Officials at Mount Elden Middle School, in the Flagstaff Unified School District, continue to refuse to answer questions as to how sexually explicit materials intended for 9th grade students ended up in a lesson for 7th graders.
Not only are the officials refusing to answer questions from the media about materials related to gender identity and domestic violence, but they are stonewalling parents as well.
The materials in question, including the “Universe Model of Gender” and “The Genderbread Person” were presented to Mount Elden 7th graders in Alexa Frechette’s language arts class. The materials were also found on display in a classroom used for 6th graders.
The materials are part of curriculum developed and presented by the Northland Family Help Center’s Community Education Program “dedicated to decreasing the incidence of sexual and relationship violence by addressing cultural attitudes and behavior through open discussion, increased awareness and prevention education.”
Attempts to obtain the materials were delayed due to the fact that school officials did not retain a copy for the school’s permanent record. In response to an email from the ADI asking about a review of the materials by school officials prior to its introduction into a classroom, Karin Eberhard, Associate Director of Communications and Public Relations for Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD), wrote:
The curriculum was reviewed but we are not in possession of the materials presented by the outside facilitator who is from Northland Family Help Center. The answer to your questions below is yes and in this case the materials belong to Northland Family Help Center. Unfortunately I cannot comply with your request at this time. The information I gave you in the prior email gives you the appropriate entity to obtain the information you are seeking.
This failure not only delayed receipt by the Arizona Daily Independent, but denied parents the opportunity to review the materials in order to quickly and adequately address the concerns of their traumatized children.
Those children were expected to process information related to gender types including genderqueer, non-binary, pangender, androgyne, neutrois, gender-variant, AG, cyborg, two-spirit, glitterbutch, genderfluid, trigender, stud, agender, and genderless, as part of the District’s incorporation of its “anti bullying/harassment policy into a small piece of curriculum.”
Out of frustration, parents of children, who found the material disturbing, reached out to Jeff Oravits, a popular radio show host on The Big Talker at 97.1FM out of Flagstaff.
From the ADI:
One parent told Oravits that he was surprised to discover that his son was exposed to the bizarre material. “He mentions there’s 60 something sexualities,” said the father referring to his son, “and we were like, what the heck are you talking about?”
What standards are they meeting?
According to Eberhard, the lesson met “curriculum standards having to do with writing, critical thinking, and others (just giving examples and not any actual assignments) were incorporated in this as with all lessons.” However, according to the materials provided by the Northland Family Help Center, the curriculum was developed to meets Arizona’s 9th grade and above standards.
The target audience for the Northland Family Help Center’s lessons is clearly stated in the materials:
Positive Youth Connections (PYC) is a youth focused program that seeks to educate various members of the youth community, dedicated to the primary prevention of sexual violence in the lives of our youth. Each presentation is tailored to meet the unique needs of the training program, class, curriculum, or organization. The content of this curriculum has been tailored for students in grades 9-12. Our curriculum has been integrated with 9-12th grade state and federal standards for a smooth integration into the classroom. [View the material here]
The Northland Family Help Center defines sexual violence as “ANY unwanted sexual attention or activity. It can include staring, kissing, blocking someone’s path, revealing oneself, watching somebody’s sexual acts, attempting to touch someone sexually, making sexual comments, whistling, etc.”
Who created the material?
As previously noted, Northland Family Help Center’s materials include the “Universe Model of Gender” and ”The Genderbread Person”. The Universe Model of Gender was developed by Liat Wexler. The Genderbread Person was developed by Sam Killermann.
Kellerman describes himself as “an activist, educator, and artist,” on his website, itspronouncedmetrosexual.com. “Outside of creating this site,” writes Killerman, “I’m the Director of Creativity for hues, a global justice collective.”
Killerman sells himself as social justice comedian. The biography on his website reads:
Sam Killermann is a multi-disciplinary artist who puts his gifts to work to achieve global justice as the Director of Creativity for hues. Sam is also the person behind It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, the comedy show performed at colleges and universities, as well as the online resource, which has educated millions of readers on themes of social justice, gender, and sexuality.
Sam’s work (that he uncopyrighted in 2013) has been downloaded by hundreds of millions of people around the world who utilize it to bolster their educational and advocacy efforts toward equity. His version of the Genderbread Person, a model for understanding and teaching gender and sexual diversity, has been translated into over a dozen languages.
In 2014, Sam designed an all-gender restroom sign that he gifted to the commons, which is now being implemented on three continents, is featured in the White House, and is becoming the standard for dozens of communities around the U.S. and world.
Sam is the author of A Guide to Gender, which is an exploration of gender from a social justice perspective, with humor and comics sprinkled in. The book opened as the #1 bestseller in gender on Amazon, and as a reflection of Sam’s commitment to access as a core social justice value, he’s given away over 10,000 copies of the book. He gave a well-received TEDxTalk that has over 200,000 views called “Understanding the Complexities of Gender,” where he distilled the themes of the book into a few minutes of fun, energetic, and easily-digestible speech.
Sam is the co-creator of TheSafeZoneProject.com, a free online resource for LGBTQ and Ally training materials. The open source curriculum they published is being used by over ten thousand educators in at least 100 countries.
Outside of his key initiatives, Sam is a frequent keynote speaker, serves on the Board of Directors for Healthy Teen Network, is the comedy half of S.E.X., head elf at Socially Just Cards, and is always dreaming up new social good projects. When he’s not on the road, he likes to spend at least a few hours a day bicycling around sunny Austin, TX, where he counts himself lucky to live.
Liat Wexler specializes in the “neurobiology of trauma, resilience skills, motivational interviewing, and violence within the LGBTIQ, polyamorous, and BDSM communities,” according to the Center for Community Solutions, where he works as a trainer.
An apparent expert in sexual violence, Wexler presented the Dynamics of Sexual Assault in Polyamorous Relationships and Applying the Universe Model of Gender in Prevention at the 2016 National Sexual Assault Conference. He introduced himself at the conference as coming “up in this field working with the LGBTIQ communities, polyamorous communities and the kinky BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadomasochism) community.”
Virtually little else can be found about Wexler except a video of his performance at the June 2015 showcase, “Butch Please!” produced by “So Say We All in partnership with the Lesbian Wellness Initiative of the Helen Knoll Foundation.” Wexler also wrote, Action Steps for Being a Trans Ally.
Wexler’s Universe focuses on “the need to reexamine and change the use of gendered language, concepts, binary roles, and cissexism to create inclusive prevention curricula and primary prevention.”
Given the fact that Ms. Frachette was a LGBTQ activist while attending NAU, it is understandable that she would focus her student’s attention on LGBTQ issues. What isn’t understandable is why Mount Elden Middle School officials allowed materials clearly intended for high school students into 6th and 7th grade classrooms.
The Arizona Department of Education refers teachers to the Center for Disease Control and their Characteristics of an Effective Health Education Curriculum. The CDC recommends health education curricula that:
Provides functional health knowledge that is basic, accurate, and directly contributes to health promoting decisions and behaviors
Provides age appropriate and developmentally appropriate information, learning strategies teaching methods, and materials
An effective curriculum addresses students’ needs, interests, concerns, developmental and emotional maturity levels, experiences, and current knowledge and skill levels. Learning is relevant and applicable to students’ daily lives. Concepts and skills are covered in a logical sequence.
An effective curriculum provides enough time to promote understanding of key health concepts and practice skills. Behavior change requires an intensive and sustained effort. A short-term or “one shot” curriculum, delivered for a few hours at one grade level, is generally insufficient to support the adoption and maintenance of healthy behaviors.
An effective curriculum includes instructional strategies and learning experiences that are student-centered, interactive, and experiential (for example, group discussions, cooperative learning, problem solving, role playing, and peer-led activities). Learning experiences correspond with students’ cognitive and emotional development, help them personalize information, and maintain their interest and motivation while accommodating diverse capabilities and learning styles.
Eberhard refused to identify administrative staff that she claims reviewed and ultimately approved the materials for the classroom.
The FUSD Governing Board does not have a policy in place that requires their approval of supplemental classroom materials. Unlike standard curriculum, Arizona law does not require Board approval of curriculum prior to its adoption for the classroom.
As a result, the onus is on parents to be aware of what is presented in their kids’ classrooms. In the case of Mount Elden parents, they did sign a permission slip allowing their kids to participate in the class, but were denied an opportunity to review the materials beforehand.
One Mount Elden parent is looking for other options for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the treatment of their child by staff after they complained about the materials. Also, they do not believe that their kids should remain in a school, whose officials exercise so little control over curricula. Unfortunately for parents in more rural areas like Flagstaff, there are few alternatives for this family.
At a time when our traditional public schools are facing funding shortages due to declining enrollment, schools like Mount Eldon cannot afford to send families looking for alternatives.