CMS removes book that was to be part of anti-bullying lesson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Amazon summary for the book "Jacob's New Dress" describes a story about the unique challenges faced when someone doesn't identify with traditional gender roles.

In the book, Jacob wants to wear a dress to school.

The book was supposed to be part of an anti-bullying lesson for first graders in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools during Child Abuse Prevention Month.

But not everyone was in agreement.

CMS board member Rhonda Lennon said that a concerned teacher spoke up about the book.

That concern made its way to Raleigh and lawmakers contacted the CMS Board of Education, which didn’t know about the book selection.

"Apparently, we were the topic of conversation for most of the General Assembly off and on yesterday,” Lennon said. "I think there are ways that we could have incorporated that kind of communication and that type of a curriculum with our students to make sure people are treating everybody respectfully without really going that far and it just feels like we went too far."

Lennon said after all the discussion, the book was pulled Tuesday morning.

Instead, students will read "Red: A Crayon's Story," which is about a red crayon that sees itself as blue.

Charlotte residents and parents who Channel 9 spoke to said “Jacob’s New Dress” is controversial, but gender issues are a reality.

“It is something that is happening in our world today and it's not something to just ignore,” said Charlotte resident Austin Chaney.

"It teaches at a young age about accepting people for being different,” said Ashley Cunningham, a parent of a CMS student. “So they should have kept it instead of changing it to crayons. They can't relate to crayons. They can relate to people."

CMS Superintendent Ann Clark released a statement that said, in part, "CMS is committed to safe school environments where all students are empowered with the tools they need to prevent, detect and report harassment and bullying,” Clark said. “The initial first-grade book selection, which focuses on valuing uniqueness and difference, has been replaced."

Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC, responded.

"Every student should have the right to learn from and understand diverse perspectives of the many backgrounds that make up a large school district like CMS,” Sgro said. “It's sad that some are unwilling to allow students this opportunity and seem to stop at nothing to push their extreme views about LGBTQ people on children at any cost.

“Let's be very clear, children don't have closed minds, but sadly yet again, adults have proven that they do. The only thing controversial about these books is that it seems some have blown their understanding of the intent of this curriculum way out of proportion. All students deserve to have their experiences represented in the curriculum taught to them, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity, ability and class."

NC Values Coalition Statement on CMS Attempt to Mandate Transgender Curriculum

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of N.C. Values Coalition added a statement on CMS’s attempt to mandate transgender curriculum.

"As Charlotte's City Council passed an outrageous ordinance last year that made it necessary for the state to correct the mistake with HB2, Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools were working on rolling out a new anti-bullying policy that seeks to indoctrinate students in the school district by normalizing transgender behavior.

"The purpose of our elementary schools is to teach writing, reading and arithmetic, not to encourage boys to wear dresses. CMS is failing our children. In the recent 2016 state academic ratings, 43 of 165 CMS schools achieved overall pass rates below 50 percent and a majority (59 percent) earned a grade of C or below when measuring student proficiency and growth. These lessons found in the book, Jacob’s New Dress and My Princess Boy and other transgender curriculum that are not appropriate for any child whose parents support traditional family values.

There is no question that this attempt by CMS staff to mandated training is nothing more than putting a dress on CMS's Gender Unicorn. We encourage CMS to refocus on their mission of maximizing academic achievement instead of advancing this controversial curriculum."

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