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Amid Transgender Book Controversy, Rocklin Academy Votes To Keep Literature Policy

ROCKLIN (CBS13) - The topic of gender identity drew hundreds of people to the Rocklin Academy Charter School Board meeting Monday night.

This issue has garnered so much attention that they had to move the board meeting to a ballroom where more than 500 people showed up -- and dozens of people couldn't even get in.

After four hours of public comment, the board voted to affirm their literature policy and going forward they will try and notify parents of any controversial or sensitive topics being discussed in class.

"If this draws these types of crowds, then right there it's clear to me that this topic is too controversial and inappropriate for 5-year-olds," said parent Wendy Sickler.

But Monday night's crowd was mixed, with some parents wanting to see changes in the literature policy and an opportunity to opt out, while there was also a big show of support, especially from members of the LGBTQ community who came out in support of the teacher and transgender child at the center of all this.

"These parents are bullies, I think it's unacceptable for people to be bullying a child because they don't like their life choices," said parent Pam Douglas.

This all stems from a June incident inside the Rocklin Academy Gateway School where a teacher read books such as "I Am Jazz" - about what it means to be transgender - inside a kindergarten classroom while one of her students was transitioning.

The book, according to the school, was not only age appropriate, but part of the California Department of Education's recommended reading list and was given to the teacher by a transgender student in the process of transitioning.

"I want to be the one that teaches my kids about these controversial issues, not the school. I know my kids best," said one parent speaking out during public comment.

"This was alarming because it happened at such a young age and outside of the curriculum and there was no notice given," said Sickler.

"They all have their own differences, and they need to be accepted, and their peers need to understand this," said another parent addressing the board.

Some parents said their children were left traumatized and confused after that June incident. Yet, others shared a positive reaction.

"I had a daughter in the class who has learned many meaningful lessons since then," said parent Ankur Dhawan.

"This has been an opportunity for her to learn about topics that I didn't have the courage to address with her," he said.

"When we shun the rights of parents, we go from education to indoctrination," said one father.

Since the incident, the district has held a number of talks with parents, faith leaders, and other school districts, and administrators offered a series of recommendations that were being discussed. The main recommendations were to affirm the literature policy and to make a change in the parent handbook that would suggest that the school will "endeavor" to notify parents about controversial topics being discussed in class.

"Endeavor to notify is too loose in my opinion. Who is accountable for that? What will we be notified of? There's nothing in the proposed policy, that guarantees this won't happen again," said Sickler.

"It's impossible to say that every controversial topic the teacher's gonna be able to give a heads up on, that's just not how classrooms work," said Elizabeth Ashford a spokesperson with the Rocklin Academy Schools.

Many parents have wanted to not have their children be placed in the same classroom as transgender children and were asking the board for a chance to opt out. But the district says that's against the law and is discrimination towards a protected class.

Since the incident, at least 14 families have pulled their children from the school. Superintendent Robin Stout says she's expecting more people to withdraw. But also adds that there are more than 1,000 families on their academy waitlist.

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