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Awareness fosters empathy and understanding.


Twice in 2021, after learning that conservative activists were arguing against Social Emotional Learning, use of preferred pronouns in schools, and "CRT," I gave the following speech to the Utah State Board of Education. I am currently the parent of two students in Granite School district and have had a total of 10 students in Utah schools. I care deeply about Utah's children and want each of them to have access to the best available education. They deserve nothing less.



My 2021 remarks to the Utah State Board of Education:


I'm an Army combat veteran and former foster parent. I earned two Bronze Star medals and a Combat Action Badge during two years at war, because I cared about my battle buddies and did my best to support them and protect them.

I was a foster parent for the same reason: I had the opportunity to show support and care for some children who needed a little extra for a while. In the past couple of years I have been pleased by how three of my transgender kids were accepted and treated by faculty at three different Granite schools.

I have worked with and cared for gay and transgender people in my life in these different roles. I have a transgender child in Jr High right now. If there is any debate or question about inclusion of gay and transgender youth in Utah schools, we should be discussing how to make their experience more equitable and more inclusive until it's clear that they're getting the best education we can provide as a community. We need to work on inclusion and equity until trans children feel completely comfortable because we, as parents and educators, owe children the welcoming environment that leads to academic success.

When I was a student 25 years ago, I was unfamiliar with the terms transgender and cisgender. I wish I had learned those terms as a young student. Awareness fosters empathy and understanding. I would have been better prepared to meet diverse people in the Army and throughout my life if my education had been a little more expansive. There should be more books and stories about unique and notable people available for our children. Having conversations about other identities and cultures and ways of living can only enhance a person's life.

I've traveled from Utah to Kuwait, Iraq, South Korea, Nicaragua, and Taiwan. I've met and worked with heterosexual, gay, cisgender and transgender people, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and atheists. Many of our young Utah students may do what I've done and travel around the world and meet diverse and interesting people. They will meet diverse and interesting people even if they never leave Utah.

Social Emotional Learning is a valuable part of our curriculum. Using accurate pronouns for each student is not only considerate it is a mature, inclusive way to interact with people. It's a habit our students will use throughout their lives.

 

I appreciate the time you have taken to read my comments. The more each of us is aware, the more understanding and empathy we cultivate and the more inclusive our communities will become.

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