Author archives: Meg Kilgannon

Will Schumer Go All the Way for Biden’s ED Nominee Catherine Lhamon?

by Meg Kilgannon

August 5, 2021

In a pleasantly surprising departure from their usual rubberstamping of Biden administration nominees, Senate Republicans earlier this week managed a party-line vote against Catherine Lhamon, Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education. The 11-11 deadlock means Lhamon will not advance to the floor for a confirmation vote without intervention by Senate Democratic Leadership.

Lhamon’s fate was sealed by her actions during her previous stint as assistant secretary for Civil Rights at OCR during the Obama administration. In 2016, Lhamon disregarded established procedure and the proper role of federal agencies when she jointly issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that threatened to remove funding from schools that did not enforce gender identity ideology throughout their operations. Not only did this letter require schools to allow biological boys who self-identify as girls into restrooms and locker rooms meant for biological girls, but this letter also required schools to place biological boys who self-identify as girls in the same housing as biological girls in overnight accommodations. The letter allows schools to honor a student’s request for a single occupancy accommodation “if it so chooses.” Lhamon further trampled constitutionally protected rights by requiring schools to “treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their education records or identification documents indicate a different sex.” The letter further noted, “The Departments have resolved Title IX investigations with agreements committing that school staff and contractors will use pronouns and names consistent with a transgender student’s gender identity.”

During Lhamon’s tenure, the Department of Education’s official website began publishing a “shame list” that religious schools could be placed on simply for requesting a waiver from Title IX provisions that violate their religious beliefs. Lhamon has indicated that the religious liberty of these schools should be construed as narrowly as possible while the re-definition of “sex discrimination” should be construed as broadly as possible. In a 2015 statement regarding these waivers, Lhamon acknowledged that they are legally allowed but stated that the Department of Education would “vigorously enforce Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity, in every applicable school.”

Under Lhamon’s leadership, the OCR was weaponized against those accused of sexual assault on campus, proving her willingness to exert power over schools through Title IX compliance by fiat. This amounted to an attack on due process rights—by someone charged with enforcing civil rights. The Trump administration’s Title IX Rule offered a much-needed correction and was hailed by many as a welcome improvement.

Lhamon’s record on school discipline is also troubling, as Max Eden explained recently on Washington Watch. Eden has sounded the alarm on the ramifications of her policies in his book Why Meadow Died and this op-ed on her nomination.

In 2018, Lhamon explained her work at the OCR on the podcast SwampED this way:

[OCR’s] jurisdictional obligation is to open for investigation any case that is within its jurisdiction and to hear families’ concerns about conditions in schools, to investigate whether those concerns rise to the level of a civil rights violation and if so, work with school districts and schools themselves and colleges and universities to try to secure changes to make sure that those kinds of violations don’t persist going forward. That means that there are literally millions of students in the arms of the office of civil rights. There are about 49 million public school students in the K-12 system and close to 20 million students in 7,000 colleges and universities around the country who are subject to the protection and the enforcement of the office for civil rights. 

Thankfully, whether or not the Senate will “subject” America’s students to Lhamon’s heavy hand at the OCR remains an open question. When her confirmation comes up for a vote in September, let us hope and pray they will not.

Book Review: Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult

by Meg Kilgannon

June 7, 2021

If you are scrupulous about using “preferred pronouns” and avoid “deadnaming” at all costs, this book may not be for you. Maria Keffler has long advocated for the rights of parents, and she need make no apology for the sage advice she offers.

If you think writing a book to challenge the idea of “affirmative care” for children makes her mean, cold or uncaring, you’d be very wrong about that. It is precisely her compassion for others that compelled Keffler to write this book. Having been on the receiving end of phone calls from desperate parents who search high and low to find authentic help for their struggling child, I can appreciate the very real need this book serves.

For the uninitiated, it’s useful to define some terms. As with any cult, transgenderism has its own set of vocabulary that manipulates word meanings and the people who speak that new language. The book even includes a glossary for this purpose. We will start with the term “transgenderism” itself and then move to the book’s title: Desist, Detrans, & Detox.

Transgender,” according the glossary, is “claiming to feel a mismatch between one’s biological sex and one’s sense of self; presenting oneself to the world according to stereotypes that do not align with those of one’s biological (birth) sex.”

To “desist,” in the world of gender ideology and transgenderism, is to have “adopted a transgender identity for a period of time, but to have come to accept your birth sex as reality.”

A “detransitioner” is “a person who presented as other than his or her birth sex, transitioning socially and/or medically, but has since accepted his or her birth sex as reality, and presents as such.”

Detox” refers to the detoxification or deprogramming that must take place to save a child from the cult. Often, this is the step that allows a child to return to his or her authentic self, and is a state that must be maintained. Managing access to the internet and toxic friends or family members, as well as pulling children from a school that is “affirming” an opposite sex identity or presentation all fall into the category of “detox.”

It is clear from her writing that Ms. Keffler cares very much. She relies not only on her training, but has taken the time and effort to collaborate with other experts in the field to write a practical, readable book. She centers the book on the family, using her training in educational psychology to reenforce loving common sense. Her parenting advice in significant portions of the book will be useful to any parent with teenagers and/or young adults. What parent doesn’t need a refresher on setting boundaries or motivation theory?

Perhaps the best advice in the book comes in chapter three, “Your Relationship with Your Transgender-Identified Child.” Here Keffler reviews the kinds of things parents forget in the throes of crisis parenting (or even just after a long, trying day): relationship skills; considerations for different aged children, including adult children; and staying focused on the goal. The goal in this case is rescuing your child from the gender cult, but parents needing help with other difficulties in life will also benefit from this chapter.

If more help is needed for your child, the author recommends using resources available at faith communities which still honor the dignity of the human person. She writes:

Whether or not you’re a person of religious faith, a church, temple, or mosque is a good place to start. Religious freedom is under fire by those who would see all traditional values expunged in America, but religious freedom is still the law of the land in the United States, and houses of faith still operate according to their consciences and scriptural mandates. If you know a house of worship that has not capitulated to the transgender narrative, start there. If you do not attend religious services, ask friends or colleagues about other local churches. Call the church secretary or administrator and ask about their doctrinal policy on the issue of transgenderism. If you’re comfortable with the response, tell them you’re looking for a therapist and you wonder if they can recommend someone.

Keffler offers an unflinching and objective review of the factors at play: the culture, the schools, the family, the parent(s). No one gets a pass, but neither is anyone attacked. The author simply asks the questions that need asking so that answers can be found or at least earnestly sought.

Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult is a must for parents confronting transgenderism in their families. If you know a family facing down the transgender cult, or if you are facing a crisis in your own family, this practical guide may offer a bit of wisdom or a helpful perspective at just the right moment.

Meg Kilgannon is Senior Fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council.

Schooling at Home: Educational Resources for Parents

by Meg Kilgannon

April 3, 2020

With much of the nation under “shelter in place” or “stay at home” advisories, most school buildings have closed, some for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. There is a wide disparity among school districts in terms of how individual schools will help parents facilitate learning. American parents find themselves in an unprecedented situation: working from home (if they are so fortunate) while simultaneously serving as school teacher, administrator, and child wrangler.

Like many of you, many of us here at FRC are working from home during this crisis. Like you, we are managing family needs and school while working to protect and promote family values in our nation’s capital and across the country.

Some of our staff has always homeschooled. These families are challenged by canceled co-ops, classes, therapies, sports, and playgroups—just like traditional school families. Others on staff have children in Christian schools or public schools. And with all schools closed, these parents are navigating a variety of situations. Some schools have moved seamlessly to online studies; others are still figuring things out. But all of us are struggling with the same less-than-ideal situation and are challenged to make the best of it for ourselves, our families, and our country.

In this post, we will share some resources we have found useful, and would love to hear from you about what you are doing to manage your children’s education during this time. This is a very real way we can support each other and do our part to help keep America safe and healthy.

The U.S. Department of Education’s coronavirus page is jam packed with information for both schools and parents. Scroll down for the “At Home Activities” section which includes links to federal agencies with worksheets and virtual tours that can keep children both entertained and informed about our beautiful country’s natural resources, wildlife, space programs, geography, and the arts. There are also reminders and links about staying healthy and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Some of our favorite general advice has come from parents who are also leaders or educational advocates.

The videos on this website are fun, informative, and reassuring. Just a few minutes on this website will convince you that you really can do it—you really can work and school your children at home during this crisis (and maybe even anytime). The enthusiasm of these Texas moms is contagious and just what we need.

If your school district is on hold or you are taking the rest of the year off from school, these activities will keep children and teens busy while parents are working from home. As FRC is unable to vet each item on every website, we encourage you to trust your judgement in finding materials that are appropriate for your family and reflect your values.

Resources for Parents Who Find Themselves Schooling at Home, by Subject

In Virginia, for example, parents in some districts are still waiting for resources and lessons from schools. Other districts and states have moved nimbly to online learning. In case you’re waiting for school resources, want to supplement lessons provided, or just need additional help, we offer the following list of resources. FRC believes in the primacy of parental rights, and works to protect parents’ role as the primary educators of their children. We expect that parents will maintain vigilance in reviewing materials for use by children who are schooling at home.

For Math:

These websites have everything from math fact worksheets to projects and lectures that support higher level mathematics.

For Language Arts:

Take this time to read. Perhaps have a read aloud book for the whole family. Encourage each family member to keep a journal during this time. It will be a record of an important period in American and world history—the Pandemic of 2019-2020. Write letters to friends and loved ones who may feel isolated during this time.

If your school, library, or any organization recommends a reading list, carefully monitor those recommendations. As our friends at Parent and Child Loudoun can attest, there is problematic and even pornographic content lurking in children’s and young adult literature these days.

For Autistic/Sensory Integration Issue Children:

This resource from the UK is interesting and helpful for autism and sensory issues.

The University of Virginia has helps for parents of children on the autism spectrum, including webinars, zoom conferences, and scheduling ideas, just to name a few. Their most recent newsletter has helps and links.

Science and Nature:

Easy science projects can involve cooking and baking. What makes bread rise? What happens when you prepare a recipe but leave out an ingredient? Spring is a great time to start a small herb garden or take on a bigger project. Victory Gardens are back in style, which link American history to natural science and conservation. Take pictures of plants and trees on your walks and identify them from books or online resources. Teach children practical skills, like figuring out ordinal directions through clues from nature.

From the founders of ABCmouse is Adventure Academy, a resource suitable for 8 to 12-year-olds. While not free, it offers animated and interactive games, projects, and lessons geared toward elementary-aged students.

As with all subjects, science topics can be overly politicized or include concepts like Darwinism and “mindfulness.” Math word problems can include scenarios which subtly undermine Christian teaching on marriage, such as a same-sex couple planning a wedding, or reference to a student’s two dads or two moms. We remind you to be on guard for these types of messages in your children’s assignments.

Physical Education:

Getting fresh air and sunshine is important for everyone’s physical and mental health. Please maintain social distancing while on walks or runs. Jumping rope (sanitized ropes only please), skipping races, and scavenger hunts are all options for getting your heart rate up and burning off some energy. Here are a few links we liked:

Art Therapy:

How about coloring pages and connect-the-dots using characters from the Bible?

History:

Suitable for high school students and more advanced middle school students, WallBuilders—an organization dedicated to the accurate teaching and representation of American history—offers helpful links and resources on everything from Creationism, to Black History, to the Founding Fathers. While this site is recommended for older students, it does include links to YouTube, so parental supervision is recommended.

Virtual Tours – These websites host their own tours, making it a little safer than YouTube tours which also can come with objectionable advertising, suggested content you might not prefer, or an automatic continuation to a site you don’t approve. You can find tours of museums in Washington, D.C., Buckingham Palace, Musee D’Orsay in Paris, churches from around the world, and many more. But we remind parents to monitor children’s activities anytime they are online.

More Resources

Finally, with the disclaimer that we have not reviewed each and every item here, these links include resources for every school subject with multiple links for each. This is for parents to review themselves and decide if individual links are helpful to your family. For example, PBS has some problematic content, but that doesn’t mean everything on the website is dangerous. It’s important for parents to select materials from this list and direct children to your approved resources, not just let kids log on and click around.

Share Your Resources and Ideas With Us!

Please share your resources and ideas with us by going to the Contact FRC page and entering “Schooling at Home Resources” in the subject line, and we will post a follow-up blog with what everybody shared. We’d love to hear from you! We are all in this together, working, praying, and staying healthy. Americans will do what we must to defeat this virus and keep our families strong, safe, and free for generations to come.

Meg Kilgannon is an Education Research Associate at Family Research Council.

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