A pro-transgender, pro-LGBTQ video for kindergarteners — which says a doctor can sometimes make a "mistake" about a baby's gender — has been removed from Maine's Department of Education website over "age appropriateness" issues.
What does the video say?
The "Freedom Holidays" video in question is one of about 400 optional instruction clips developed by teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic to help teachers engage remote learners, the Portland Press-Herald reported.
The video, which speaks directly to kindergarteners, begins with a teacher discussing holidays such as July 4 that celebrate freedom. But soon the teacher in the clip begins talking about "LGBT+" people and adds, "We're not free."
The teacher then defines the words "lesbian," "gay," "bisexual," and "transgender," noting that lesbians are "women who love other women," gay men "love other men," and bisexual people are men and women who "love both men and women."
Then the teacher tells the kindergarteners a "transgender person is someone who the doctors made a mistake about when they were born." Here's the breakdown:
"When a baby is born, the doctors will tell the parents what gender they think that baby is ... but some people when they get a little bit older realize what the doctors said was not right. They might say that 'the doctors told me I was a man, but I'm really a woman,' or they might say 'the doctors told me I'm a woman, but I'm really a man.' And so when they grow up and ... tell people that the doctors made a mistake about their gender, then they can transition to be the gender that they actually are."
Here's the continued explanation for the kindergartener audience:
"So transgender men are people who the doctors thought was a woman when they were born, but when they grew up, they could tell people that they're actually a man, and so they transition to be a man. And transgender women are people who when they were born the doctors thought they were a man, but when they grow up, they tell people, 'No, I'm actually a woman,' and so they transition to be a women. And so that is who transgender people are."
The teacher then tells the kindergarteners that the "plus sign" at the end of LGBT stands for "a lot of other people who love in ways that society hasn't always allowed." She says such restrictions were "wrong because there are lots of men who love other men and lots of women who love women, and there are lots of people who are transgender."
The clip concludes with the teacher saying the kindergarteners would learn about three famous LGBTQ activists who "fought" for the right to "love who they wanted to love."
Here's the video:
Freedom Holidays video youtu.be
What else happened?
The Press-Herald said the video was removed from the state's Department of Education website after it was featured in a Republican TV ad targeting Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.
The department and Mills agreed that the lesson behind the clip was inappropriate for kindergarteners, the paper said.
“The governor was not aware of the lesson, but she understands the concerns expressed about the age appropriateness and agrees with the Department of Education’s decision to remove the lesson,” Mills spokeswoman Lindsay Crete said Wednesday, the day the ad began running, according to the Press-Herald.
Crete added that Mills believes parents, community members, teachers, and local elected school boards should make decisions about classroom subject matter, noting Maine’s long-standing tradition of local control, the paper said.
“She will continue to empower parents and elected school boards to make decisions about their kids’ educations,” Crete said while adding that the governor “will continue to respect LGBTQ+ people as valued members of the Maine community,” the Press-Herald reported.
What did the state's DOE have to say?
The paper said the Maine Department of Education wouldn't specify why it couldn't recommend the “Freedom Holidays” lesson plan for kindergarten instruction, but spokesman Marcus Mrowka said the video “should have received further review by a DOE specialist” before it was posted online.
Mrowka also wouldn't say if the department screened other online lesson plans included in the MOOSE program – Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education – before being posted on the publicly accessible professional development platform, the Press-Herald added.
More from the paper:
MOOSE is not a state-mandated curriculum, Mrowka noted. No teacher or school district was required to use the Freedom Holidays lesson plan. MOOSE is made up of free, project-based lesson plans created by Maine teachers for optional use by other Maine teachers in their classrooms, he said.
But the online hub is undergoing a previously scheduled review by department staff, he said. It is part of a plan to update the lesson plans created in the first year of the pandemic and to consider new material created by teachers for the coming school year.
The kindergarten teacher who created the "Freedom Holidays" video was paid a $1,000 stipend for her work, Mrowka added to the Press-Herald.
What did Maine's GOP chair have to say?
Maine GOP Chair Demi Kouzounas told the paper the video's language pointing to same-sex relationships could confuse children and make them more susceptible to pedophiles.
“I’m concerned about the mixed messages that are obvious to anyone who has had kids: We teach them about ‘stranger danger’ and that their bodies are their own,” Kouzounas told the Press-Herald. “But this video talks about ‘people who love in ways that society hasn’t always allowed.’“
The sentiments expressed in the video isn't an educational outlier — even the part about doctors making mistakes about infants' gender.
You may recall a recent story about a transgender first-grade teacher who told a group of kindergartners, first-graders, and second-graders that when babies are born, doctors "guess" if they're boys or girls — but added that "sometimes the doctor is wrong" and "makes an incorrect guess."
In a related story, a transgender high school science teacher — during a video conference that included a U.S. Department of Education senior adviser — declared that students should be taught that "not all egg producers are women" along with other gender-inclusive principles.