

The screenshots on the tweet show questions 19-29, which also include questions such as where the student’s parents got their news.

Question 23 intimates that “resist[ing] change” is a conservative quality, while “believes…in equality” is a left-of-center quality.

Broad + Liberty has interacted successfully with communications officers from the district earlier this week regarding a petition filed by a parent in that district that seeks to remove several WCASD board members by judicial order.

A similar social media controversy erupted in Montgomery County in mid-January when a picture of a teacher taping a mask to a student’s face went viral on social media and was on cable news in less than 48 hours after the images first surfaced.

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The mother of the child in that instance later explained that the media controversy was worse than the experience her child suffered.

“While I appreciate parents and groups alike coming to our defense, as stated above, what this has evolved into is exactly what I wanted to avoid,” the mother said to NorthPennNow.com. “Make no mistake, what we are going through because of all of this pales in comparison to the incident itself, which, I will emphasize, was serious in itself.”

This article first appeared in Broad and Liberty.

 

Parent, Residents Complain About Sexual Content in WCASD Books

A West Whiteland parent says he was surprised and disturbed when his 11-year-old daughter brought a book home from school that tells the story, in graphic detail, of a young boy who wants to be a girl. Worse, the father said, the book was assigned to his daughter by her teacher.

The book is “George” by Alex Gino features references to pornography and masturbation, according to The New York Times.

The West Whiteland parent, who asked that his name not be used, told the West Chester Area School Board about the book and his concerns at a Jan. 24 meeting.

“My daughter asked me, ‘Is this book OK,’” the dad said. “I opened it and began flipping through the pages and began noticing things.” The main character, a fourth-grade boy named George, wanted to be a girl. He takes pills to block male hormones, begins to wear girls’ underwear and clothes, and uses the girls’ bathroom.

“Why would an adult, a teacher, give her a book like this?” he asked. “I told her to take it back and ask for another book. The second book, about a young Black boy in Harlem who was bullied by White boys and called the N-word, the father told the Delaware Valley Journal. “What is the teacher’s agenda?”

He contacted the superintendent and principal before speaking at the school board meeting. Because of other incidents, he is concerned about the direction the district is headed in. He said two different teachers asked his older daughter about being vaccinated in front of her classmates, a violation of medical privacy. Also, a homeroom teacher refused to have the class recite the Pledge of Allegiance and a student on his daughter’s bus told other students that America should be communist.

“This is what kids are talking about today,” he said.

“I’m asking for a policy that limits a teacher’s ability to promote or discuss any hot topics in the classroom,” he told the school board. And if a teacher does not comply, there should be consequences, he said.

Another West Whiteland resident, Mike Winterode, also spoke to the board. He had compiled a list of more than 70 books that discuss various transgender and LGBTQ topics, sometimes in clinical detail, which are in the middle and high school libraries. Winterode mentioned “George” as well.

“Scientists specializing in brain development have confirmed that the portions of the brain that evaluate risk and make informed decisions are among the last to mature, usually not until the early twenties,” said Winterorde. “With that in mind, I can think of few decisions that require a fully developed, mature brain than deciding to change one’s gender. Which is why I find it troubling that there are books currently in our middle school libraries that promote changing gender before puberty.”

Another book Winterode mentioned was “Pet,’ a crime-fighting novel by Akwaeke Emez. In it, “The main character decided at age three that he was a girl. At age 10, he was implanted with puberty blockers, and at 13 given hormones that made his hips widen and breasts grow. Surely, all necessary details for a crime-fighting novel. This book is currently available in all three middle school libraries,” he said.

“Most parents are unaware that these books exist in our middle school libraries. They deserve an explanation as to why their children are being exposed to this kind of material at such a vulnerable age,” said Winterode.

Other area parents, including some in Radnor, have raised similar complaints about the contents of the school libraries.

The board did not respond to the men’s comments or discuss the topic at the meeting.

However, district communications manager Molly Schwember said the district takes their concerns seriously and works with parents and guardians.

“As affirmed in the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association and outlined in district policy 109.1AG1, we also take seriously our responsibility to help our students grow into informed and responsible citizens through free access to a comprehensive collection of materials that are representative and considerate of varied interests, abilities, and maturity,” she said in an emailed response.

Under the district’s policies, “parents and guardians are able to review existing instructional materials and submit a complaint form requesting the reconsideration of the use of a book in our schools. The process for responding to and making final decisions on any complaints received is outlined in District policy 906AG1. The district has responded to all existing complaints of this nature thus far, and has taken the necessary actions deemed appropriate following the review and recommendation process,” she said.

“In all areas, the district is committed to being responsive to new information and questions, and these policies guide us in our process for addressing any formal complaints received as well as the initial selection of books to be included within our schools,” she said.

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