State Farm has withdrawn its support for a program that distributes LGBT-themed books to schools and libraries after a whistleblower leaked an email showing the company encouraged staff to donate books about gender identity to children as young as 5.
The insurance company's Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Public Affairs, Victor Terry, announced the end of the collaboration with the organization behind the program, GenderCool Project, in a Monday email to staff obtained by the Twitter account Libs of TikTok. The GenderCool Project describes itself as a "youth-led movement" designed to highlight "transgender and non-binary youth who are thriving."
"State Farm's support of a philanthropic program, GenderCool Project, has been the subject of news and customer inquiries. This program that included books about gender identity was intended to promote inclusivity," the email reads. "We will no longer support that program."
Terry also wrote that State Farm does not support mandating school curriculum on gender identity, stating that "[c]onversations about gender and identity should happen at home with parents." The chief diversity officer said that the company supports organizations that provide "resources for parents to have these conversations."
State Farm confirmed in a Wednesday statement to The Christian Post that it's no longer affiliated with the organization, insisting again that the program was created to promote "inclusivity."
"We will continue to explore how we can support our associates, as well as organizations that align with our commitment to diversity and inclusion, including the LGBTQ+ community," the company told CP. "We recognize and value the diversity of all people and support a culture of respect and inclusion in the communities in which we live and work, as well as our workplace."
State Farm's announcement about the discontinuation of its partnership with The GenderCool Project followed the release of a Jan. 18 email leaked to the nonprofit organization Consumers' Research by concerned employees at the insurance company. Consumers' Research, an organization that educates people about policy issues and corporate activities, has launched the "Like a Creepy Neighbor" public awareness campaign in response to State Farm's partnership with the GenderCool Project.
The title of the campaign is a play on the company's catchphrase, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." The leaked email was sent by Jose Soto, a corporate responsibility analyst for State Farm in Florida. It reveals that State Farm was "partnering with The GenderCool Project to help diversify classroom, community center and library bookshelves with a collection of books to help bring clarity and understanding to the national conversation about being transgender, inclusive and non-binary."
The collection of books created by The GenderCool Project that State Farm sought to distribute includes works titled, A Kids Book About Being Transgender, A Kids Book About Being Inclusive and A Kids Book About Being Non-Binary. The books are designed to help children 5 years old and older have "challenging, important, and empowering conversations about the toughest and most pressing topics we face today."
"The project's goal is to increase representation of LGBTQ+ books and support our communities in having challenging, important and empowering conversations with children age 5+," Soto's email reads. "This is a fantastic way to give back and an easy project that will help support the LGBTQ+ community and to make the world around us better."
The company reportedly intended to recruit six insurance agents to "[receive] these books in March, then [donate] them to their community by the end of April." While the email only referenced recruiting agents in Florida, it indicated that the program is not just a regional initiative.
"Nationwide, approximately 550 State Farm agents and employees will have the opportunity to donate this three book bundle to their local teacher, community center, or library of their choice," Soto wrote.
Hild told The Washington Examiner and other news organizations in a Zoom call that the program likely would not be allowed in Florida schools come July 1, when the Parental Rights in Education Bill takes effect.
Critics of the bill, signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, have derided it as a "Don't Say Gay" bill that could stigmatize LGBT students. The legislation prohibits public schools and third parties from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with students in kindergarten through third grade.
"We would hope State Farm would ... cooperate with the governor's office or law enforcement in [Florida] and retrieve any of these books that may have been donated to public schools that by law now do not belong there," Hild said, adding that such discussions with children are inappropriate according to "any reasonable understanding."
The issue of gender identity in schools has appeared in several learning institutions throughout the country in recent months.
Earlier this month, Fairfax County Public School Board, which oversees the largest school district in Virginia, reviewed a student handbook that includes suspension as a potential punishment for students who "maliciously" misgender their trans-identifying peers.
The proposed revisions to the district's Students' Rights and Responsibilities (SR&R) handbook indicates that students can face a five-day suspension for "malicious deadnaming," which is defined as "[w]hen someone, intentionally or not, refers to a person who is transgender or gender-expansive by a name other than their own chosen name."
In April, two sets of parents of the Ludlow Public School District in Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against school officials at Baird Middle School in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts Springfield Division. The complaint maintains that the school officials reportedly encouraged their children to secretly adopt new gender identities without informing their parents. The lawsuit accused the school of having a "protocol and practice of concealing from parents information related to their children's gender identity."