Transgenderism and professional development: A lesson in disguising LGBTQ advocacy in schools

Ryan Sallans, a transgender activist, speaks at the Nebraska Schools Mental Health Conference (via Instagram).

Teaching on many controversial subjects, such as gender identity and transgenderism, is prohibited by law in many K-12 classrooms. But these subjects nonetheless find their way into schools as part of social and mental health initiatives. 

While much can be learned at the intersection of mental health and education, the frame of reference must be a clear-eyed appraisal of the real costs of untreated mental illness – not an opportunity to surreptitiously promote a social advocacy viewpoint. 

Gender dysphoria is a recognized mental illness and deserves to be addressed in a rational and caring fashion. 

However, in schools these behaviors aren’t recognized as aberrant, but are deemed rational – even celebrated – with any consequent ill effect on a student’s mental health said to not stem from the illness, but from the intolerant reactions of family, friends, and society. 

By couching the paradigm shift in medical terms, transgender advocates and their allies shield their activities behind HIPAA regulations and patient-doctor privilege. 

This upending of rationality has been decried by concerned parents at school board meetings across the nation, and many of those interactions have resulted in the removal of teaching curricula openly engaging in “grooming” techniques. 

Unfortunately, these prohibitions have little effect on the behind-the-scenes professional development exercises that instruct teachers how to sidestep barriers to sexualized teaching under the auspices of “support for mental health.” 

One such instance occurred in Lincoln, Nebraska last week. 

Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) hired self-described “transgender author/speaker” Ryan Sallans to lead a mandatory professional staff development workshop.  

He spoke about “building inclusive environments and trauma-informed care for students and staff” in public school settings. His presentation was titled “Human Growth and Development,” with few specifics given to attendees before arrival. 

However, the workshop was instead thinly veiled advocacy for LGBTQ and transgender lifestyles. Sallans clearly delineated the tone at the outset by describing a failure of school staff to “use a student’s preferred pronouns” as “harassment.”  

A native Nebraskan, Sallans began life as a biological woman named Kim, beginning a gender transition to “Ryan” in 2005. Now identifying as a man, Sallans travels the lecture circuit, speaking primarily to schools and government groups about the difficulties of transitioning genders, using her/his own experience as a guide. 

The staff meeting was categorized as “Mandatory Staff Development” for LPS nurses, social workers, psychologists and counselors. The workshop, like all of Sallans’ presentations, followed a broadly militant agenda, asserting transgenderism is just another of life’s circumstances to be respected, like race or ethnicity. 

Two months earlier, more than 500 Nebraska education personnel gathered at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Omaha for the Nebraska School Mental Health Conference. The conference “focused on celebrating those serving and shaping our youth, while prioritizing their mental health and safety.” 

“Resiliency, Advocacy and Celebration” was the theme for 2022, as keynote presenters and more than 30 breakout workshops framed hotly debated issues such as transgenderism, gender identity and LGBTQ activism as entirely normal phases of child development. 

The annual conference is sponsored by the Kim Foundation, an organization formed to educate people about suicide prevention and mental health. 

However, the fact of dramatically higher suicide rates among transgender and gender dysphoric youth versus their peers remains unaddressed in public schools, as these disorders are not acknowledged as mental illness. On the contrary, these dysfunctions are honored, celebrated and lionized as “brave” and “courageous.” 

Sallans kicked off the second day of the conference, telling his personal story of transition, reportedly met with enthusiastic applause and approval by the teachers and administrators in attendance.  

In the Lincoln Public Schools event, Sallans left no doubt as to the purpose of his presentation, declaring “they [transgender people and their allies] are going to put Lincoln, Nebraska on the national stage for the trans community with all their efforts to help kids transition.” 

What was billed as an exercise in raising awareness and promoting understanding quickly morphed into a clarion call for social/sexual upheaval among schoolchildren – paid for by taxpayers in the name of “mental health.”