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'Cult-Retreat-Like Experience': California School District Trained Staff to Use Preferred Pronouns, Names

AP Photo/Robin Rayne

The Los Angeles Unified School District required its staff to participate in "socioemotional learning" training that involved educators agreeing to use students' preferred names and pronouns.

According to nonprofit parents group Parents Defending Education, a district staff member said the training consisted of "critical social justice gender ideology." The staff member also said staff were led by a "restorative justice teacher" and that they were given handouts to "address" instances in which students or staff make an "unacceptable error in words or actions that are against gender ideology."

The staff member called this training a "cult-retreat-like experience."

During the training, staff members were called to "raise our hands if we could commit to using preferred pronouns and STAND UP if we commit to using trans students' preferred names."

If staff failed to stand up, the staff member explained, "it was an obvious sign that you're problematic and bigoted and in the wrong."

The handout provided to staff, titled "Identity Working Terms," defines the term "gender identity" as "our innermost feelings of who we are as a woman, man, both, and/or neither." The handout also states that people can communicate their gender identity through actions, clothing, hairstyles, makeup use, voices, body movements and "other forms of presentation."

One page of the handout is titled "Interrupting Bias: Calling Out vs. Calling In" and encourages staff to call someone out for several perceived problems, including when their "words or actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated" and when an interruption is needed to "prevent further harm."

The handout also offers examples of phrases for staff to use when calling someone out for "unacceptable" language. One example of this is, "That word/comment is really triggering and offensive. Be mindful and pick a different word."

It also claims students have the "right" to be referred to by their "chosen name/pronouns, regardless of their legal or school records," adding that a student's legal name change "is NOT required for unofficial name changes."

Parents Defending Education president Nicole Neily slammed the district's required training for staff as "appalling" and an indication that the district values social issues over learning core subjects like math and science.

"Pressuring LAUSD employees to adopt language with which they may disagree - and encouraging others to bully, intimidate, and silence dissenting views - is appalling. This took place during an all-staff mandated school hours 'training' during a shortened school day, which places a significant burden on working families," she said in a statement to Townhall. "By prioritizing topics like this over students' mastery of core subject areas, district administrators have shown that they prioritize social issues over learning."

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