TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (TND) — State Farm is recruiting employees to fight Florida's ban on teaching young students about sexual expression and gender identity in the classroom.
A Jan. 18 email to employees obtained by nonprofit Consumers Research revealed the insurance company is seeking six agents in Florida to assist with an initiative aimed at increasing the number of “LGBTQ+ books” in schools for children as young as five years old.
State Farm is partnering with The GenderCool Project to help diversify classroom, community center and library bookshelves with a collection of books to help bring clarity and understanding to the national conversation about Being Transgender, Inclusive and Non-Binary," reads the email to employees. "The project’s goal is to increase representation of LGBTQ+ books and support our communities in having challenging, important and empowering conversations with children Age 5+."
In addition to receiving the donated books and handing them out in their community, the selected agents will be encouraged to highlight State Farm’s “commitment to diversity” on their social media pages.
This is a fantastic way to give back and an easy project that will help support the LGBTQ+ community and to make the world around us better,” the email to employees continued.
Besides passing legislation prohibiting discussions about sex with the state’s youngest students, Florida also passed a law this year giving parents access to a searchable database of all books being made available to their kids in school.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen some books in some of these libraries, I mean you’re talking about kids in middle school, some of the stuff that has ended up there is incredibly, incredibly disturbing stuff,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, referring to sexually explicit LGBT-focused books, according to The Associated Press. “Parents understand when they see this. They understand how to blow the whistle on this."
Decisions from school districts across the country to keep or ban certain controversial books have made headlines since the pandemic, and the subsequent glimpse into the classroom provided by virtual learning, increased the demand for transparency in public education.
In one example, school districts across numerous states removed a book titled “Gender Queer: A Memoir” over its depictions of oral sex and other lewd acts, while others have stood by the book and kept it available to students.
“As parents struggle to figure out where age-inappropriate materials come from, ‘the local insurance agent’ was probably not on anyone’s radar,” said nonprofit Parents Defending Education President Nicole Neily.
State Farm told The National Desk (TND) that the company's participation in the new initiative “evolved quickly,” and noted that “the decision was made several months ago for participants not to share resources with schools,” even though the company’s Jan. 18 email says otherwise.
State Farm later followed up with an “updated” statement, indicating explicitly that the company “no longer support[s] the program allowing for distribution of books in schools,” adding that it doesn't ”support required curriculum in schools on this topic.”
“Conversations about gender and identity should happen at home with parents,” the updated statement continued.
In its communications with TND State Farm indicated the important role diversity, equity and inclusion plays in the company's daily activities, adding that it “embrace[s] diversity and inclusion because it’s the right thing to do.”
“We work with a variety of organizations and causes that express their own unique views, and support civil and open dialogue on challenging topics,” State Farm concluded in its statement. “We will continue to explore how we can support organizations that provide tools and resources that align with our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”