CHICAGO (TND) — Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School (The Bell School) in Chicago modified its curriculum this year to begin teaching children about gender identity and expression, and culminated its first year with the new lesson plans by holding a pride parade.
The move was intended to infuse “social and emotional learning” into the school's curriculum that is centered around the school’s mission statement of “celebrating diversity, promoting honest conversations around inequity and bias, and upholding antiracist ideas and policies,” according to Book Club Chicago.
The efforts included using COVID relief funds to hire counselor Erin DuBose, who helped assist in designing and leading the program, art teacher Shana Pearlmutter told Book Club Chicago.
“That changed everything because then they were able to create a whole curriculum that goes into the classrooms,” Pearlmutter said. “They’re woven into the culture of the school and that matters.”
Schoolwide lessons on Black Lives Matter and International Pronouns Day were part of The Bell School’s new “social emotional learning” curriculum, Katie Moran, the other counselor tapped to help design and lead the new curriculum, told Book Club Chicago.
The Bell School is comprised of grades kindergarten through 8th, and as students get older, the “social emotional learning” lessons lead to “more complex conversations,” according to Moran.
To cap off The Bell School’s first year with its new “social emotional learning” curriculum, students and staff held a parade Friday in honor of Pride Month. Students marched around the school wearing LGBT pride t-shirts, holding banners decorated with the LGBT rainbow.
“I had chills and tears in my eyes because I’ve had relatives who struggled coming out and have had many students come out to me,” Pearlmutter said of the parade. “There’s no doubt that Kate and Erin are changing and saving lives because children struggle with their mental health when they’re not being seen fully and authentically at a young age.”
The National Desk (TND) reached out to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for comment and was directed to a news release from the district about their involvement in citywide Pride Month activities, including the district's sponsorship of a float in the city's Pride Parade on June 26.
“Some CPS schools have already begun their Pride celebrations with their own parades, activities, banners, and events," the news release said, pointing to The Bell School's activity that took place Friday. The memo also highlighted other schools' activities, such as plans to decorate hallways “with rainbows and flags.”
“The District aims to provide students with basic human sexuality understandings, as recommended by the National Sexuality Education Standards and Erin's Law,” TND was told by CPS. “The CPS Sexual Health Education Curriculum covers gender identity and expression beginning in 2nd grade during a lesson on gender roles and gender bullying. Fourth and 5th grade lessons also cover gender identity. The 6th grade lesson No. 4 dives in-depth into gender identities, pronouns, and acceptance.”