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Book about gender transition available to kindergarteners in Minnesota school district

(Photo: FILE - Reycraft Books){p}{/p}
(Photo: FILE - Reycraft Books)

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A controversial book discussing a child's desire to transition genders is in the kindergarten classrooms of a Minnesota school district.

Crisis in the Classroom (CITC) first learned that "Call Me Max" may be available to students in Osseo Area Schools (ISD 279) from one mother's testimony during a recent school board meeting. LaDawn Severin expressed her concerns to the ISD 279 school board Tuesday, alleging that the book was being used in elementary schools through the district's "LGBTQIA+ History and Culture Resolution."

"Call Me Max" is described as a children's book meant to provide an "age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender." One excerpt Severin read Tuesday stated that when a child "grows up to be transgender," any adults who originally called the child a boy or a girl "made a mistake."

"Why would we allow authority figures to plant seeds of doubt in their existence simply as a boy or a girl? That it might be a mistake? Severin asked. "Wise teachers, even if they were given this, would never read this to their classroom."

READ MORE | Book about gender transition given to first-graders, Minnesota mom claims

A review of ISD 279's library catalog conducted by CITC did not show "Call Me Max" in any of the district's libraries, so CITC reached out to the district to confirm the book's availability. A spokesperson told CITC that the book is "included in kindergarten classrooms as an option during independent reading time."

"All our district's kindergarten teachers reviewed and selected books that they felt best represented their students," ISD 279 spokesperson Kay Villella told CITC. "These books then went into each kindergarten classroom across the district."

Villella told CITC that "Call Me Max" is not used for instructional purposes, and it is one of approximately 225 books hand-selected by ISD 279 kindergarten teachers.

"Call Me Max" has been removed from schools in several states, including Florida and Texas, for containing "sensitive" content. It also sparked controversy in California last year, when the state's Department of Education recommended the book for kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders.

Cristine Trooien, the executive director of Minnesota Parents Alliance, told CITC that ISD 279's inclusion of "Call Me Max" is "unfortunately" not the first time children in Minnesota have been presented with content that parents find concerning.

"Polling and common sense indicates that introducing conversations and instructional materials that explore gender and sexuality is not age appropriate for elementary school students, yet parents find themselves having to continually advocate for reasonable policies regarding this issue," Trooien told CITC.

Kyle Lukoff, the author of "Call Me Max," has consistently defended the book's content. After the Eanes Independent School District in Texas apologized to families for reading the book to fourth-graders, Lukoff chided the district for its response.

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"'Call Me Max' is an early reader, written intentionally to be accessible for early readers, typically children around first and second grade," Lukoff said. "It is generally regarded as a sweet, gentle introduction to the subject of transgender identities and gender stereotypes, based on my experience as both a transgender man and an elementary school librarian."

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