Teachers from San Ramon Valley Unified School District were featured on national media recently, with conservative talk show host Tucker Carlson airing a segment on Fox News with allegations targeting local PRISM and GSA clubs.
The segment specifically claims that PRISM clubs operate secretly, without parents' knowledge, and that they exist to recruit young students into what critics claim are organizations that contain explicit and age inappropriate content, without oversight.
Two SRVUSD staff members, Korby Saunders and Blaire Wyatt, are shown on a video discussing that lunchtime meetings for LGBTQ clubs at the elementary level help "eliminate a little of that parent interaction."
Ilana Israel Samuels, SRVUSD's director of communications and community relations, said that district leaders had seen the segment and denied all allegations that club activity in PRISM groups or any other clubs are hidden from parents, saying that the segment was "clearly designed to tell a story."
In the segment, Carlson and guest Abgail Shrier, who wrote the book "Irreversible Damage," discuss fears that PRISM clubs are the work of "activist teachers" aimed at indoctrinating children with their own values and erasing those taught by their families, and claim that language and policy aimed at supporting LGBTQ youth are leveraged to "get involved in the sex lives of children without parents' consent."
"Last February, two of your teachers presented an online CTA discussion entitled 'Affirming LGBTQ plus identities in elementary schools," speaker Mike Arata said in a public comment at the SRVUSD board meeting on Dec. 14. "Fox News recently exposed one presenter's comments, saying that holding lunchtime LGBTQ meetings with students helps eliminate some of the parent's interaction that would occur if such meetings were held before or after school."
Arata went on to echo allegations that LGBTQ support clubs such as PRISM are run by "activist teachers," and intentionally designed and structured to prevent parents' involvement or knowledge.
Samuels said such allegations were patently false according to district policy, and that lunchtime meetings are normal for elementary school clubs, given that it is a time all students are on campus, and that lunchtime club meetings are less likely to interfere with parents' schedules.
She added that as students get into middle school and high school, and gain more independence, there are more offerings outside of school hours, but that the prospect of parental involvement plays no role in this practice.
Saunders is a former elementary school teacher within the district who is now an instructional coach, and Wyatt is a first-grade teacher. Neither was available for individual interviews, according to Samuels.
Samuels emphasized that parents and caregivers are made aware ahead of time of any club involvement by students in the district, saying the district never keeps information from parents about students' extracurricular activities.
She said that if a parent or caregiver voices concerns and wishes to take their child out of a club or activity, at any age, there might be a conversation about what could be done to address these concerns or find a work-around to keep the child in the club.
Ultimately though, she said parents and caregivers had the final decision, and that students would never be allowed to begin or continue participation in any school clubs or activities without their parents' consent.
Parental consent is also required for sex education classes, according to California Education Code, which requires that these classes be taught at least once in middle school and once in high school, and allows it to be taught in kindergarten through sixth grades as well.
Samuels said that she and the district acknowledged the controversy, but said that the district would never hide, or encourage students to hide, anything from parents or caregivers. In the case of LGBTQIA students, she said that the district might try to work with parents on a gender support plan, and have conversations about what can and can't be done according to parents' comfort levels, or to offer resources and information.
Nonetheless, Samuels said that it was the district's job to listen to and address public concerns such as Arata's, and that when these concerns continue to be held by parents following conversations with school leaders, district policy about parent/caregiver consent remains firmly in place.