GUSD Instant GSA - Just Add Kids! And Call Us “Mom”
At the California Teachers’ Association 2019 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Rosemont Middle School English teacher Lisa Avery gave a presentation titled, “Instant GSA (Just Add Kids!) – A GSA Quick-start Workshop,” on how to start a Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA club. GSA in recent years can also stand for Gender Sexuality Alliance, though they mean the same thing. The presentation provided shocking information as Avery explained how she and her husband, who at the time was the school’s Mental Health Counselor, engaged in numerous unethical and potentially illegal practices to start the Gender Sexuality Alliance club for 7th and 8th graders (ages 12-14) at Rosemont Middle School.
You can view the video in full here. Jill Simonian at PragerU did a phenomenal report about Avery’s presentation on 01/24/23, which we also encourage parents to watch.
How Two Teacher Activists Found Students for a Supposedly “Student-Initiated” Club
Avery began the presentation discussing how she wanted to start the Gender-Sexuality Alliance club herself, along with her husband, Alex Guthman, who at the time was the Mental Health Counselor at Rosemont Middle School. According to her own presentation, student clubs are required to be student-led. This suggests that Avery understood the federal law governing “non-curriculum related student groups.” The Equal Access Act, (20 U.S.C. §§4071-74) requires that all student-led groups and clubs at public secondary schools must meet three requirements: they must be student-initiated, they must be student-sponsored and student led, and participation in them must be voluntary. Avery said that some high school students who are members of the local high school GSA club asked for a middle school GSA club. However, Avery’s presentation did not mention any middle school students who shared the sentiment of starting a GSA club. When Avery discussed the origins of the club, she stated that the first step is to “find” the students to get them interested. This is a clear, intentional violation of US federal law.
At 10min32sec into the video, Avery stated, “So starting the Rainbow Gems. How did we do it? So GSAs are student-led clubs. So the very first thing we needed to do was we needed to find our students. So we had a group of students that we knew that had identified as LGBTQ or were really strong allies. We started by having conversations with them individually, so as to not out any of them. Right? These are individual conversations, ‘Hey, a group of people are talking about starting a GSA. Is that something you’d be interested in being involved with?’” Notice the manipulation. It’s phrased in such a way to lead the students into thinking that a group of their peers were interested in starting a GSA. She didn’t tell them that a group of Rosemont Middle School teachers wanted to start a GSA, in clear violation of Federal law and the district’s own rules.
To further support the assertion that this club was started by teachers rather than by students, at timestamp 8:00 Avery put up a slide that is very important. As the second step of how to start a GSA, her presentation explicitly states that after the teachers at Rosemont put up “Safe Space” stickers, “Teachers ask to start a GSA. Principal says no.” Notice that it does not say that a group of middle school students who attend Rosemont Middle School asked to start the group. Instead, it was a group of teachers, and per Avery, “there were probably four or five of us.”
GUSD Counseling Staff Disregarded Student Confidentiality
Avery discussed how she worked with her husband, Alex Guthman, who at the time was a Rosemont Middle School Mental Health Counselor. She stated at timestamp 7:00, “At the time of this in 2015, my husband was the mental health counselor at our school. So he is an LCSW [Licensed Clinical Social Worker] and he was providing therapy for some of our students there on a daily basis.”
At timestamp 18:55, Avery discussed the extraordinary efforts she and her husband took to start the club: “It wasn’t easy. First of all, our leaders were unreliable. Remember, we had poached them from the counseling office. Right? They were not the most emotionally stable students. Actually, they were the least emotionally stable students on campus.”[audible laughter from audience during presentation].
To the reader, please keep in mind that it is illegal and a serious breach of professional ethics for a counselor to share a student’s mental health information with anyone unless that student meets specific mandated reporting criteria, or the counselor has received a signed consent form to release the confidential information. It is unethical for a counselor to share confidential information with a fellow teacher for the purposes of finding student leaders for a school club. The fact that Avery and her husband identified the “least emotionally stable students” and “poached” them to be the leaders of the GSA club is an extremely disturbing revelation. According to Avery’s own admission, they purposely chose children they knew were vulnerable. In addition, what was the culture of this Rosemont Middle School administration that made it so casual for the mental health counselor to share confidential student information? After this presentation came out, did GUSD administrators watch it? If so, did anyone address this clear violation with the school’s mental health counselor, and was there any sort of disciplinary action taken against him? Parents at Glendale Unified schools, please note: If you have a child who is receiving counseling at a GUSD school, you may want to be aware that according to Avery, there is a precedent for egregious breaches of student confidentiality. Ask your child’s counselor for specifics about how the school is safeguarding your child’s confidential mental health information.
School Counselor Bullied Principal in School Parking Lot to Get GSA Approved
Avery then went on to discuss the efforts that she and Guthman took to establish the GSA club. First, they had to bully the principal into agreeing. Avery asserted that Guthman followed the principal into the parking lot and “used choice four-letter words.” At timestamp 12:10, Avery stated, “And in the background, every time our principal got scared, we were having private confrontations with her….Right before we wanted to take our club public, she wanted to pull it out and be like, nope we can’t do it, she totally got cold feet. And my husband had a little conversation with her in the parking lot, where he used some really choice four-letter words.”
Think about that – these are the supposed “experts” who want to teach your children Social Emotional Learning and emotional regulation, and here they admitted that they were proud of being verbally abusive to their administrative supervisor to get what they wanted. The school counselor, who is supposed to be the role model of how to teach your children how to manage their emotions, cursed out the principal in the school parking lot. And instead of the principal disciplining him for inappropriate and unprofessional conduct, she bent to his demands.
Lisa Avery is Your Child’s New “Mom”
Avery told the audience at 41:08, “You will find you need to counsel students. Like in my example with the girl who sat in my classroom crying, right? That was not an isolated incident. I have a fundamentally different relationship to my students now that I run a GSA than I did five years ago. Right? Some of them call me ‘mom.’ Right? That’s just how it is now.”
Does it really need to be said that if a teacher is allowing students to call her “mom” on a regular basis, that teacher is being grossly inappropriate by not correcting the child that she is her teacher and not her mother? This violation of boundaries is beyond appalling, yet if you watch Mrs. Avery’s face as she stated this fact, it is as though she believed that she was the savior for these children. Is Mrs. Avery going to comfort these children when they have a stomach bug and are throwing up in the middle of the night? Who was it exactly that raised these children – fed, provided, and nurtured these children – until the vulnerable and highly impressionable middle school age that a teacher can, in secret, usurp the role of “mom” and brag about it at a California Teachers’ Association presentation? We wonder, how would Mrs. Avery feel if one of her children was calling one of their teachers “mom?”
And is anyone else alarmed that the rest of the educators in that audience seemed completely comfortable with her disclosure – a disturbing indication that this may be a more common occurrence in certain realms of education than a parent might think.
How to Get Students to Attend GSA Meetings: Free Food and Misleading Advertising
Avery discussed how she increased attendance by calling it a GSA club, but not writing out what “GSA” stood for. At timestamp 15:10, Avery stated, “So once we finally overcame that resistance, it was time for the Rainbow Gems to come out. So we opened up our club first by having the leaders invite their friends. And then when those friends came, we invited their friends. And then we invited their friends. And do you know what helped? We fed them every single time. So after several weeks, we started putting announcements in the bulletin, ‘The Rainbow Gems are meeting today at lunch, it’s a GSA,’ but we didn’t say what GSA was.” Why was the full name and purpose of the club not made clear to possible attendees? How many students joined their friends at the meeting to partake of the free food and had no idea what the purpose of the club was? How many would not have attended if they knew what GSA meant?
At timestamp 18:55, “...We were really excited when they just showed up. Which meant that Alex [Guthman] and I were doing all of the planning for this club. We had never hosted a club like this before. We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what to expect. And so, we struggled to come up with weekly activities for our club…After we put our own children to bed, we would go into the kitchen, we would get out the tub of ice cream, we would sit there over the tub of ice cream and we would say, okay, what are we going to do tomorrow? It was like being a first year teacher again, in that way. We spent $600 on our club before we got our first grant…The $600, most of it was food, because we were feeding them a lot at the beginning. Now I feed them once every three weeks or something like that. But in the beginning, to get the momentum going, snack, snack, snack.”
What Exactly is She Saying About Korean, Armenian, Mormon, and Politically Conservative Parents?
What are the motivations of teachers like Lisa Avery and counselors like Alex Guthman? We don’t know. We note that at the beginning of the presentation, Avery alluded to wanting to shield LGBT students from forces that may harm them, and appeared to insinuate that religious and conservative parents may be a source of harm, specifically highlighting Korean, Armenian, and Mormon families. She stated at timestamp 3:10: “What was Rosemont like before a GSA? Well, Rosemont is situated in La Crescenta…it tends to be a historically sort of culturally conservative area. We have a large immigrant Korean and Armenian population, which tends to be quite religious and conservative. We also have a pretty significant, if not large, at least vocal Mormon population.” Avery then transitioned into talking about the homophobia that she believed was at her school, thereby appearing to link the presence of immigrant Korean and Armenian families, religious and conservative families, and Mormon families to homophobia without citing any sort of evidence.
The Emotionally Manipulative Response When Parents and Other Teachers Expressed Concerns
At timestamp 22:14, Avery shared with the audience the way they manipulated conversations with parents. She stated that with regard to community pushback, she said the principal responded by saying it was about “student safety,” which parents find difficult to respond to. Avery told the audience, “If your focus is on student safety, We have this club to make all students safe.” Who is going to argue with that?
Other teachers and staff expressed concerns about the GSA club as well. At timestamp 20:26, Avery says, “We had the support of most of our staff members but certainly we had others that were not so happy. When Alex did a presentation to the staff about transgender students we had a few staff members walk out.” Avery then discussed a teacher who asked to watch a GSA meeting, to which she described how she had to “perform that role of bouncer to protect the kids.” Notice again the invocation of student safety. Avery indicated that the students in the GSA club need protection against other adults who express concern.
Lisa Avery Pulls Back the Curtain on the Glendale Unified Administration’s Full Support of a GSA Club at Rosemont Middle School
Many parents have told us that the administration has assured them that they do not support having these sexualized and activist clubs at the middle school and elementary school level, but that their hands are tied. Avery presented a different story, where even the superintendent was supportive from the beginning.
At timestamp 26:10, “Our GSA is visibly supported by our ASB, so the ASB students come and they help with Ally Week, they table during Ally Week, they do this Rainbow Spirit thing at the end of the week. It’s supported by the PTA. The PTA now buys our wristbands for us. Our administrators are supportive. As I mentioned, two of them are in this picture right here. They wear our shirts and send us to conferences and things like that. And even our superintendent is supportive. So this past year, I had two club members who as part of their Girl Scout Silver Award Project, they wanted to create an LGBT section in the school library. So I helped them write a Guy De Rosa Grant. They received $300. They made their LGBT section. They publicized it. And our superintendent tweeted about it. That’s the kind of support that we now experience at our school.”
Keeping Secrets from Parents
At timestamp 48:42, Avery stated, “What they [students] talk about at home is their business. Some are totally closeted at home. Others are not. It’s a big variety.”
At timestamp 52:43, she said “It’s super important not to ‘out’ your club members. It’s unethical and illegal to out your students. But I would actually extend that by saying, you might want to be careful if you reveal if someone attends your club at all.…So just be careful of that, and especially with parents.”
Did anyone tell Alex Guthman, the school counselor, that it’s “unethical and illegal to out your students” before he purportedly helped Avery “poach” these students from the counseling office?
Lisa Avery Advised Teachers That One Way to Start a GSA is to Lie - Call Club by Different Name
At timestamp 51:22, Avery stated, “How ‘out’ can your club be? If being ‘out’ as a GSA is not an option for you, there are still ways you can meet the needs of your LGBTQ students. You can have a [gestures air quotes] ‘Diversity club,’ or a [gestures air quotes] ‘Kindness Club,’ right? And still meet the needs of those students.”
Lisa Avery Promoted GSAs in Elementary Schools as well as Middle Schools, calling them “Baby” GSAs
Avery said that at the time of the presentation in 2019, two out of the seven elementary schools in Glendale Unified had Gender Sexuality Alliance clubs. We wonder what that number is now in 2023.
Lisa Avery Discusses Some of the Activities Done In the Club
At timestamp 01:13:35, Avery stated, “Every year they love learning about the Kinsey Scale. And we actually use that snowball activity with the Kinsey Scale. So we teach them what the Kinsey Scale is, and then ‘okay, what is your number,’ and then we throw them around the room, and then we tally up every number we get. And the comment we get every year, ‘I didn’t know there were so many straight people here.’”
For those who don’t know, the Kinsey Scale allows a person to evaluate themselves as either being exclusively heterosexual, exclusively homosexual, or somewhere in between. Here is an example of a Kinsey Scale rating:
Alfred Kinsey was a “researcher” who asserted that children are sexual from birth. One portion of his “research” included the infamous Table 34, in which he documented if infants (as young as 5 months) and pre-pubescent children were able to orgasm, and the “time involved” for Kinsey to conduct this “research.”
Is it appropriate that this club promotes a pedophile’s “research” in a Glendale Unified middle school? This would have been inconceivable five years ago. As we have asserted in most articles that we have written to date – we are calling attention to the fact that content that is obviously harmful and sexually inappropriate for public school students is being authorized and promoted because it is under the label of “LGBT.”
Avery’s presentation went much farther and showed how lying to parents and students, violating Federal law, and maligning religious, immigrant and politically conservative parents are now acceptable public school practices, as long as they are written in rainbow colors.
If Guthman violated these students’ confidentiality, as his wife Avery disclosed, then his action was a serious professional ethical violation for which, if true, could be reported to the Board of Behavioral Sciences, which oversees his clinical social work license. Has Rosemont Middle School addressed the veracity of these claims?
Usually at the end of these articles, we offer a suggestion of what parents can do going forward. In this case, we cannot recommend that if your child attends a GSA, to more closely monitor what they do in the club – since according to Avery, the school would not disclose to parents whether or not your child attends a GSA.
Perhaps consider contacting your child’s school to ask them about the legality of keeping student club attendance (and activities at school) secret from parents. Perhaps consider contacting district administrators and school board members to ask them about why GUSD allowed such egregious breaches of the confidentiality of “emotionally unstable” students.
If the content of this article concerns you, consider letting the GUSD school board know:
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The Gender Identity K12 Team