Winnetka School District 36 Takes Aim at New Trier Neighbors
Recently, we reported on questionable books D36 had selected to discuss the topic of families with kindergarteners. Parents discovered that teachers had been reading these books, some sexual in nature, to kindergarteners for the past 5 to 6 years, but hadn’t notified parents until this year. Parents were told by D36 that the books were chosen by the Student Services, Equity, and Inclusion Director. In response to our article, Superintendent Dr. Kelly Tess issued a statement, stating that it contained “numerous . . . inaccuracies” and was “false” and “inflammatory.”
In light of Dr. Tess’ comments, we decided to revisit our original reporting, re-interviewing those kindergarten parents with first-hand knowledge of the curricula. The result? Not only was our original reporting accurate, we more fully understand why so many D36 parents are concerned about the curricula.
From this re-examination we can confidently report, again:
Seven of the nine books selected for kindergarteners do in fact feature same-sex couples. Six are described and labeled as “LGBT,” including on www.goodreads.com.
Although Illinois standards include “recogniz[ing] that families vary” and a goal of D36’s “Who Am I In My Family” unit is to “recognize that there are different kinds of families,” neither requires that the family unit be based predominantly on LGBT books or even identifies specific books to be used. (See Illinois Early Learning Standard at 72; District 36 Kindergarten Curriculum Summary at 20.)
- Dr. Tess claims that District 36 does not teach Sex Ed to kindergarteners, yet by using a book (Love Makes a Family) that features two men in bed, one with a beard and breasts, it is reasonable to conclude otherwise. Another book (And Tango Makes Three) depicts two gay male penguins hatching and raising a baby. Such books invite conversations on the nature of sexual relations between adults and the role gender plays in making a baby that no school should be having with five-year olds – particularly outside the purview of their parents.
- There are material differences between what Dr. Tess claimed during last Tuesday’s board meeting and what district kindergarten teachers are telling parents, including how these books were selected, whether these books are in each kindergarten classroom, and whether and to what extent these books are being used to teach kindergartners about families.
Consistent with Illinois law (105 ILCS 5/28-19.1), parents have a right to know what their children are being taught and when they are being taught material that many parents find objectionable (or at the very least unnecessary) at a young age. In that respect, we applaud the Crow Island kindergarten teachers who emailed parents the list of books for this unit.
Our hope is that, upon further reflection, the District will consistently exhibit this same level of transparency, take parents’ concerns more seriously, and avoid the use of controversial and biased materials with students so young.