Schools are increasingly moving in a radical direction on sex ed, LGBT activism, and more. “When we’re talking … about the transgender issues and education, you have to realize that you can bring those subjects up in any area. It can be taught in history, it can be taught during reading time,” says Lydia Gutierrez, a second grade teacher, and chair of the National Education Association Conservative Educators Caucus.

Gutierrez wants to help parents understand how to both help their own children and how to work within the system for change. Read the lightly edited interview, posted below, or listen on the podcast:

We also cover the following stories:

  • Highlights of Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing.
  • The Trump administration takes action on food stamps.
  • The incoming Georgia senator says the “abortion on demand agenda is immoral.”

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Virginia Allen: I am joined by Lydia Gutierrez, second grade teacher and chair of the National Education Association Conservative Educators Caucus. Lydia, thank you so much for joining me.

Lydia Gutierrez: Always such a joy to be here with you.

Allen: Now, you have taught for many years.

Gutierrez: Yes.

Allen: What led you to the teaching profession?

Gutierrez: Well, when I was 12, I started teaching Sunday school and from there I had a love of children, and I love learning how they develop and understand knowledge. And it was so exciting for me, I just wanted to be a part of their lives.

So I trained to be a teacher at Pepperdine University and the first year I was teaching my father passed away and it was a financial hardship on us. So I went and left education, went into aerospace. I was in aerospace, became an administrator, and then a supervisor for the Bradley Tink.

So I was moving up the ladder, but I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t satisfied, and the love of teaching just came back in my heart. So [I] went back into education and from there I also served as a missionary. And seven years I flew back to Colombia, helping orphan children on my summer breaks.

So children have been a part of my life and I’ve been very happy to be a part of theirs.

Allen: Oh, that’s wonderful. Well, I’m sure that you have witnessed so many changes in the education system over the years, and the issue that I know now is on the hearts and minds of many conservative teachers and administrators is, what do we do in light of the transgender movement?

If teachers are thinking, “If my student comes to me that is a boy and wants to be called by a girl’s name or by female pronouns or vice versa, what do I do?” And what advice would you give to those teachers and administrators?

Gutierrez: Well, first of all, make sure if they’re in the union, they’re actively involved in the union because they want to make sure they have a voice to be heard. Any policy that we have in education actually would probably be founded in the NEA’s policy. So, first of all, if you’re in the union, please be active and let your voice be heard.

Second is making sure that you understand that in the NEA policy and in their state policy, it’d still probably be there, they have religious rights, and to stand on those. So go ahead and look in your policy at the state and national level and find that and put that in front of the union if they are not going to represent you.

I personally am part of another union besides my local union that does represent my religious beliefs. So I’ve taken the extra steps so that if that question ever comes up, I’m going to say this, “Because of my religious beliefs, I believe the children are born with biological sexes, male and female, and I’ll stand on those.”

Allen: So your caucus really acts to support those teachers that are put in those difficult situations. Correct?

Gutierrez: Right, right.

Allen: That’s wonderful.

Gutierrez: Besides supporting them, but also to have a reasonable voice at the national level. Many policies come through that are being pushed by people that really don’t have children in interest, but ideology, and they want to really just brainwash the children with those thoughts.

So, many times when the policy comes up to be voted on, our group, our people, will stand up and say, “Be reasonable. Let’s talk about this and bring a proposal.” And sometimes we’re able to vote it down.

Allen: Do you have any personal experiences in the classroom of having to choose between the values and convictions that you know in your heart and those that you knew that the school district would be asking of you?

Gutierrez: Well, to be honest with you, I’ve taught every kind of child you can think of. I’ve had every kind of parent. I’ve had every kind of administrator. And as long as I’ve been respectful and caring and respectful over those parents’ values and those children’s values, I’ve not had any issue.

I’ve had transgender, I’ve had different types of parents, and things like that, and all they care about is to know that their children are being respected and cared for and that’s it. It hasn’t been a very strong issue.

Allen: Yeah. Let’s shift gears for a moment and talk about sex education in the schools. Sex education has been debated for a long time and what we’re seeing now is it’s increasingly just becoming more and more progressive. What do parents really need to know about what their students are being taught in sex ed classes?

Gutierrez: Well, the thing is that it’s not really sex education as you thinking of it, as we would think of when we have our health class, when sex education used to be taught.

And, for me, when I was in elementary school, or fifth and sixth [grade], we learned about the biological makeup of our periods, how a child is born, how a person could become impregnated—it was basically biological.

But now when you introduce the lesbian, the gay lifestyle, and things like that to children that they can choose their sex, or they can choose their partner—it doesn’t matter, boy or girl, to relate, it can be a boy, boy or girl, girl—then you open up the door for children to be introduced [to] how to protect themselves if they go in that kind of relationship.

So that’s what opened the wide door of talking in a different direction. Instead of biological information, now we’re doing sexual information.

Then … when we’re talking … about the transgender issues and education, you have to realize that you can bring those subjects up in any area. It can be taught in history, it can be taught during reading time. So when you isolate it in the health section, the parent is not really being informed that they can actually teach in any subject area.

Allen: And along those lines, like you said, there are now LGBTQ history courses sort of that are being taught, or history is being framed and, “Let’s study it from an LGBTQ perspective.” So how can parents be ensuring that the values that they’re trying to teach their kids at home are not being undermined in the classroom?

Gutierrez: Well, as you know, there are some religious faiths that have taught their children since the day they started walking what those values are.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are wonderful people in my classroom. I love them because they stand for their values. You know that, yes, they don’t participate with the flag salute, but they know that for us doing a holiday activity or whatever it is, they’ll say, “No, we’re not supposed to be doing that.” They stand for their faith.

The problem is the Christian community has not followed that wonderful example of saying, “This is what I will not do.” And by instructing their children to identify and recognize they go against the biblical values is the step forward, and that by that child saying no and that parent confirming that no, then they’re headed in the right direction.

Allen: And do parents really have a voice to push back against their school district and push back against some of this really progressive policy? And … if they’re saying, “I have time, I have the resources to be a voice,” where do they even begin to do that?

Gutierrez: Well, the thing is, there are many organizations that are starting up parent organizations to say no to the health sex education sections being taught in the schools from preschool on up, as you’ve heard. Well, the thing is that the parent has to realize, where does it really come from?

The National Education Association is actually the root of many of the policies throughout the nation. When we vote on policy, NEA gets about $300 million a year to push at the legislative level at the federal, state, and local level. And every state union gets money too to push at the federal, state, and school board level. And then … every school district union gets money to push their board members.

So what happens is when the NEA passes policy, they then push it through all those people they have supported, and that’s why you see it so quickly in a snap affecting every state throughout the nation.

So when you have that understanding, you say, “OK.” So what happens is the parents make the default of saying, “I’m going to go to my school board member and explain to him, ‘This isn’t reasonable, this isn’t right.'” Well, what happens is they don’t realize they were voted in by the union, the union that supported that policy that they’re fighting against.

Now, the school board member, though, as supported by the union, isn’t going to go against the union unless they actually have a conscience.

So what happens is that for the parent to really make a difference is … always praying over their own child, always instructing their own child what is right and wrong, praying for their teacher, finding out where their teacher is coming from, know that person personally, get to know what they stand for, praying for that teacher, and then also joining up with groups that have a like-mindedness and think about—besides going to the school board member—actually going to the union office and presenting their case to them.

… You present to the union office and you say, “If you continue to promote these types of policies in our schools, we will make sure that none of your school board members will ever get elected. That means we’re going to affect your benefits, your salary, your livelihood, because that’s what you’re doing to my children. You’re affecting my children with your policies.” Yeah, that’s where we really need to go, is right to the teacher, right to the teacher’s union, because that’s what are actually creating all of this.

Allen: Yeah. Wow. That’s so interesting to hear that really the source is the union.

Gutierrez: Well, actually, and to go even deeper than the union, a beautiful book that has been published by the Family Research Council called, what do you call it? The SPLC?

Allen: Mm-hmm.

Gutierrez: If you remember what that definition is—yeah, the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Allen: Oh, I see.

Gutierrez: If you remember, it’s called “Teaching Tolerance.” Yeah. What happens is many of the people in leadership at the NEA level are going to them and they’re giving them the information of what policies we should have in the NEA.

Allen: Mm-hmm.

Gutierrez: So that’s why you see a strong connection. Last year, NEA voted to support the Southern Poverty Law Center and any of their policies. So their hate list, their black list, the Family Research Council, the Heritage Council, was blacklisted.

And when I found that out, I immediately went to our lawyers, of NEA, and I said, “So that means, am I on the hate list because I support them financially? I am a Christian. I have the beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.” They go, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no.” So I’ve discovered that the Southern Poverty Law Center is an arm of the NEA.

Allen: Very interesting. So for young people who want to be involved in education, they are thinking about being a teacher one day, but they’re concerned about being put in situations where they do have to go against their beliefs in order to keep their jobs, what would you say to those young people?

Gutierrez: Well, first of all, we have to fight very desperately that we keep the requirement. When we become a government teacher, we’re basically a government teacher, we abide by the Constitution. That Constitution gives us freedom of speech, and that means also our religious rights. So that is in there.

Now, if the current law, if the Supreme Court changes that, everything changes completely for education. That means … they can force us, and we can lose our jobs. So we’re in a very traumatic time right now. But not to lose heart, because the Lord has given you the commission to teach those that do not know, then you have to, and you have to sacrifice.

I know of a situation right now of a teacher in California that on her Facebook, on her own private account, she spoke up against the LGBTQ as overriding her being able to teach. And she was put on sabbatical temporarily until they go through that and she shouldn’t have.

We have another student within California that was suspended because he spoke his belief [that] marriage is between a man and a woman, and that child was Muslim.

So, in California, they’re challenging those First Amendment rights. So we have to stand firm, not to give heart, Christ asked us not to stand on the sidelines but to go forward.

And what beauty is it that these young people want to go out there and are determined to give a witness for Christ by being in the classroom and actually teaching, reading, writing, and mathematics? Because I don’t teach my faith at all in the classroom. I teach the foundation of what makes a child successful for their future. I mean, that’s the whole purpose of education, is for their purpose to become members of society, functional members of society, not to teach my religious beliefs.

And it’s interesting that I am being bombarded to change that of teaching, to become an ideologist, socializing my children, and that’s what’s wrong. So not to give up hope. I hope that they will go without eagerness like I did when I first went into the classroom.

Allen: Yeah. Well, like you said, it’s such a profound and beautiful calling to have on your life—

Gutierrez: Yes.

Allen: … to be educating the next generation. And, in the current climate, I think it’s really easy to focus on all of the negative because, of course, there are many issues within education that sometimes feel overwhelming. But could you speak to maybe some of the positive changes that you have seen in education over the past decade or so?

Gutierrez: Well, as you know, when we had Common Core State Standards, that was a horrific change and people are not aware of it that when that stepped in, it changed every state to reconsider their standards and many states did, and it left an open door for any kind of philosophy to come in.

When they did curriculum, they actually got rid of the psychologists that would actually do the testing to make it age-appropriate. So the curriculum that we received in the last three or four years because of Common Core was age-inappropriate.

When you’re dealing with second-graders, you’re still working at the concrete level, but they started bringing all these abstract ways of teaching [and] many of the children got lost.

It was just this year and last year that our district says, “You know what? Let’s reconsider this curriculum and let’s let you go back and teach the way you used to teach reading, writing, and mathematics,” where we do small group instruction, guided reading time, and it’s been really fun.

I mean, I actually get to do hands-on materials with the children getting to build things to understand numeric numbers and things like that. So it’s been really exciting the last couple of years for me where the principal says, “Don’t necessarily go by the curriculum guide.” And I go, “Great,” because, in our district, fortunately, we have many seasoned teachers that have taught for many years that have all these great ideas of how to reach their children and we are allowed now to do that.

Allen: That’s exciting.

Gutierrez: It is exciting.

Allen: And you should be allowed to use that creativity.

Gutierrez: Exactly. The only problem we have now, too, being pushed in is this love for technology and there’s a place for it, of course, teaching the children how to use it appropriately and properly, but not to take our teaching time away.

Some administrators believe that everything comes from the web, but actually, it’s just a tool, that’s all it is. And trying to make people understand all they’re doing is responding, click, click, click, and that’s it.

I have children that can barely write and I force the children to learn how to print because neurologically it helps their left and right brain. Our younger generation of young people don’t have that understanding. When I have a young teacher that’s teaching kindergarten and they come by second grade and can barely print, I go, “Oh boy, here we go.”

Allen: Wow.

Gutierrez: So I have to teach them how to print, and then they start … seeing the patterns and things like that [that] help them start relating to the world around them.

Allen: So interesting. So how can parents and teachers get involved with the work of the National Education Association Conservative Educators Caucus?

Gutierrez: Well, I’m going to give you my personal email address, and I will be happy to give you our bylaws and give you information on how to become a member, because the more members we have, the more we get bragging rights.

So my name is Lydia, L-Y-D-I-A, like the Bible, the word for, F-O-R, education, fill out the whole word, at [], and I’d be happy to send you an application [for] becoming a member.

We’re asking if you’re in the union still to stay actively involved and become a voice. And if you decide to not be in the union, please do get yourself representation.

If you’re not aware of it, the union still has the responsibility of representing you. If you’re questioned in the classroom, if you’re not in the union, you can still ask somebody to go into the administrative office with you. They have the responsibility of taking notes and giving them to you. But if you’re not in the union, too, like I said, find fine representation so that you always have that legal background for yourself.

As for the parents, like I said, it’s very important that you are continually praying for your child in the classroom, that you are finding out what is the teacher instructing, and also praying for that teacher. But also remember, [give children] a strong foundation to be like that Jehovah’s Witness, to recognize right from wrong, and to speak up, and make sure they immediately go home and tell you about it.

But also find organizations, like I said there, in California, we have Informed Parents that is uniting. They have about 30,000 members of California saying, “We want a voice to speak up.” But also realize that it’s not necessarily the school board member you should be talking to, but actually the union members, the teachers themselves, and their direction that they decided to go in creating this policy that they’re fighting against.

Allen: Lydia, thank you so much for your time today and thank you for everything that you’re doing to stand up for students and teachers and parents. We really appreciate all your hard work.

Gutierrez: Thank you so much.