One North Carolina school district planned to take a progressive step toward talking about bullying with their students, with discussions about a book called Jacob's New Dress.
But now, thanks to a few transphobic teachers and lawmakers, those students won't get a chance to even read the book.
Jacob's New Dress is about a little boy, named Jacob, who loves to play dress up. He takes on a quest to convince his parents to let him wear a dress to school, and then later gets teased by other students in his class when he shows up in "girl clothes."
Jacob's teacher tells the class that it's not ok to make fun of him because he's just wearing the clothes he feels most comfortable in, just like them.
A group of first-grade students were set to read the book this school year as part of an anti-bullying program, The Washington Post reports. But a few teachers complained that the book taught students to be transgender, and those complaints reached the ears of some Republican lawmakers in the state.
Jacob's New Dress was pulled from the school district's curriculum this week, WaPo reports.
“The purpose of our elementary schools is to teach writing, reading and arithmetic, not to encourage boys to wear dresses,” Tami Fitzgerald of the North Carolina Values Coalition said Tuesday, according to the Charlotte Observer. “These lessons found in the 'Jacob’s New Dress’ and ‘My Princess Boy’ and other transgender curriculum are not appropriate for any child whose parents support traditional family values.”
Jacob's New Dress is not part of a "transgender curriculum," because Jacob never identifies himself as transgender. But even if he did, it would simply be a valuable lesson for kids about bullying and gender expression. It's doubtful that Jacob would encourage any cisgender boy to start wearing dresses if he didn't want to, but it might have helped gender nonconforming students recognize themselves and understand that their feelings aren't wrong or shameful.
In a school system like this, though, they'll never get that chance.