Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System for material regarding the district’s 2023 “Engage” professional learning conference. PDE received a presentation from the district titled “The World Needs More Purple People” from the conference that is about “using DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) to connect.” The presentation tells district staff that they have a “clear target” to “respond appropriately when encountering racial and cultural bias, helping those around me feel seen and heard.”
The presentation has a “privilege” and “oppression” chart. This chart labels “white,” “men, cisgender,” “heterosexual,” and “Christian” as having a “privilege status.” The chart then labels “person of color,” “women, trans, nonbinary, genderqueer,” “LGBQ+, polyamorous, asexual, aromantic,” and “Muslim, Eastern, Pagan, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, etc.” as having an “oppression status.”
The presentation also focuses on comparing “cultural competency” to “cultural humility.” The phrase “cultural competency” often describes a method of teaching that includes the race and ethnicity of students. The phrase “cultural humility” appears to take that idea a step further. The presentation states: “It is helpful to see what others see; what they themselves have determined is their personal expression of their heritage and their personal culture.”
The presentation tells staff that there can be “trauma from language” and specifically provides examples for “triggering” language. One example is: “Make this for your mommy.” The presentation also states to avoid the phrases “take this to your parents” and “how did you celebrate Christmas?” District staff are also told to avoid the phrase “I don’t see color” because it is supposedly the same as saying “I don’t see you.”
The presentation also has a “reading list” that features a resource called “Safe Space Kit: Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students” from the organization GLSEN. The organization GLSEN is known for promoting LGBTQ issues to young children. GLSEN states on its website that “while many LGBTQ+-inclusive school supports begin in middle or high school, it is critical for elementary schools to establish a foundation of respect and understanding for all people.” The organization has also appeared to show support for children taking “hormone replacement therapy” to transition to another gender:
Upon birth, we are typically categorized into one of two genders (boy or girl) depending on how our genitals are read. Throughout our lives, however, our many bodily characteristics work together to create a unique path of development, causing some of us to grow really tall, and others to remain short, or some of us to grow hair under our armpits and legs, while others remain bare. While this development often happens on its own during puberty, this change can also be administered through medicine, such as hormone replacement therapy. Since our society often conflates our bodies (or genitalia) with our gender identity, it is critical that we allow space for people to self-identify.
A representative of the district explained to PDE regarding the public records request: “The ENGAGE conference has a mix of content developed by the District and content developed independently by educators. Educators are not required to attend, and they select their own sessions. Since this presentation was not developed or delivered by the District, I do not have any additional information on the presentation.”