Education

Denair school stops science teacher who was handing out ‘Gender Unicorn’ graphic

The principal at Denair Middle School stopped a science teacher who handed out this sheet during the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019.
The principal at Denair Middle School stopped a science teacher who handed out this sheet during the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019.

A Denair Middle School teacher was stopped Wednesday while handing out in a science class a sheet titled The Gender Unicorn, which includes a very simple graphic about gender identity, gender expression and attraction.

It was the first day of school, and Denair teacher Luis Davila Alvarado distributed the paper apparently as part of a “getting to know each other” exercise. The teacher uses the courtesy title “Mx.” instead of “Mr.” and wanted the students to understand why, Denair Unified School District Superintendent Terry Metzger told The Modesto Bee in an email Thursday.

“He gave a handout discussing gender in first and second periods. It was not an assignment and students were not required or asked to fill it out,” the superintendent said.

The handout is of a graphic from Trans Student Educational Resources and says more information is available at www.transstudent.org/gender. It shows various forms of gender identity (female/woman/girl, male/man/boy and other), gender expression (feminine, masculine and other), sex assigned at birth (male, female and other/intersex), sexual attraction to (women, men, other genders) and emotional attraction to (woman, men, other genders.)

Alvarado, a second-year teacher of seventh- and eighth-grade science, did not seek permission ahead of time from the school principal, Metzger said. Principal Amanda Silva “happened to be in his second-period class as part of her routine visits on the first day of school. When she saw the content of the handout, she spoke with the teacher and directed him to stop distributing it,” Metzger said. She estimates that about 50 students were given the handouts.

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Asked if what the teacher did violated district policy, the superintendent said that as required by law, gender identity is among the topics discussed in the seventh- through 12th-grade sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention instruction curriculum. But such instruction occurs during health classes, not science classes, Metzger said.

“The principal and I have spoken with the teacher about why we believe this was a poor decision,” she said. “Any discipline is a private matter between the district and employee.”

The Bee sent an email to Alvarado’s school account seeking comment, but got no response.

Parents were not notified by the district about the handout, and “only a handful of parents have called to express their concern,” Metzger said Thursday afternoon.

On Facebook, the stepson of one of Alvarado’s students posted Wednesday night, “The teacher said that because he was transgender and the kids had lots of questions, he thought this would be beneficial to them. Which is the most bulls--- excuse I’ve ever heard.”

The parent, Sonia Rush, continued, “I don’t care what you identify as, that’s your decision. But NO ONE has the right to ask my child these questions that have absolutely nothing to do with what you are teaching in a classroom.”

Many other people commented that the teacher has no business discussing sexual attraction with children. One, Kristen Hill, posted, “Let’s say the kids are confused about what to call him/her. How in hell does this ... clear up any confusion about him/her?!?! What a crock of s---!

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Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.
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