Leaked files from a Californian teachers’ conference reveal how attendants were instructed to recruit kids to join LGBTQ clubs while dodging parental objections, conservative communities, and school principals.
Investigative writer Abigail Schrier reportedly received audio files and documents from three different sources who attended the “2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities” organized by the California Teachers Association (CTA) in Palm Springs, California from Oct. 29-31, 2021.
Several presentations offered teachers some practical tools and workshops on how to “have the courage to create a safe environment that fosters bravery to explore sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression,” Schrier said.
Nudging your kid in the right direction
General advice many classes offered would be creating middle school LGBTQ clubs, or “Gay-Straight Alliances” (GSAs). One of them, named “Queering in the Middle” was about “what practices have worked for successful middle school GSAs and children at this age developmentally.”
Several speakers bragged about their surveillance tactics of students’ Google searches, internet activity, and how they’ve been eavesdropping on hallway conversations to approach sixth graders to actively participate in LGBTQ clubs while keeping their parents in the dark about it.
“Because we are not official—we have no club rosters, we keep no records,” Buena Vista Middle School teacher and LGBTQ-club leader, Lori Caldeira, told her audience at one of the audio clips, admitting that club leaders would deliberately keep parents in the dark about what kind of curriculum of self-questioning of sexual affiliation their child would have embarked on.
“In fact, sometimes we don’t really want to keep records because if parents get upset that their kids are coming? Caldeira added. “We’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe they came?’ You know, we would never want a kid to get in trouble for attending if their parents are upset.”
Despite the club leaders’ efforts and “all the love and the affirmation that they need,” as Caldeira put it. “And [the fact that] we give them tools to be powerful and brave and bold,” membership enthusiasm started waning, as students “go hang with their friends at lunch. And they do their things. And we love them for that, but we miss them when they don’t join us.”
But the club coaches didn’t leave it at that as they shared with their audience how they started spying on their students for possible clues of LGBT affirmative behavior.
Spying on kids
“So we started to try and identify kids,” Kelly Baraki, the co-host of the presentation said. “When we were doing our virtual learning – we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work. One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”
And apart from screening the children’s internet use, the supervisors also resorted to old school tactics like eavesdropping and eyeballing students. “We use our observations of kids in the classroom—conversations that we hear—to personally invite students. Because that’s really the way we kinda get the bodies in the door. Right? They need sort of a little bit of an invitation,” Baraki said.
“Next year, we’re going to do just a little mind-trick on our sixth graders,” Baraki said. “Next year, they’ll be going first with this presentation and the gender stuff will be the first thing they are about. Hopefully, to mitigate, you know, these kind of responses, right?” she told the audience.
Baraki was referring to the pushback the team received from concerned parents after their children came home sharing too candidly sensitive gender-related insights they’d gained by attending their GSA sessions. a problem that needed to be addressed.
After Schrier published her article disclosing the true colors of the seminar it created an outrage among parents, school districts, and policymakers.
Spreckels Union School District (SUSD), where Baraki and Caldeira both resort, quickly, issued a statement distancing itself from the ideas and practices promoted at the event.
“The teachers were using personal leave to lead a breakout session in their roles as CTA members; they were not officially presenting on behalf of SUSD, nor were their presentation materials or comments reviewed by SUSD administration,” the statement said.
“Many of the comments and themes stated in the article are alarming, concerning, disappointing and do not in any way reflect the District or the Board of Education’s policies and practices.”
The School District, Superintendent Eric Tarallo, the middle school Principal Katelyn Pagaran, and teachers Kelly Baraki, and Lori Caldeira declined to comment on the topic following an outreach by Schriers.