May 8, 2017

In Response to CEO Wade Dyke’s Email of April 26, 2017 to all Great Hearts Employees

Dear Great Hearts Teachers and Staff,

Thank you to all who have brought the email below to my attention. Great Hearts has a duty to keep their employees informed about current controversies that face the organization.

In an effort to further clarify, I would like to respond to a few points so that we can move the conversation past the initial stages of discourse:

Dear Colleagues:

You may be aware of recent discussions about the Great Hearts privacy and accommodation policy for students in relation to transgender requests…

By “transgender requests” I assume he means the request of your transgender students to honor and respect their civil rights at school.

…Some of this discussion has included inaccurate or misleading information.
I have attached below a statement that provides the Great Hearts side of the story, and gives some details around our policy and how it is built on a commitment of privacy and accommodation for every child in our schools and their families.

As with all policy issues at Great Hearts, our first concern as educators is the health and well-being of all our students. We take seriously our duty to create safe, joyful, bully-free, and disciplined schools for every one of our children. Our parent community gives us high marks for doing so…

I agree, which is why I find this policy so striking and offensive.

…Great Hearts has chosen to develop its policy on the most objective information [emphasis added] we have available…

What?!? From where?! From where, man?!!

The Great Hearts Biological Sex and Gender Policy is the 100% polar opposite of what current medical, mental health, and child developmental experts know is the best way to support the mental health, self-esteem, and self-confidence of the transgender child.

Let me be clear:

  • “The most objective information” can be found <here>, <here>, <here>, <here>, <here>, and <here>.
  • “The most objective information” that I am using comes from:
    • The American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of 66​,000 pediatricians committed to the optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.
    • The American Psychological Association, the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with more than 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members.
    • The National Education Association (NEA), 3.2 million members strong, committed to improving the quality of teaching, increasing student achievement and making schools safer, better places to learn.
    • The United States Department of Education, committed to promoting student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.
    • The Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA), a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides training, leadership and essential services to public school governing boards statewide; more than 240 governing boards, representing nearly 1 million Arizona students, are members of ASBA.
    • The Arizona School Counselor Association and the American School Counselor Association, a non-profit organization representing Arizona school counselors statewide.
  • The Great Hearts policy is in no way whatsoever supportive of the mental health of the transgender child.
  • The Biological Sex and Gender Policy is intentionally designed to ostracize, stigmatize, and ultimately remove transgender students from the Great Hearts network.
  • In a school network of 10,000 students, like Great Hearts, 45-50 students are transgender. The aggressive tone of the policy sends a clear signal of intolerance to the entire student body.

<Here> are a few examples of trans-inclusive school policies that Great Hearts could use to build a supportive environment for their transgender students.

SHOW YOUR WORK, GREAT HEARTS!

How did you make this policy decision? How was this policy formed? To whom are you listening? Which experts? Where is your data? Where is THEIR data? How current are your studies?

…and we will continue to monitor guidance from authorities that regulate our charter schools and respond accordingly.

Please reach out to your leaders, or to me directly, with any questions you may have…

Or to me, The Concerned Great Hearts Parents, greatheartstranspolicy@gmail.com.

…Sincerely,
Wade Dyke
President and Chief Executive Officer
Great Hearts

Balancing Accommodation with Privacy

Great Hearts Discusses Commitment to Its Students and Families

There has been recent discussion related to Great Hearts’ commitment to privacy and accommodation for every child in our schools and their families. Some of this discussion has included inaccurate or misleading statements specific to how this policy was developed and how it affects families seeking transgender accommodations

Ug. That phrase drives me nuts. See my comment above.

…Privacy policies and their impacts are often very sensitive matters and we would like to discuss our policy here. We take seriously meeting the needs of all our students. We have a duty to create safe, joyful, bully-free, and disciplined schools for every one of the children we serve…  

As do all schools throughout the state. Please, continue.

…Balancing those needs and concerns as this issue evolves is our objective.  That is why we created and published our privacy and accommodation commitment to students and their families about meeting the needs of all of our students and their families…

This policy does not meet the needs of all your students and their families. In fact, the policy goes out of the way to strike out to the 45-50 transgender students that currently attend Great Hearts.

…which most school districts have not yet done…

Most schools follow guidance set by the Arizona School Board Association (ASBA).

In July of last year, about the same time Great Hearts first formed their Biological Sex and Gender Policy, ASBA released a 4 page guidance document detailing how best to support transgender students and how best to create an environment that will allow them to thrive alongside their non-trans peers.

<Here> is a copy of the ASBA guidance document.

As you will see, it is in stark contrast to the policy in effect at Great Hearts.

…This policy was developed by educational professionals and reviewed by medical and legal experts…

What on Earth? See my comments above. Your experts are quacks.

…Great Hearts felt to insure consistency and fairness it was important to create a guide for our teachers and organization to best provide the safest and most inclusive school environment possible…

Your guide provides terrible guidance.

Your guide damages the mental health of the transgender child and teaches cisgender (non-transgender) children that being transgender is not worthy of respect or dignity, that there is something “wrong” with the child. There is not.

The Leaders at Great Hearts have an opportunity to teach their community that gender identity is an essential part of who we are as humans, as a living soul who is worthy of compassion, understanding, love, respect, and is worthy of our ongoing faith in those virtues…

…but they have failed to do so.

…The privacy and accommodation commitment at the center of our policy focuses on the separation of the sexes where the differences between minor-aged boys and girls really matter: locker rooms and bathrooms, as well as accommodations on overnight field trips…

This is an important point. Please read this carefully.

The Biological Sex and Gender Policy at Great Hearts is not just about bathrooms and locker rooms.

If this policy was only about access to facilities, I would gladly yield. I would dance my happy dance. We would be 90% of the way there.

The Great Hearts policy ties everything, all school activities, to the biological sex of the child: what pronouns are to be used, uniform and hair cutting standards, in which “girls/boys line” the student must use, activities, clubs, organizations, among a long list of other demands.

When we talk about “biological sex” we are talking about the physical parts of our anatomy, our sex organs and chromosomes.

A person knows whether they are a “girl” or a “boy”. And this knowledge is totally independent of their biological sex.

Knowing you are a girl/boy/woman/man is a result of your “gender identity,” an innate, internal sense of the self, and is not strictly defined by what bits are between your legs.

To repeat, “gender identity” is independent of “biological sex.”

For most of us, biological sex aligns with our internal sense of our gender.

For a small minority (0.5% of the US population), biological sex does not align with the internal sense of gender. These people are transgender or gender non-conforming.

The policy at Great Hearts fails to acknowledge that a person’s “gender identity” ought to be considered in the learning environment. The policy fails to acknowledge that a person’s gender identity even exists!

If gender identity isn’t a consideration in any school activity, they, as a transgender person, do not exist.

Poof! They’re gone! This is not acceptable.

…Great Hearts does not discriminate…

Yes, Great Hearts, you do. You are discriminating against transgender children.

…Our policy is simple, clear, and applies equally to all students: access to these uniquely private facilities is determined by the sex stated on a student’s birth certificate, which has always been the governing document when a student is enrolled at Great Hearts or any school system in Arizona…

Schools throughout the state are operating under the exact same legislative pressures, community norms, and social environment. Yet many districts and charter systems are finding ways to accommodate the concerns of privacy and safety that ALL students have, while, at the same time, ensuring that their school environment is supportive of the mental health of their trans students.

However, the Great Hearts Board of Directors has made the conscious decision to design a policy that aims to remove transgender students from their schools.

…To ensure that all our students’ needs are met, Great Hearts provides reasonable accommodations by way of private individual facilities to any student who, for whatever reason, is uncomfortable with our standard bathrooms and locker rooms. Our privacy and accommodation commitment also allows any student to wear unisex uniforms for any reason that is important to them or their parents…

Unisex uniforms? My daughter was once scolded for wearing the “boy polo shirt.” (It has slightly larger buttons and (more importantly) button holes, and is MUCH easier to close than the “girl polo shirt”. We both liked it better.)

Can a transgender girl wear the Great Hearts jumper to school? Or the skirt? Or the skort?

No.

As per the Great Hearts policy, because biologically she is male, she will be forced to wear the “unisex” standard of blue pants.

But, what would happen if she wore the skort? Is it really scary to think about?

…As Great Hearts adds new facilities, we are designing them to maximize private spaces to help be more accommodating to all students, for whatever reason is important to them or their parents…

Yay! I’d love to see the architect’s plan for unisex bathrooms throughout the school(s).

…As the medical community comes to understand more and the State Legislature, the U.S. Congress and our Courts decide on the underlying rights of all students, we will respond accordingly…

The medical community is already in agreement. The best thing a school can do to support the mental health of the transgender student is to support them in their gender identity. Full stop.

See my links to current, “objective information” and studies above.

And…you’re waiting to be told what the “underlying rights” are of your transgender students?

Those underlying rights are driven by the spirit that all people are created equal, that all have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Great Hearts policy fails to meet that simple criteria.

…Great Hearts will continue to provide a top-quality education in the environment prescribed by state and federal laws…

Just because there is not yet statutory guidance that prohibits discrimination against transgender students, does not mean that Great Hearts is obliged to discriminate against their transgender students.

Yet, that is exactly what is happening.

…To follow another course in our view is wrong for all the children entrusted to our care…

Blah blah blah. You’re being disingenuous. This policy is driven by ignorance.

…We will continue to provide the safest learning environment possible for each individual student and their families…

…unless they’re transgender…

…As educators, parents and community leaders, we all should be committed to not allowing education to serve as the battleground for larger political agendas and debate. That is best left to occur in the halls of state legislatures, the congress and the courts…

This, also, is an important point. Please read carefully.

This is not a political issue. This is an issue about civil rights and the violation thereof.

You can be a die hard conservative Republican, and still support the civil rights of a transgender person.

You can be a long-haired, sandal wearing, hippy progressive and still be transphobic.

I know because I have personally experienced both sides of that coin.

I continue to be surprised where I find support for my daughter, and from whom, and where I meet resistance, and from whom.

Support and resistance has never come from where I expect. And it has NEVER fallen along party lines.

…Great Hearts’ exceptional education is built on a commitment to pursuing truth, goodness and beauty…

#GreatHeartsResistance Gooder, truthier, and more beautifulicious. Join us. Support your school. Support your students.

Tell your Board that they made a mistake.

Have a good summer.

Sincerely,
A Concerned Great Hearts Parent

 

********************************

Original April 26th email

********************************

From: Wade Dyke
Date: April 26, 2017
To: All Great Hearts AZ Employees
Subject: Great Hearts Privacy and Accommodation Policy

Dear Colleagues:

You may be aware of recent discussions about the Great Hearts privacy and accommodation policy for students in relation to transgender requests. Some of this discussion has included inaccurate or misleading information.

I have attached below a statement that provides the Great Hearts side of the story, and gives some details around our policy and how it is built on a commitment of privacy and accommodation for every child in our schools and their families.

As with all policy issues at Great Hearts, our first concern as educators is the health and well-being of all our students. We take seriously our duty to create safe, joyful, bully-free, and disciplined schools for every one of our children. Our parent community gives us high marks for doing so.

Great Hearts has chosen to develop its policy on the most objective information we have available and we will continue to monitor guidance from authorities that regulate our charter schools and respond accordingly.

Please reach out to your leaders, or to me directly, with any questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Wade Dyke

President and Chief Executive Officer

Great Hearts

 

Balancing Accommodation with Privacy

Great Hearts Discusses Commitment to Its Students and Families

 

There has been recent discussion related to Great Hearts’ commitment to privacy and accommodation for every child in our schools and their families. Some of this discussion has included inaccurate or misleading statements specific to how this policy was developed and how it affects families seeking transgender accommodations. Privacy policies and their impacts are often very sensitive matters and we would like to discuss our policy here.

 

We take seriously meeting the needs of all our students. We have a duty to create safe, joyful, bully-free, and disciplined schools for every one of the children we serve.  Balancing those needs and concerns as this issue evolves is our objective.  That is why we created and published our privacy and accommodation commitment to students and their families about meeting the needs of all of our students and their families, which most school districts have not yet done.  This policy was developed by educational professionals and reviewed by medical and legal experts.

 

Great Hearts felt to insure consistency and fairness it was important to create a guide for our teachers and organization to best provide the safest and most inclusive school environment possible.  The privacy and accommodation commitment at the center of our policy focuses on the separation of the sexes where the differences between minor-aged boys and girls really matter: locker rooms and bathrooms, as well as accommodations on overnight field trips.

 

Great Hearts does not discriminate. Our policy is simple, clear, and applies equally to all students: access to these uniquely private facilities is determined by the sex stated on a student’s birth certificate, which has always been the governing document when a student is enrolled at Great Hearts or any school system in Arizona. To ensure that all our students’ needs are met, Great Hearts provides reasonable accommodations by way of private individual facilities to any student who, for whatever reason, is uncomfortable with our standard bathrooms and locker rooms. Our privacy and accommodation commitment also allows any student to wear unisex uniforms for any reason that is important to them or their parents.

 

As Great Hearts adds new facilities, we are designing them to maximize private spaces to help be more accommodating to all students, for whatever reason is important to them or their parents.  As the medical community comes to understand more and the State Legislature, the U.S. Congress and our Courts decide on the underlying rights of all students, we will respond accordingly.  Great Hearts will continue to provide a top-quality education in the environment prescribed by state and federal laws.

 

To follow another course in our view is wrong for all the children entrusted to our care.  We will continue to provide the safest learning environment possible for each individual student and their families. As educators, parents and community leaders, we all should be committed to not allowing education to serve as the battleground for larger political agendas and debate.  That is best left to occur in the halls of state legislatures, the congress and the courts.  Great Hearts’ exceptional education is built on a commitment to pursuing truth, goodness and beauty, and will continue unabated for all our students and their families, each and every day.