Maine DOE removes lesson featuring LGBTQ topics following backlash

Upon reaching the T, which stands for Transgender, the teacher states: "A transgender person is someone who the doctors made a mistake about when they were born."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

The Maine Department of Education has removed an educational video from its website following a Republican TV spot targeting Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, featuring the lesson.

The lesson, aimed at kindergarteners, is part of the MOOSE programMaine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education, which was created amidst the pandemic to help teachers engage with remote learners, according to the Portland Press Herald.

In the video, a female teacher talks about "Freedom Holidays," starting with a roundup of other holidays they had learned about, like the Fourth of July, and Juneteenth.

"But not everyone was free yet. People in this country who are LGBT+ were not free," she said, before launching into an explanation of the acronym LGBT.

Upon reaching the T, which stands for transgender, the teacher states: "A transgender person is someone who the doctors made a mistake about when they were born."

"When a baby is born, the doctors will tell the parents what gender they think that baby is," she said. "They'll say, we think your child is a female, or we think your child is a male."

"But some people," the lesson continued, "when they get a little bit older, realize what the doctor said was not right. They might say, that the doctors told me I was the man but I'm really a woman. Or they might say, the doctors told me I'm a woman but I'm really a man. And so when they grow up and they can tell people that the doctors made a mistake about their gender, then they can transition to be the gender that they actually are"

She further explained to kindergarteners that transgender men were born females, and transgender females were born male.

The teacher noted that the plus at the end of the acronym means that "there are actually a lot of other people who love in ways that society hasn't always allowed."

"It used to be that only men and women were allowed to love each other. Women were not allowed to love other women. Men were not allowed to love other men. People were not allowed to transition to a different gender. And this was wrong because there are lots of men who love other men. And there are lots of women who love women, and there are lots of people who are transgender. And there are lots of other people who want to love in a different way than the world says that they're allowed to," she said.

She said that these kindergarteners would be learning about three famous LGBT activists that "fought so that they could love who they wanted to love and they could be who they wanted to be," referencing the 2015 Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage legal.

In response to the targeting of the video, the Department of Education removed it from the video library of more than 4,000 optional instruction videos.

“The governor was not aware of the lesson, but she understands the concerns expressed about the age appropriateness, and agrees with the Department of Education’s decision to remove the lesson,” Mills spokeswoman Lindsay Crete said on Wednesday.

Crete noted that Mills believes that decisions regarding classroom instructional topics should be decided by parents, community members, teachers and local elected school boards, adding that Maine has a longstanding tradition of local control in regards to schools.

“She will continue to empower parents and elected school boards to make decisions about their kids’ educations,” Crete said, but concluded by adding that Mills “will continue to respect LGBTQ+ people as valued members of the Maine community.”

Maine DOE Spokesman Marcus Mrowka said the video “should have received further review by a DOE specialist” before it was posted online, and would not say whether other lessons included in the MOOSE program had been screened.

Mrowka noted that the MOOSE program is not a state-mandated curriculum, and that no teacher or district was required to use the Freedom Holidays lesson plan.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Mrowka said, "MOOSE is made up of free, project-based lesson plans created by Maine teachers for optional use by other Maine teachers in their classrooms."

The kindergarten teacher that created the video was reportedly paid a $1,000 stipend for her work.

The ad featuring the lesson premiered on Wednesday on local television and radio stations, as part of the Maine Republican Party’s millions of dollars they plan to spend on advertisements.

This upcoming November sees a gubernatorial rematch between incumbent Mills, and former two-term Republican Governor Paul LePage, who lost to Mills in the 2018 election.


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