A Republican candidate for the Elizabethtown school board recently questioned how the Elizabethtown Area School District teaches students about human sexuality.
At the June 15 school board meeting, Danielle Lindemuth criticized the district for including what she described as instruction on gender identify and sexual preference.
When contacted later, the district responded to those remarks, as noted below.
Speaking to the board via Zoom, Lindemuth also described how students who disagree with the lifestyles of those who identify as LGBTQ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgender/queer) have been bullied, giving an account of an incident that occurred on a school bus on June 7.
“At no time should a public school be teaching about sexual preference. There is no academic value to this teaching, and quite frankly, the only thing it is accomplishing is greater division and discrimination in our school district,” said Lindemuth. “Who a person likes or who a person chooses to have sex with is a home issue that has nothing to do with what needs to be taught in our schools.”
She continued: “I am in no way, shape or form saying that we need to tell a student what their gender identity should be. Quite the opposite, actually. I believe that we should allow students and families to be the ones to explore these options and make the decisions of how they want to engage in this social issue.”
Lindemuth also alleged that the district allows for elementary students to be asked “sexual identity questions.”
District spokesman Troy Portser said this allegation is false. He stated in an email that “it is not in the curriculum and is not taught nor asked of our students.”
He noted that fifth-grade students learn about human growth in health class, with a basic introduction to human development, including general anatomy. Male students learn about physiological changes with a male teacher; female students learn with a female teacher. Parents may opt their students out. This weeklong curriculum unit has nothing relating to gender identity or preference, he said.
Lindemuth asked the board to institute a policy that would leave the topics of gender identity and sexual preference “at home.”
In his email, Portser said the ninth-grade health curriculum includes definitions of gender (male/female), gender roles (the behaviors and attitudes generally considered acceptable, appropriate or desirable based on a person’s biological or perceived sex) and gender identity (personal conception of oneself as male/female/ other). The 11th-grade health curriculum builds on the ninth-grade curriculum, dealing with human sexuality as defined by sexual identity, attraction (emotional, physical, romantic) and behavior.
Portser had previously stated that the district’s curriculum on human sexuality is aligned with state standards. Information on the curriculum can be found on the district’s website, under the Academics tab.
Lindemuth also said there have been instances of American flags being replaced with LGBTQ flags in the classroom and students being disciplined for erasing items left on a chalkboard when an LGBTQ club had met in a classroom.
Portser said the allegation about flags being replaced is “completely false.” He added in his email: “Every classroom has an American flag hanging and always has. An LGBTQ flag hangs in addition to the American flag in the classroom that hosts the board-approved Gay-Straight Alliance Club.”
As for discipline, Portser said that, like all other classrooms that host clubs, if a student intentionally erases club information on a white board without permission, that student would be talked to by the club adviser and/or administration.
Lindemuth also described a “constant and obvious push” for sexual and gender exploration that she said the district was offering over the summer utilizing taxpayer dollars.
Contacted later, Lindemuth provided an email from high school Principal Maura Hobson with the year-end high school newsletter. Under Counseling Corner was a link to an LGBTQ+ youth virtual support group for ages 14-18, run by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) of North Central Pennsylvania.
Last week, Portser said that “our counselors are off over the summer so the year-end info from that department was informational in nature to help cover the direct service gap. No funds from the district used for this group.”
At the meeting, Lindemuth referred to a student who had previously spoken to the board about the bullying experienced by LGBTQ students. While she hoped this student received help, Lindemuth said that the bullying was not a one-sided issue, adding that her high school daughter has expressed frustration with what she would describe as discrimination and bullying.
Lindemuth, who characterized her family as having strong Judeo-Christian values, said her daughter doesn’t always agree with the lifestyle choices of classmates but would never treat them poorly for it.
“It is a difference of opinion, plain and simple. Quite frankly, it is no different than two students’ differing opinions on football teams,” said Lindemuth.
“But for some reason, students in the LGBTQ community feel that if you do not give them your blessing on their sexual preference … then you are homophobic and (they) will call you out on it,” she added.
In the school bus incident, Lindemuth said that two LGBTQ students harassed three students who are not part of that community, telling them they should have their wrists and throats slit and that they should be killed. She later declined to say how she learned of this incident.
Lindemuth said she reported this to high school Assistant Principal Jason Potts, but that these two students were back in school and on the bus the next day.
“I’m absolutely certain that had this scenario been reversed, the outcome would have been handled quite differently,” she stated.
Portser confirmed that the district did receive a report about an incident that occurred on an afternoon bus run on June 7. Noting that such reports are taken seriously, he said the district did investigate but was unable to interview all the students involved before the next day, which was the last day of school. He declined to say whether any students were disciplined.
Lindemuth is campaigning for school board along with her husband, Stephen, who is also running for judge of elections in Mount Joy Township.
Diane Bitting is a correspondent for The Elizabethtown Advocate.