An Illinois teacher reportedly shared in an email thread that she concealed an LGBT club from parents by calling it "Bubbles" with the kids, which the superintendent of the school district clarified is a violation of the district's policies.
The anonymous teacher was employed by Red Bud High School in August 2022 when she discussed how to hide information about the Gender & Sexualities Alliance group with teachers from other school districts.
In October, the parental rights advocacy group Parents Defending Education shared copies of the emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The group clarified that the students involved were as young as sixth grade.
According to one email thread, the Red Bud teacher explained that the club uses Google Classroom, but they do not invite the parents.
"In the beginning, we named it something that did not identify the group, but the kids knew what it was," the teacher wrote in the email. "Bubbles is what they came up with."
Another teacher from the Waterloo School District wrote in another email to GSA advisors that teachers are required to use Google Classroom, and some kids are worried about their parents having access. She asked for recommendations about platforms to use for club communication.
A teacher with "she/her" pronouns at Dorris Intermediate School in the Collinsville Community Unity School District 10 explained that her school uses ClassTag.
"And load the kids' guardian' with their e-mail or cell number. It is a website/app platform that messages and texts too," the teacher added.
Red Bud Community Unit School District 132 Superintendent Jonathan Tallman told CP that keeping information from parents is "absolutely wrong," adding that the district would not tolerate such actions.
The superintendent provided CP with a copy of an email he sent to parents and staff regarding the incident involving the teacher.
In the email, the superintendent clarified that no current staff members were involved and that the teacher who attempted to hide the LGBT club from parents is no longer with the district. The club is no longer active.
"Our Board of Education takes this very seriously and directed me to make clear that all District employees and student club sponsors are not authorized to alter or change the name of student groups for any purpose," Tallman wrote in the email.
"Further, we will not tolerate any employee or non-employee intentionally keeping information from parents," he added. "Every parent has the absolute right to know what groups and clubs their child is participating in. The Administration or Board of Education will not tolerate any deliberate action to hide or keep such information from parents."
Tallman clarified in the email to parents and staff that students operate the clubs on campus and are not controlled by the district or its employees. Students must identify an adult sponsor for a club, who then supervises their activities without compensation.
"Under federal law, the Board of Education is not permitted to deny a student club from organizing simply because the Board does or does not agree with the content/nature of the student club," the superintendent wrote.
"For example, the Board cannot deny a student-organized Fellowship of Christian Athletes club simply because the club is religious in nature," he continued. "This same rule applies to students forming a Gay-Straight Alliance club."
Tallman directed CP to the school district's policies, including the sections about locker room usage and parental rights. According to the policy, students must use the bathroom that aligns with their sex instead of their gender identity.
"The District does not wish to infringe on any student's fundamental right to bodily privacy from persons of the opposite sex," the policy states.
Regarding parental rights, the district cites the 14th Amendment as the reason for entrusting parents with the right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, as well as the Illinois School Code.
In a statement to The Christian Post, a spokesperson for the Collinsville Community Unit School District 10 reiterated comments that Superintendent Mark B. Skertich provided to other media outlets.
According to Skertich, the teacher was talking about an education tool frequently used by educators, and he also claimed that Dorris Intermediate School does not have a GSA club.
The Waterloo School District didn't respond to The Christian Post's request for comment by press time.
Parental rights has become an ongoing discussion in school districts nationwide. Many schools have instituted policies requiring districts to inform parents if their child expresses a desire to identify as the opposite sex. More than 1,000 school districts in the United States have policies requiring staff to keep students' gender identities secret from parents if the students ask them to do so, according to a report this year from Parents Defending Education.
While critics argue that trans-identifying students may not want their parents to know about their transition, others assert that a parent has the right to know about changes to their child's physical and mental well-being.