Illinois school implements 'Gender Support Process and Plan' criticized by parents group

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A parental advocacy group has unveiled documents relating to a "Gender Support Process and Plan" being implemented by an Illinois boarding school that encourages staff to keep a student's social gender transition a secret from parents or guardians. 

Late last month, Parents Defending Education, a national grassroots organization, published documents concerning the Aurora-based Illinois Math and Science Academy's "Gender Support Process and Plan."

The plan is said to be "informed by and modeled after similar plans from Gender Spectrum, Laurie's Children's Hospital, and Chicago Public Schools," according to the documents shared by the parental rights group. 

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"The plan is intended to 'guide IMSA in supporting their needs, as well as assisting their social transition while at school,'" Parents Defending Education stated in its report. 

"Supports 'may include, but not limited to the following: access to restrooms, locker room accessibility, affirmation of student's chosen name and pronouns, disclosure of students identity as requested by student, confidentiality of gender identity as requested by student, social-emotional supports, staff training, and other supports expressed by the student.'"

The support plan instructs staff not to disclose a student's self-described gender identity to the child's parents or guardians unless the student gives them permission to disclose this information or the staff member receives authorization from the law department. 

The Illinois Math and Science Academy did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

Emails obtained by Parents Defending Education show that the Gender Support Plan was "piloted this academic year [2022-2023]," however, the advocacy group noted that it's unclear if IMSA's trustees have approved the plan.

The emails also show that the school was concerned about being in compliance "with new Title IX regulations that adds gender and gender expression."

The U.S. Department of Education announced new Title IX civil rights regulations last month, a change that has led to concerns from politicians and advocates about the possibility of men being allowed to enter women's spaces and compete on female athletic teams. Slated to go into effect in August, the regulations define sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The school's Chief Public Affairs and Development Officer Tami Armstrong told The Daily Wire that the plan was initially rolled out in October 2022 but remains "under development."

She said it "has not been fully implemented due to resource limitations."

"The plan is designed to provide guidance and resources for faculty and staff to support the needs of transgender, nonbinary, and gender expansive students," Armstrong was quoted as saying. "Support is intended to be personalized based on the specific needs of each student within IMSA's capacity."

Several emails uncovered by Parents Defending Education show an administrator advising a staff member about how to handle a situation involving a counselor who has "personal beliefs about transgender individuals." The unnamed staff member questioned whether the counselor's interaction with the student warranted a bias report. 

In response, the administrator said that the staff member has a "right to submit a bias incident report" while also acknowledging that the school's employees "hold beliefs and attitudes that vary about identities." 

"Our job is not to shift people's opinions or values, but rather, as IMSA employees, to ensure students are safe and receiving supportive measures according to our Equity and Excellence Policy," the administrator wrote. 

Parents Defending Education highlighted the academy's "Junior Gender and Sexual Diversity Education – Safe Zone Facilitator Guide," which the staff is meant to share with students. The document instructs staff to show students the movie "The T Word" and then ask them questions, such as "How can you contribute to creating a safe and inclusive community for LGBTQ+ students at IMSA?"

The guide has a series of questions for students to answer to assess their "gender bias." The "LGBTQIA+ Ally Guide Packet" asks students if they feel they have to behave a certain way because of their sex and how they feel when they meet a trans-identifying individual.

The packet also questions students about whether they have assigned "traditional male/female names" that align with the sex of their pets. It also inquires if students "socialize [their] pet based on gender (e.g. pink collar for a girl)?"

"Why might it be important to me that a person be able to identify the gender of my pet?" the guide packet asks. 

In addition to a facilitator guide, a document titled "LGBTQIA+ Allyship at IMSA" includes a section called "Coming Out." The section states that "for most folks coming out is a series of decisions — sometimes daily — that LGBTQ people navigate in every new setting they enter." The documents are part of a "Safe Zone" curriculum, according to the parental advocacy group.

The report comes amid a nationwide debate about how schools throughout the country are handling topics like gender identity and sexual orientation. 

According to a report Parents Defending Education released last year, more than 1,000 school districts, representing 18,335 schools with more than 10.7 million students, have policies that permit or advise faculty to withhold information from parents if their child is identifying as the opposite sex at school. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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