SAN JOSE, Calif. – Piedmont Middle School’s annual “Diversity Day,” included Cuban music, dance, jazz, hip-hop, and a transgender man who grew up a girl in Southern California.
Volunteers helped to organize the event and some parents brought foods representing their cultures while students were rotated through the classrooms to hear 16 speakers “representing different races, disabilities and sexual orientations.”
The driving force behind the annual celebration is the combined effort of Piedmont art teacher Kim Lipkin and film class teacher, Anne Smith, according to San Jose Mercury News.
It was in Lipkin’s classroom that students heard the story of Ali Cannon, a transgender man who grew up a girl in Southern California.
“Cannon talked about his journey, including feelings that he was different, rejection and ostracism by other girls in middle school and his final decision to change his gender.”
“We think of boys and girls in terms of biology, what’s between your legs,” Cannon said, “when gender is really a lot more than what your genitalia are. People identify all along the spectrum of what they feel inside.”
In another classroom, Piedmont parent Brij Kothari, president of Planet Read, talked to students about teaching people around the world to read.
Kothari told Mercury News that he believes diversity days are important.
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“The Piedmont school district is open to learning about other cultures, and the importance of that in a globalized world cannot be understated,” he said.
According to the news report, the school’s annual event has given middle-schoolers “a glimpse of the wider pluralistic world” for the past 15 years.
“Seeing diversity in simply racial terms does not account for the differences found in any community,” says Lipkin.
“You see the kids they are happy, they have their arms around each other and are very, very engaged with the people who are coming to talk about their lives,” Lipkin said.
“Everybody thinks it’s a race issue, but there are many ways you can be diverse and express diversity,” she said. “There is diversity within any culture, any color or any race.”
Diversity Day celebrations like this one take place in many public schools across the country.
In 2012, Gorham Middle School in Maine came under fire for a Diversity Day presentation that, according to parents, “turned sexual in nature.”
According to WCHS News, the school’s ‘Civil Rights team’ hosted representatives of the group PRYSM, Proud Rainbow Youth of Southern Maine, to talk about gender diversity and discrimination.
One parent, however, said her son told her that the presentation turned into a discussion about homosexual foreplay.