Rantz: Elementary school promotes transgender ‘top surgery’ book to kids, forced to remove it

Jun 29, 2021, 7:12 PM | Updated: Jun 30, 2021, 8:24 am
An outspoken principal in Puyallup pushed a transgender book promoting "top surgery" to young students at his school. Zeiger Elementary School display for Pride. (Photo: Zeiger Elementary Facebook page) Dawn Land provided a photo of the book "Felix Ever After."

An elementary school in Puyallup promoted a transgender book featuring “top surgery” to its young students. Now, the school is on the defensive.

Staff at Zeiger Elementary set up a display for Pride Month outside of the school’s library. It included art representing different gender identities, including pansexual and polysexual. It also displayed several LGBTQ-themed books.

Most of the books were age-appropriate, such as “Heather Has Two Mommies.” But one book caught the attention of concerned parents and staff. After complaints, the school was forced to remove the book. Now, they promise to enact new policies to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

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Book promoted ‘top surgery’

“Felix Ever After” was part of the original display.

The young adult novel tells the story of a 17-year-old Black, queer, and transgender teen who faces transphobia. The book’s cover shows the titular character in a tank top, showing off partial scars from so-called “top surgery.” This is a procedure that some transgender men undertake to remove their breast tissue.  Many surgeons require a patient to be 18-years-old before the surgery, while some offer it with parental consent.

Some parents decried the book as inappropriate for elementary students. It doesn’t just include a subject matter that children may not be ready for, including vulgarity. The book’s publisher does not recommend the book for readers under 14.

“A large percentage of teachers and parents are against the gender confusion, sexualizing propaganda display at Zeiger Elementary and other schools, but they were all afraid to speak here. That is the Orwellian atmosphere Puyallup School District and this school board have cultivated,” local activist Dawn Land said to applause at a recent school board meeting. “I am here to speak out against this school district, daring to work against the cultures and morals of the diverse families in our schools. These children are not your children.”

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A very specific complaint

Land acknowledges that not everything in the display was inappropriate.

But a book with prolific drugs, sex, and vulgarity — in addition to the “top scars”– was too much. She said it was “appalling that the Puyallup School District is actively advocating for this [to] our youngest and most vulnerable students.”

Land doesn’t have a child enrolled at Zeiger. Instead, she says she was enlisted to help those who felt uncomfortable speaking out themselves, including school staff.

She shared with me a letter purportedly from the concerned staff at Zeiger. In it, a group of anonymous staff calls out the principal for being overzealous and unilateral in his Pride displays. The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH has not yet been able to verify the letter independently.

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District pulled the inappropriate book

The district apparently agreed with Land that the book was inappropriate.

“This book was inadvertently included in the Zeiger library display case in a hasten attempt to raise awareness and celebrate the LGBTQ community with staff and students,” district communications director Sarah Gillispie emailed the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “Our responsibility to promote age-appropriate learning materials was overshadowed in that attempt.”

Gillispie confirms the school removed the book after the display attracted complaints when a photo of the display was posted to social media. Parents soon shared the post in and out of the district. When the district became aware of the book’s content, it was removed from the display.

Gillispie also promises that there will be a more effective vetting process in place moving forward.

“This book is not available in any of our elementary libraries, and a stricter process has been put in place to vet the methods in which we celebrate authors and stories for Zeiger students,” she said.

Questionable judgment

I certainly understand why a principal would put up a display for Pride month. The concept of a display is not controversial. The execution? It can be and it was here. The principal’s lack of judgment is troublesome.

It is too early for 5 to 11-year-olds to be introduced to the concept of top surgery. And school principals, well-intentioned or not, should leave the transgender subject to parents. If parents wish to discuss the subject with their elementary-age children, they can agree on their terms.

Further, this whole incident seems exploitative.

There is a desire to teach kids that gender is fluid — a position based on ideology, not science. This isn’t purely about trans issues but gender identity in general. The principal pushed this on a captive audience of children who may start believing the principal’s positions rather than rely on their own research once they’re old enough to understand it.

Do I think a book display will push a child into surgery they’re too young for? No. But it could play a small part in pushing a kid into a life-altering decision at some point down the line.

We’ve seen more kids, particularly young girls, suddenly identifying as transgender. Abigail Schrier offers an excellent journalistic analysis of what’s behind this.

At the very least, this should have provided the principal a reason to pause before pursuing this topic with children.

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Rantz: Elementary school promotes transgender ‘top surgery’ book to kids, forced to remove it