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California’s largest teacher’s union instructed members at a meeting in October about the best ways to undermine parents and conservative communities regarding gender identity and sexual orientation issues, according to leaked documents and audio obtained by Abigail Shrier.
The California Teachers Association (CTA) held a conference on Oct. 29-31 in Palm Springs, California. During workshops, teachers said they surveilled students’ Google searches, online chats and hallway conversations to identify and personally invite sixth grade students to join LGBTQ school clubs, according to the leaked documents and audio reviewed by Abigail Shrier, which were authenticated by three conference attendees.
Teachers also hid information about students involved in these club from parents, Shrier reported. Several workshops at the conference informed teachers about how to create LGBTQ or “Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA)” clubs in middle schools.
Buena Vista Middle School teacher and LGBTQ-club leader Lori Caldeira said in an audio clip that because her club is not official, it does not keep rosters or records, which allows her to keep parents in the dark if they ask whether their child is a member, according to an audio recording, Shrier reported.
“In fact, sometimes we don’t really want to keep records because if parents get upset that their kids are coming? We’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe they came?’” Caldeira said. “You know, we would never want a kid to get in trouble for attending if their parents are upset.”
Another middle school teacher, Kelly Baraki, led a workship with Caldeira called “How we run a ‘GSA’ in Conservative Communities,” Shrier reported. During the event, the speakers reportedly described the obstacles of working in Central California with many conservative parents.
One of the challenges, the teachers said, was keeping up membership numbers, which had started to decline, according to an audio recording of the lecture.
“We have LGBTQ kids who come to us, and they come and spend a year with us and they get all the love and the affirmation that they need,” Caldeira can be heard to say. “And we give them tools to be powerful and brave and bold,” but then the students “go hang with their friends at lunch … we miss them when they don’t join us.”
At the end of the 2020 school year, the teachers said they started brainstorming ways to recruit kids for their LGBTQ clubs, Shrier reported.
“When we were doing our virtual learning – we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said, according to a recording. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”
She also said teachers observe students in the classroom and listen to their conversations to identify students to personally invite.
Baraki and Caldeira said that every year, they give an anti-bullying presentation to students where they teach “everything that is listed in the Parents’ Rights handbook,” including differences between wealth, race, sexuality, religion and cultural background, according the recording. The lecture sparked parent pushback, and Caldeira and Baraki said they plan to “do just a little mind-trick on our sixth graders” next year by putting the “gender stuff” first in the discussion to prevent backlash.
Caldeira thanked CTA, but noted that she has tenure, which makes it harder to fire her. Regardless, she made clear she and Baraki always “acted with great integrity” and “never crossed a line” even though “we’ve wanted to.”
“I hate to say this, but thank you CTA—but I have tenure! You can’t fire me for running a GSA,” Caldeira said. “And so, you can be mad, but you can’t fire me for it. CTA has made it very clear that they are devoted to human rights and equity.”
Spreckels Union School District (SUSD), where Baraki and Caldeira both teach, issued a statement in response to Shrier’s article that said the appropriate steps are being taken to prevent such activities and comments as those made by Baraki and Caldeira moving forward. The district also said it would take immediate steps to address concerns in Shrier’s article to prevent student surveillance and ensure union conference presentations fall in line with state-approved standards and curriculum.
“The teachers were using personal leave to lead a breakout session in their roles as CTA members; they were not officially presenting on behalf of SUSD, nor were their presentation materials or comments reviewed by SUSD administration,” the statement said. “Many of the comments and themes stated in the article are alarming, concerning, disappointing and do not in any way reflect the District or the Board of Education’s policies and practices.”
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