Care and Feeding

I Just Discovered a Beloved Teacher Has Horrific Beliefs

A teacher stands in front of her classroom.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My wife and I are a same-sex couple with four children. She is transgender. Our youngest daughter is set to start first grade in a couple of weeks. Her assigned teacher also had two of our older children, and we thought she was phenomenal. She was always supportive and respectful to my wife and me and welcomed our involvement and presence in her classroom.

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I inadvertently found out through a mutual friend of ours that this teacher is, among other things, very anti-LGBTQIA. She was in favor of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and wishes our own state (a blue one) would pass a similar law. She has also shared homophobic and transphobic material on Facebook. To say that I am disgusted and disappointed is an understatement. I’m not sure how to proceed. I no longer feel comfortable with my daughter being in her class even though she was great with my older ones. I don’t think I can handle dealing with this teacher knowing how she feels about people like my wife and me and our family. I’m also concerned too for any future LGBTQIA kids and families who may wind up with her as a teacher. I’m not sure the principal will honor any requests for classroom reassignments this close to the start of the school year, even though I truly feel discriminated against now.

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—Love is Love

Dear Love,

This is a tricky one, and I see two sides of it.

First off, it’s clear that this woman is good at her job as a teacher, and that’s very important. As a Black man, I’m sure that a few of the “phenomenal” teachers I had growing up secretly hated everything about me and probably “N-bombed” me under their breath or in private. As long as those teachers left their bigotry at home and didn’t let it seep into the classroom, that’s really all I could ask for. Through my work, I know that I can’t cure every racist of their disease—and yes, racism is a disease of the mind. However, I can ensure that they don’t infect anyone else in the workplace. In your case, you may want to swallow hard and move forward since she hasn’t shown any bigotry towards any of your kids previously.

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On the other hand, you have every right to feel enraged and betrayed by her views. You mentioned that she posted hateful things on social media, but how do you know for sure? I’m assuming she’s “smart” enough to not have a public Facebook page to spew her nonsense, so I’m curious to know how you found out. If you know that she definitely has these feelings, you could approach the principal with this information and ask for your daughter to be moved into another classroom. Kids have been moved into different classes right before school starts for much less than this, so I wouldn’t fault you if you tried.

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There’s a large part of me that believes this teacher shouldn’t be within a half-mile radius of any classroom. There’s also a part of me that believes she should be allowed to do her job as long as her views are kept private. I think the best compromise is to strongly suggest that your daughter be moved into another class. If for whatever reason that doesn’t work, then you should schedule a private meeting with the teacher to share your disappointment about her views. At the very least, she’ll be put on notice that others know about her true feelings, and will try even harder to be on her best behavior while at work (and online).

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I’ll spare the time beating around the bush: I have recently found out that my grandpa’s siblings have all had inappropriate interactions with children in the form of molestation and child pornography. My husband and I are about to have our first child, a baby girl. I am very concerned with bringing her, even as a baby, around my distant family. My dad wants his side of the family to be involved in my baby’s life but I am unsure if that would be wise. I don’t want my dad to think I don’t care about him or his opinion, but I am also worried about my daughter. My dad and I have always been close and I don’t want to ruin that seeing as my mother and I have a rather strained relationship. My husband also does not seem very worried since she is a baby and thinks I’m being paranoid due to my anxiety about giving birth.

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—Paranoid Pregnancy

Dear Paranoid,

When we’re talking about the welfare of vulnerable children, I don’t think it’s possible to be paranoid—especially in this situation. I wouldn’t allow my kids around people who preyed upon children, no matter if they’re family or not, so I don’t blame you there.

Since we’re not about beating around the bush, I’ll frankly state that your dad’s opinions about what he wants for your baby are irrelevant when it comes to these individuals. It’s not like they stacked up a pile of parking tickets—they engaged in the most heinous acts possible, and I would firmly remind your dad and husband of that fact. Is there a chance these people have been rehabilitated? Perhaps, but I sure as heck wouldn’t offer up my child as a test subject to find out, and neither should you.

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In the event you’re more forgiving than I am, I certainly wouldn’t allow your extended family to be alone with your baby for any period of time. That means, you and/or your husband would watch them like a hawk at all times. Personally, I wouldn’t be interested in the extra headache, so I would just cut them off completely, but the choice is yours.

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Last but not least, I don’t like how quickly your husband dismissed and invalidated your feelings by chalking it up to prenatal anxiety. We’re talking about child pornography and molestation! This man should be on your side without hesitation — and I think most people of sound mind would be. There could be something deeper at play between the two of you that needs to be discussed in the not-so-distant future.

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At the end of the day, your dad is always going to be your dad, and he will love you regardless. If he’s being intellectually honest, he should understand why you feel so uncomfortable about bringing your baby girl around your grandpa’s siblings, and respect your wishes.

Protecting your child is one of your most important responsibilities as a parent, so you should be completely unapologetic about not bringing her around anyone with that type of nefarious history.

Catch Up on Care and Feeding

• If you missed Monday’s column, read it here.
• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My white 13-year-old daughter “Sue” is best described as an activist and hopes to become a politician someday. She is always fighting to ensure people of color, girls, her LGBTQIA peers, disabled people, etc. enjoy a sense of equity in a world dominated by straight white men. Sue is friends with a girl down the street named “Sally” and one day her mom approached me to say that she will forbid Sally to hang out with Sue if she continues to “indoctrinate her with wokeness.” I’m a pretty smart person, but I had no idea what that meant until I asked a few people. My daughter is doing nothing wrong, and I don’t believe she should change one bit. Not to mention, Sally isn’t even a good friend of hers, so it isn’t much of a loss. Sue is really hurt by this, and I don’t know how to talk to her about it. Please help!

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-Sad Sue’s Mom

Dear Sad Sue’s Mom,

Whenever I hear someone complaining about “wokeness” it’s a clear sign that they lack the ability to think critically and will latch onto whatever catchphrases their masters on cable news feed to them. I mean, what is so wrong about ensuring marginalized people in America live freely without fear of harm? What kind of person would be against that? What kind of person would think that books about racism and the LGBTQIA lifestyle in schools pose a bigger threat to kids and should be banned before military assault rifles in the hands of civilians? The answer is, probably not a good one or a smart one.

Sue is sad because the parent of a friend is ridiculing her mission and is making her out to be toxic. That can be quite jarring to a teenager who is still trying to find her place in the world. Even worse, it may make Sue question if she’s doing the right thing. Your role in this is to continue to remind her that she is indeed doing the right thing and that leaders like her will constantly deal with being misunderstood by less enlightened people.

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That could mean that she loses a friend in the process, but based on what you’ve described, it isn’t that big of a deal. Let her know that the right people will flow into her life and will be drawn to her based on her convictions and beliefs. Not to mention, if she wants to choose a career in politics, this will be an introduction to people with opposite viewpoints who may smear her. Thick skin will be required.

If America had more people like Sue, it would be a much better place to live in. Tell her that she has my vote.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Is 9 years old too young to have a phone? My daughter is entering third grade next month, and our son is going to the middle school that’s 5 miles away. Our son was extremely protective of his baby sister, but that won’t be the case now that she’s going to school without him. She doesn’t have a lot of friends to lean on, and I constantly worry that she won’t have a way to reach me if she’s feeling lonely or heaven forbid there’s an emergency like a school shooting. My daughter may be socially awkward, but she’s very responsible for her age. Her brother also has a phone, so they can reach out to each other if needed. Some of my mom friends think it’s ridiculous to give a kid that young a phone. I’m a single mom and my babies are everything to me, and I just want peace of mind. What do you think?

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—Phone Dilemma

Dear Phone Dilemma,

I’m going to keep this answer short and sweet. Just do you.

Who cares about what your mom friends think? If you believe strongly in your reasoning for giving your daughter a phone, then by all means do it. Heck, I’ve seen kindergartners who have their own iPhones. Will the world end because of it? Will those moms and dads be put in the “Hall of Shame” for being the worst parents of all-time? Of course not.

When I was a teenager I was so concerned about the opinions of others. Then my mom told me that if I realized how little the average person cares about the things I do or don’t do, then I would be way more confident. My confidence today stems from not really caring what the average person thinks of me, because I know the average person doesn’t really care about how I choose to live my life anyway!

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Give your 9-year-old a phone, let her eat cake occasionally for breakfast, dance when you pick her up from school, or whatever. If you’re coming from a place of love and nobody is being hurt by it, then go for it.

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Since you’re a single parent, I’m firmly in favor of anything that gives you peace of mind, and if a phone in the hands of your third grader helps with that, then so be it.

—Doyin

More Advice From Slate

My cousin’s wife (whom I have known for 30 years!) woke up my 14-year-old transgender son and proselytized to him about finding God and Jesus and about how he is really a beautiful young woman. I didn’t find out until the next day, but now I’m livid! My usual instinct is to forgive and move on, but the mama bear in me is absolutely raging. I love these people, but they crossed a line that can’t be uncrossed. What do I do?

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