Springfield Public Schools, the largest public school district in Missouri, has adopted a radical gender-theory training program that encourages teachers to believe that “gender is a universe” and to affirm sexual identities such as “non-binary,” “pansexual,” and “polyamorous.”
Last year, I reported on Springfield Public Schools’ critical race theory training program, which required teachers to locate themselves on an “oppression matrix” and watch a video of “George Floyd’s last words.” But according to new documents obtained by the Southeastern Legal Foundation as part of a civil rights lawsuit, the district’s left-wing training program was not limited to racial ideology: administrators were simultaneously promoting the principles of radical gender theory to school employees.
The training program followed the basic narrative of academic-style gender theory: Western societies have created a “heteronormative” system that marginalizes racial and sexual minorities. To start, presenters led district employees in a “land acknowledgement” censuring white settlers for conquering North America. “As we begin our training, we want to acknowledge and honor the Native and Indigenous Peoples whose land we currently gather on. Springfield Public Schools is built on ancestral territory of the Osage, Delaware and Kickapoo Nations and Peoples,” the statement read. “In doing social justice work, it is important we acknowledge the dark history and violence against Native and Indigenous People across the world. In this work, we are committed to promoting, supporting and affirming all communities, especially those that are marginalized.”
Next, Springfield Public Schools told administrators and teachers that they must understand their “privileges” and identify their position within the “cycles of oppression.” In a “matching game,” the district provides a basic glossary for critical theory, explaining that some groups—i.e., straight, white, cisgender men—have “power” and “privilege” over others based on the categories of “race,” “gender,” “identity,” and “sexual orientation.” Teachers are then asked to classify themselves on a “social identities” wheel and account for their race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. All of these social hierarchies contribute to the “cycles of oppression,” which are reinforced by institutions and result in “anger, dehumanization, guilt, collusion, ignorance, self-hatred, stress, lack of reality . . . [and] internalization of patterns of power.”
Finally, the presentation zeroed in on the principles of radical gender theory. Administrators claimed that people are given a “biological sex assigned at birth,” which often conflicts with their “gender identity” and “gender expression.” Teachers are asked to recognize and affirm identities such as “non-binary,” “gender non-conforming,” “drag queen,” “pansexual,” and “polyamorous,” which is described as having “[ethical], honest, and consensual non-monogamous relationships (i.e. relationships that may include multiple partners).” These teachers are also expected to use the “preferred gender pronouns” of their students. As part of the presentation, administrators shared a video featuring “genderqueer” and “nonbinary” children, titled “Why Gender Pronouns Matter,” which claims that “gender is a universe,” that some children “don’t have a gender,” and that “misgendering a trans person is an act of violence.” “My identity, although you can’t see it, still needs to be validated,” says one of the “non-binary” children in the video.
This kind of training program has also trickled down into some district schools. At Parkview High School, Springfield Public Schools dispatched one of its “Equity Champions,” teacher Ashley Blankinship, to explain to her colleagues that they must “acknowledge [their] privileges” and “lean into [their] discomfort” as part of the “LGBTQ+ 101” training program. Blankinship instructed teachers that they must study and affirm sexual identities such as “queer,” “pansexual,” and “gender non-conforming,” and use “they/them” pronouns for “non-binary” students. “For some folks, pronouns are non-negotiable,” the presentation reads. “Using ‘they’ is PERFECTLY GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT when referring to a single person. We use ‘they’ to describe people all the time.” Additionally, the training instructs teachers to “try not to use gender-specific terms in class,” such as “ladies and gentlemen,” and to “add your pronouns to your email signature.”
Fortunately, political actors in Missouri have taken action. Last year, the Southeastern Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit against the district, alleging civil rights violations. Additionally, Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt launched an investigation into Springfield Public Schools regarding the district’s critical race theory training program. Schmitt should expand this investigation into the district’s radical gender-theory training program, which is, in essence, the same ideology transposed from race to sex. Missouri voters should be able to feel confident that their tax dollars are not used to promote political activism in the classroom. Voters elsewhere should take Springfield’s experience as a warning: radical race and gender pedagogies are not limited to coastal enclaves: they have made their way into the American heartland.