GRANTS PASS, Ore.—When the school called his 14-year-old son to the principal’s office for refusing to say a female student was a boy, Matthew Duncan decided he’d had enough.
At first, Duncan’s son thought his longtime classmate was joking when she told him to say she was a man. He refused.
“You can’t do that! You can’t call somebody by something that they’re not,” Duncan said school administrators in Grants Pass chastised the boy.
“Just so you know, if you do it again, you’re gonna get in trouble,” they warned his son, Duncan said.
After the school year ended, Duncan transferred his two children to a private school.
Grants Pass is a small, conservative town, but locals have found they can’t control what their children get taught in public school. Families have found directives from Oregon’s governor trample their own beliefs. Teachers who want a politically neutral curriculum say local schools have actively promoted LGBT ideology.
“There was never a push towards dominance and control like it is now,” said Duncan. “You can’t voice your opinion.”
In response, many families in Grants Pass have withdrawn their children from public school, enrolling them in private school or starting to homeschool, Grants Pass teachers, school administrators and parents told The Epoch Times.
But those solutions can be expensive and inconvenient, and private schools sometimes don’t have enough space to absorb the exodus of students.
Boys Aren’t Girls
In just a few years, LGBT ideology has swept into Oregon schools, said Betty, a former school employee who used her first name only to avoid backlash within the community. She retired early because she was tired of trying to help kids, while simultaneously fighting left-wing ideology, she told The Epoch Times.
Just a few years ago, there wasn’t any LGBT indoctrination in her school, Betty said. Then, education workers slowly and quietly filled schools with pro-LGBT material.
“I mean, we’re out in the country. It’s conservative. And it’s like [the truth is], ‘Beware! It’s not!’” she said.
One day, Betty discovered a poster in the library that stated left-wing talking points.
“We believe black lives matter, no human is illegal, love is love, women’s rights are human rights, science is real, water is life, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” it read.
It didn’t seem like education to provide just one perspective on controversial issues, she said. So she put up her own poster next to it.
“We believe all lives matter, legal immigration, marriage is one man & one woman, unborn female and male babies have rights, God’s creation supports science, water is life, return to law abiding Constitutional America,” Betty’s poster read.
Then she got called to the principal’s office.
“They said, ‘You know what? This is unacceptable. You need to clear everything with us,’” Betty recalled.
The school forced her to take her poster down, but allowed the left-wing poster to remain, she said.
In another incident, when Betty stopped a young elementary school boy from walking into the girls’ bathroom by mistake, administrators expressed their disapproval.
“Oh, did I get it for that!” she exclaimed. “They said, ‘Betty, don’t you understand? They can walk wherever they want.’”
Radical gender ideology broke into schools after younger teachers embraced it in their training in college.
“They bought the propaganda,” Betty lamented. “They were immersed in the propaganda at the college level, so they’re just spewing that out. My sense is that they don’t have the same morality that us oldsters do.”
Another conservative teacher, Deborah, left her job after facing pressure to resign, she said. Deborah chose not to use her real name because she was concerned about drawing criticism.
Before she left, a school-mandated lecture told all teachers to raise their hands if they had “white privilege,” she said. She was the only one not to signal affirmation.
“No one else, as far as I know—no one else spoke up,” she said.
In another incident, a student expressed panic after Donald Trump was elected president. The girl said she feared Trump would put her in a concentration camp because she was a lesbian, Deborah recalled.
Deborah assured her it wouldn’t happen, she said. The student filed a complaint, and the school’s administration talked with Deborah about the incident.
“It was so ridiculous,” she said. “It never went anywhere, and is not even documented in my employment file. But I was visited by the administration because of it.”
Then, after Deborah accidentally handed a graded test to the wrong student, the student filed a complaint against her. Documents she provided to The Epoch Times show that the school assigned her “focus goals” that included passing out papers to the correct students.
Deborah has 22 years of teaching experience. She said she believes the school used the complaint to make her job so frustrating that she would quit. She suspects the school wanted her out because of her political beliefs.
“I think that people knew that I probably wouldn’t call a girl a boy,” Deborah said.
After the complaint, the school subjected all her work to intense scrutiny, she said.
“I would have to email my every single detail [in a] plan, at 5 in the morning to the principal and the personnel director,” Deborah recalled. “And then they would have people coming in my class every day. Different administrators were picking apart everything. And I found that many of the things that they said were just flat-out lies.”
Tired of the pressure, Deborah retired in 2019.
Local Kids, State Standards
Some in the community believe schools have also swung left in towns like Grants Pass, because Oregon’s state government sets educational standards that promote radical gender ideology.
“The whole system is set up to reprogram the kids. I mean, that’s what they’re doing. They’re literally destroying these innocent little brains,” said Betty.
The Oregon State Board of Education (OSBE) sets educational policies and standards for the state. The governor selects the board’s members.
Democrats have controlled the governor’s office since 1986. Oregon’s current governor, Kate Brown, is the nation’s first openly bisexual politician.
Some have accused the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) of pushing left-wing ideology at the expense of educational excellence. Its website urges administrators to educate while focusing on race and ethnicity.
Oregon’s health education standards also say children should learn there are “many ways to express gender” in kindergarten. They should learn about sexual orientation in third grade, the standards state, and they should be taught how to prevent the spread of AIDS in third grade as well.
By third grade, the guidelines continue, students should “recognize differences and similarities of how individuals identify regarding gender or sexual orientation.”
From kindergarten, students should learn to “recognize the importance of treating others with respect including gender expression,” the standards read. Students of the same age should also “identify different kinds of family structures.”
Sometimes, Oregon state curriculum is pornographic, in the opinion of Heidi Napier, a Grants Pass local who works with the area’s Republican Party education committee.
Napier paid for a copy of the state’s curriculum and discovered it included photographs of diseased genitals and line drawings of people having sex.
When Napier showed the pictures to a police officer, he told her that it would be a crime if she distributed them to children.
It’s legal, however, to use the same materials in the classroom.
“These are from the CDC,” the officer told her. “And as long as they’re used by a schoolteacher, they’re not pornography. But if anybody else used them, they would be considered pornography.”
Napier wondered if she could even show them at a school board meeting without facing repercussions.
The outside of Grants Pass High School suggests the school promotes left-wing gender ideology. The school has a rainbow LGBT pride heart above its main entrance and LGBT pride stickers on the windows of its classrooms.
The Epoch Times requested an interview with the Grants Pass school district, but one had not been scheduled by press time.
Pushing Private School
In response to ideological teaching, many Grants Pass parents have removed their children from public schools.
Admissions for Grants Pass New Hope Christian School have skyrocketed in the last three years, according to school administrator Annie Burnham.
Since 2020, the school has gone from 190 students to 340, with about 30 students on a waiting list, she said. To meet the need, New Hope more than doubled its staff. This switch is part of a nationwide post-COVID-19 trend.
“I think that’s when parents became aware of some of those curriculum things that were going on in the classroom,” she said.
At first, parents switched to New Hope because they wanted in-person classes after COVID-19, said Burnham. Then parents started switching because they didn’t like the sexualized curriculum at public schools.
Around 2021, Burnham said, parents started expressing, “We just don’t want our kids being taught some of these things.”
And it wasn’t just the sex-ed and transgender indoctrination, she said. They also disapproved of topics woven into history and social studies, such as Critical Race Theory.
Public schools in Oregon have had dismal educational results recently. According to Oregon statewide assessments from 2020 to 2021, only 42 percent of third graders can read at proficiency level.
Although New Hope is a Christian school, many non-Christian families have enrolled their children to avoid their being taught radical gender theory, Burnham said.
“With rapid growth, there’s been a bit of culture shift. We are working on how to maintain who we are as a Christian school,” she said.
New Hope isn’t alone in experiencing dramatic enrollment growth, said Burnham. Local private schools, charter schools, and homeschooling groups have all seen enrollment rise.
“The public school districts have reported significant decreases in enrollment,” she said. “Our little 340 doesn’t make that big of a difference on their total enrollment. But families are definitely leaving for other options.”
Burnham noted that between wait lists and cost, it can be challenging for parents to arrange to switch their children to private schools. But there’s a growing movement in Oregon to create a voucher system.
Such a system would allow parents to pay for any school with taxpayer money.
“I definitely think that there will be more political support for a voucher system or some kind of tax support for private schools,” she said.
Many local parents don’t want their kids to learn radical gender ideology, whatever the cost.
“If we don’t stand up for what we believe, that’s all they need,” Duncan said of ideologues. “And they will continue to take little bits at a time until they have complete control.”