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Clownfish create classroom conflict

By Shane Graber - Posted May 28, 2011 08:00 AM
Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland, California is in the news this week due to school officials deciding to teach their students about gender differences using examples from nature, including hermaphroditic clownfish. The lessons have raised controversy with conservative parents and organizations.
Clownfish create classroom conflict

Amphiprion ocellaris clownfish.

The lessons were part of a larger initiative to combat bullying in the classroom.

"If we don't have a safe, nurturing class environment, it's going to be hard to learn," she said. "Really, the message behind this curriculum is there are different ways to be boys. There are different ways to be girls." (ref)

In these classes, students were taught how nature has devised all sorts of ways for animals to reproduce. Gender-switching clownfish, all-girl gecko's, and other animals were cited as age-appropriate examples for sexual variation and gender roles in nature.

"That's a lot of variation in nature," Gender Spectrum trainer, Joel Baum, told the students. "Evolution comes up with some pretty funny ways for animals to reproduce." (ref)

The Pacific Justice Institute - a conservative legal defense organization - has contacted the school system, stating: "This instruction does not represent the values of the majority of families in Oakland."  The Pacific Justice Institute is offering legal counsel to parents who opposed the instruction.

California state schools are required to have a defined plan to address safety issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.  The $1500 cost of training for these lessons was funded by the California Teachers Association grant.

(from San Francisco Chronicle / NBC Bay Area via reefs)

Author: Shane Graber
Location: Indiana

Shane has kept saltwater tanks for the last 12 years, is a research scientist, lives in northern Indiana, and is a proud Advanced Aquarist staffer.


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