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Jentink shares her views on parents’ rights

FERRISBURGH — The woman who led the effort to bring an anti-trans activist to speak at Vergennes Union High School last week says she’ll continue to be active in parental rights even though she now has left the state and soon will move overseas.

Former Ferrisburgh resident Tara Jentink said she’ll remain Vermont Affiliate Leader of the national organization Parents Rights in Education (PRE) after her imminent move to the Netherlands. 

In an interview with the Independent, Ferf Jentink said that roughly a year ago she began the process of establishing a PRE Affiliate in Vermont. On its website, Parents Rights in Education says it “reject(s) controversial sexualization and racist doctrine” in schools.  

A parent of elementary-age students who attended Ferrisburgh Central School, she says she was inspired to become involved when she felt her concerns about the inclusion of content on “transgenderism and LGBTQIA+, critical race theory, social emotional learning,” in school lessons were not adequately addressed. 

“I learned a lot from my own children about what was being taught behind closed doors without parental knowledge or consent that was not on the overview of sequence and scope, being sent home to parents,” she said.

She said she didn’t like how here concerns were handled.

“When Ferrisburgh Central School was called out on lack of transparency by myself and another mom … the principal openly admitted that these topics are already infiltrated throughout the entire common core curriculum,” she said.

“We do not want … those communities to feel that they don’t belong,” Jentink noted, referring to LGBTQIA+ and transgender, racial minority communities. “Although, you know, sensitive topic. 

“If you go to the doctor, you know, those types of topics about your body, are private information. We can teach children to be kind and accepting. But educators do not need to be talking to our students about these controversial topics without parental knowledge or consent.”

Jentink thinks the happy medium is for these topics to exist in an opt-in setting. 

Middlebury College Professor Kevin Moss said he believes the happy medium would be an opt-out option. 

“Opt-in is, is already stigmatizing … it already marks people as somehow different,” said Moss, a professor of Russian Studies and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies. 

Jentink says she was denied a request to opt her children out of lessons including the content she found age-inappropriate.

Moss said he thinks there are always age-appropriate ways to address all topics.

“It can mean at the kindergarten or you know, first grade level … saying, well, your classmate, may have two mothers or she may have two fathers. And that’s OK. Because there are different types of families,” he said. “It has nothing to do with, you know, talking about sex. It’s just about there are different kinds of people out there. And when there are different types of people in the class, it’s important to have them feel like they are, you know, they’re recognized.”

Moss says that historically, the marginalization of minority groups is pursued through creating fear that that group is out to get children. 

“What you do is you find a way to make them out to be threats to the children.” 

We’ve seen that around homosexuality in the United States, he said. 

“The backlash to gay rights in the ’70s it was Anita Bryant and her movement, which was called ‘Save Our Children,’ because the ‘gays are all pedophiles, and they’re all going out to recruit our children. So we have to stop gay rights.’” 

He said similar tactics were used in the 1980s in California’s Briggs Initiative, which he said tried to stop having gay teachers in schools. 

“Because, you know, if you have gay teachers in schools, they’re, of course going to convert or recruit all the children,” Moss said. 

“That’s recent history.”

PRONOUNS

Jentink also takes issue with the expectation that we use preferred pronouns. 

“If somebody’s not comfortable with using preferred pronouns, how is forcing that upon them fair?” she asked.

Moss wondered if Jentink would be OK with people using male pronouns for her. 

“Just because they want to?” he asked.

Jentink expressed concerns about the pliability of a child’s mind. 

“Parents feel that thoughts are being interjected into the minds of children who would have never otherwise experienced an ounce of gender dysphoria,” she said. “You know, you can talk to your kids about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy you know, children are so pliable.”

Jentink said she feels these topics are being discussed in the way that’s not age appropriate — “especially not without parental knowledge or consent, as children are making life altering adult decisions as minors to undergo massive, life-altering you know, genital reconstructive surgeries, hormonal therapies and puberty blockers.”

The Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Gender Surgery states in bold on its website, “All genital surgeries are only performed on patients age 18 and older.” Additionally, the hospital says children younger than 15 are not eligible for chest surgery. 

Is PRE an anti-government organization?

“We believe that government is there to assist but not control,” Ferf Jentink said.” We are parents and allies standing together, millions of voices speaking as one; we’ve received support from multi-millions on Twitter.”

Parents Rights in Education is designated as an anti-government group per the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization founded “to ensure that the promise of the civil rights movement became a reality for all.” Other groups given the antigovernment designation include the Oath Keepers, the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans and the American Patriot Vanguard. The SPLC website includes an interactive map that can be used to search SPLC-designated hate and antigovernment groups by state. 

Jentink doesn’t put any weight on the criticism.

“SPLC’s hate map incites violence against parents who just want to protect their kids,” she said.

“We have witnessed and received reports from across America attesting to this … Parents Rights in Education National is pursuing very real options for litigation against the SPLC because we do not believe what they have said is true … as far as us being a hate group.” 

Jentink is adamant that her move to Europe won’t affect her participation in the Vermont Affiliate. 

In the position, Jentink says her responsibility is “to train, empower and equip parents and allies.” 

When asked what stake she’ll have in Vermont, Jentink said she’s passionate about minors making good decisions.

“I am seeing minors make life altering adult decisions,” she said.

“I absolutely think that’s fair to have total informed consent, before these children make life altering decisions as minors as critical thinking is not developed until the age of, you know, 21 to 25. I feel that’s where the … age appropriateness of these discussions should come in.”

Jentink said controversial topics should be put off until kids are at least middle school or high school.

LAST WEEK’S VUHS EVENT

Jentink introduced Walt Heyer, an advocate against gender affirming healthcare, at last week’s event, which was titled “Transgender ‘Care’ Helpful or Harmful?” The event precipitated a counter-protest and controversy in part because it was held at a public school. The fact that her event had lower attendance than the counter-event didn’t seem to bother Jentink. 

“You know, there were several from the protests, who came in with their pride flags draped around their shoulders, they sat there respectfully, silently,” she observed. “I feel if the group of protesters, if they all would have been able to come in and hear how kind Walt Heyer was, the facts and the information he had to provide, that they would see it was not… hate against them.”

Jentink has not planned any more PRE events at this point, but she’s not done yet.

“We have eight or nine districts statewide in Vermont, already starting to rally together for the sake of not backing down to see the school policies be changed to protect our children from controversial topics being discussed behind closed doors without parental knowledge or consent,” she said.

“Enough is enough.” 

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