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Arizona Dept. of Education promotes chat room for students to talk about gender, sexuality

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Two girls sit in front of a laptop. |

The Arizona Department of Education's list of student resources provides minor children with links to LGBT-themed chat rooms where they can discuss gender and sexuality, possibly without their parents' knowledge.

The ADE website directs students to the Gender Spectrum and Q Chat Space under its "Online Chat Spaces" tab. The links are included in a list of resources ADE assembled for students, educators, school leaders and parents "to assist in the support of LGBTQ students in our schools and communities." 

In addition to the chat rooms, the website also includes information about local and national LGBT organizations. The list of resources was collected by "members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community as part of ADE's Equitable and Inclusive Practices Advisory Council."

The Arizona Department of Education, Gender Spectrum and Q Chat Space did not respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

Gender Spectrum advertises online chat rooms for "transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive pre-teens," inviting them to join discussion groups sorted by age and facilitated by moderators "who have navigated gender in their own lives." The group provides chat room spaces for students ages 13 to 16, 17 to 18 and 10 to 12. 

"Gender Spectrum hosts free online groups for pre-teens, teens, parents, caregivers, and other family members and adults," ADE's description of the group reads. "These groups provide you with the opportunity to connect with others, share experiences, and feel the comfort of a supportive community."

Gender Spectrum told The National Desk that its online groups require parental consent for pre-teens but do not require parental consent for its teenage users.

The other chat room, Q Chat Space, is targeted at children ages 13 to 19, according to its website. Q Chat Space's upcoming chat room discussions consist of a Friday session titled "FOR TRANS/NON-BINARY YOUTH: Hormones! What do they do, what don't they do? HRT Q&A," and another called "Queer Hair" on June 1. 

The LGBT-themed chat room is operated in collaboration with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation's largest abortion provider whose clinics have been accused of dispensing hormones to trans-identifying teens without verifying medical records or parental consent

Q Chat Space's other partners include CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers and PFLAG, the "largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies." 

Q Chat is facilitated by "experienced staff who work at LGBTQ+ centers around the United States," but the website acknowledges that its "facilitators are NOT mental health professionals."

According to a Monday Libs of TikTok tweet, the discussion room hosted by Q Chat Space has a "quick escape" feature, speculating that this is in case kids want to conceal their online activity from their parents. 

The issue of promoting ideas about sexual orientation and gender identity that may conflict with the values of students' parents has surfaced in several schools throughout the country. 

In April, two sets of parents of the Ludlow Public School District in Massachusetts filed a federal lawsuit against school officials at Baird Middle School. They allege that school officials encouraged their children to adopt new gender identities without their parent's knowledge or consent. 

One set of parents, Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri, accused the school of violating their request that they refrain from discussing gender identity issues with their children. A teacher informed them in December 2020 that their 11-year-old daughter was struggling with her self-esteem. The 11-year-old sent the defendants an email where their daughter claimed that she was "genderqueer" and told them that she used "any pronouns (other than it/its)" and requested to be called by a different name.

A reply email from the child's school counselor told the other defendants that she was "still in the process of telling [her] parents and is requesting that school staff refer to [her] by" her given name and "use she/her pronouns with her parents and in written emails/letters home." The complaint characterizes this email as indicative of an effort to conceal "the fact that school staff were affirming an alternative name and identity for their daughter."

The parents claim they would provide their daughter with the help she needed from a "mental health professional" but believe the school ignored their request. 

Foote and Silvestri say their daughter "changed her preferred name at least twice since December 2020" without their knowledge, and the school continues to address their daughter by "whatever iteration of her name she has indicated she prefers."

The complaint also states that the two other plaintiffs "have sincerely held religious beliefs that human beings are created male or female and that the natural created order regarding human sexuality cannot be changed regardless of individual feelings, beliefs, or discomfort with one's identity, and biological reality, as either male or female." 

In March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1557, a piece of legislation that critics have labeled a "Don't Say Gay" bill. The law prohibits classroom instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation for students in kindergarten through third grade. It also requires schools to notify parents about changes to their child's well-being and prevents them from withholding this information from parents.

"Parents have every right to be informed about services offered to their child at school, and should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old," DeSantis said in a March 28 statement about the bill. 

Last year, two schools in Loudoun County, Virginia, generated public attention after reports surfaced of two sexual assaults committed at two different high schools by the same male student, one of which occurred in a girls' bathroom while he was wearing a skirt. 

The incidents reportedly occurred before Loudoun officials implemented a bathroom policy allowing trans-identifying students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. 

Last July, parents in Fairfax County, Virginia, protested against a policy allowing trans-identifying students to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity. According to The Washington Post, the guidelines implemented by the school district also required that official lists of students, including in yearbooks and newspapers, refer to them by their chosen pronouns. 

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