The conservative Liberty Counsel advocacy group threatened to file a lawsuit against Mt. Horeb Area School District in Wisconsin for planning a reading and discussion of the picture book I Am Jazz in its Primary Center. The district, after receiving the threat, decided to cancel the November 23rd reading to "allow the Board of Education the opportunity to review the needs of all involved."
On November 19, the district sent a letter home to parents informing them that, because there was a gender variant student in the school, they would be facilitating a discussion, which would include a reading of I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. The letter reads:
We believe all students deserve respect and support regardless of their gender identity and expression, and the best way to foster that respect and support is through educating students about the issue of being transgender. … It is our responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all of our students. We are continually amazed by the compassion and acceptance our students show each other when they understand their differences.
The next day, a parent apparently reached out to the Liberty Counsel, which has been active in working to suppress academic freedom and the right to read – and fighting against the rights of LGBT citizens. You may remember them as the legal representatives of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. The firm sprung into action, sending a letter to Mt. Horeb School Board President Mary Seidl, claiming that the district was violating parental rights and religious liberty by holding the event.
Not so fast.
By demanding that the school cancel the reading, with the threat of a lawsuit, Liberty Counsel – and the parent who called them – are instead violating the rights of all other parents in the district.
Just because one parent does not like the school working to promote understanding among its diverse student body does not mean that all other parents agree. One parent cannot, and must not, bully an entire district into backing her own religious views and negating the viewpoints of the rest of the community. Doing so amounts to censorship of an idea, and a violation of the First Amendment rights of other parents and students.
We hope that Mt. Horeb continues in its very fine mission to promote compassion, support, and acceptance, and holds the reading and discussion for its students.