Alesha Perkins, who has put a spotlight on the policies of the Washington school district obtained thousands of emails and documents as part of a public disclosure request and turned them over to the unDivided podcast.
According to host Brandi Kruse, the emails from the summer to the fall of 2022, is between Jennifer Knight, a teacher at Centennial Elementary School, and one of her 5th-grade students.
In an email to school staff on April 28, Knight said that the student, a biological girl, would now be using he/him/they/them pronouns.
“Crew Knight," the teacher wrote referring to the class, "has a student who has recently changed their name and pronouns in school and this email is to inform you of that change because you work with this child in some capacity.”
The student “…has opened up to me these past few months and has just requested this change. Please understand that this change is his right and is not to be questioned. Please also know that they are not going by this change at home, and we will not be discussing this with his family.”
The district’s policies allow for teachers and staff to conceal gender identity and other related issues from a student’s parents, similar to the state policy which reads, “…in general, school staff should not share a student's transgender or gender-diverse status, legal name, or sex assigned at birth with others, who could include other students, school staff, and non-school staff.”
Knight sent the student private emails which included statements such as, “You need to get a personal email set up so we still have a way to communicate.”
“I would take you into my home any time you need.”
“Make sure this email is deleted too when we are done bc otherwise when your mom looks, you will be outed instantly.”
“I kept emailing you but I was worried your mom interfered before you saw my messages.”
According to Kruse, while the emails were going back and forth with the child, Knight sent an email to the student’s mother to discuss concerns about the child’s mental health but neglected to mention the minor’s struggles with gender dysphoria.
A May 9 email to the student’s mother asked for an “in-person informal conference” because “I am concerned about her mental health – her self-esteem and how she feels about herself is low and I think meeting in person and talking together would help Taylor feel supported. I don’t have all the answers, but I was hoping we could chat and see if we can brainstorm some ways to support her.”
The following month, Knight was discussing how the student should be concealing the emails from her mother in addition to inviting the minor to stay at her home.
Perkins told Kruse that the student’s family has moved her out of the district and that the child has gone back to identifying as a girl. Knight's employment status with the district is currently unknown.
In a statement to Kruse, Susan Gifford, the district’s executive director of communications and community relations, reiterated its policy which allows for concealing gender identity from parents but added, “Staff are expected at all times to maintain appropriate boundaries with students and follow the Washington Code of Professional Conduct and district policies and procedures related to staff/student communications. In instances when there is reason to believe those expectations are not being met, we investigate and take appropriate personnel action. We do not comment on personnel matters nor students' private information.”
The school district is known for its radical activism, and most recently fourth and fifth-grade students at Lincoln Elementary were taught graphic sex-ed curriculum by Planned Parenthood, which included depictions of vaginas and penises, as well as intersex private parts, without their parents being informed.
Additionally, due to shrinking enrollment, the district planned to cut music classes it felt promoted “white supremacy culture” and “significant institutional violence.”
In 2022, the district’s school board also appointed Talauna Reed, a Black Lives Matter radical and Antifa ally, to fill a vacant director position.
At a July 2021 rally in Olympia, Reed said “f*ck the police” and told rally attendees, “It amazes me how those pigs can sit over there to watch us peacefully talk about what we want [to] change in this state. It amazes me. And they don’t pay attention until we tear sh*t up. So, before I get started, tear everything up in this f*cking city until they do what we want them to do.”
Students in the district were also previously segregated by race.
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