For parents fed up with transgender/DEI ed, options and hope

Retta Dunlap (at microphone at left) answers a question about homeschooling at the May 24 SPEAK-VT gathering in Essex.

By Guy Page

Parents concerned about the pro-transgender and Diversity-Equity-Inclusion (DEI) teaching takeover of Vermont’s public schools have options. And hope.

The Vermont public school system was already full-speed-ahead on these two controversial issues before the 2023 Legislature passed two ‘shield’ laws that (among many other protections) empower educators to provide student counseling and services without parental permission or even knowledge.

Current public school leadership has no plan to address their concerns, the 40 people who attended a May 24 SPEAK-VT event in Essex learned. The SPEAK committee seeks to make Essex and Westford residents aware of school practices stemming from the school’s “equity” policy and use of “Social Emotional Learning” practices. They also seek to connect concerned parents and citizens with each other to pursue remedies to those concerns. 

Some attendees may have arrived at the meeting feeling hopeless. They soon learned that parents aren’t alone and powerless to stop their children from receiving unacceptable instruction. They have options: try to change the system, or leave it for a better alternative. With both options, there are people ready to help. 

These choices are embodied in the two guest speakers at the SPEAK-VT forum: Tara Ferf Jentink, State of Vermont affiliate leader for Parents’ Rights in Education, and Retta Dunlap, founder and longtime director of the Vermont Home Education Network.

In her presentation, Tara told her story of addressing concerns about the “health” education class in her child’s school. Through these conversations, Tara discovered that the content she wanted her child to learn about in health ed were overshadowed by instruction and literature that focused on transgender issues. When she asked for her child to opt out of this instruction, she was told that was impossible because it was incorporated into most of the instruction. Through Parents’ Rights in Education, Tara has received help with strategies to pursue remedies with the school district. She can be reached at

Retta Dunlap, of Woodbury, has “homeschooled” (one word, she insists) her own children and has advocated for others in Montpelier. She also highlighted the flexibility in subject and instruction made possible through homeschooling.

Vermont homeschooling doubled to about 5,000 students during pandemic school closures. Since schools reopened full-time, homeschooling has leveled out at about 4,000 – still higher than pre-pandemic levels. The Home Education Network is just that – home educators joining together to share materials, teacher time, and other resources for the betterment of all. 

Both presenters cited case law to inform the audience of their recognized legal right to direct the education of their own children. Both also cited serious problems with recently passed legislation, H.89 and S.37 in this latest Legislative session. Both of these bills seek to shield counseling and medical practitioners for gender affirming care — even for minors and without parental knowledge or consent.

Private schools are a third option, especially for parents for whom neither fighting the establishment nor teaching their own children is an option. There’s hope and support here, too. Last month, the Vermont Institute for Human Flourishing announced three Vermont private religious schools as the winners of its first annual Challenge Grant program:

  • Trinity Baptist School will increase its teaching staff, thereby providing the opportunity to increase its student population by fifty students over the next two years. Trinity Baptist is a pre-K through twelfth grade school.
  • Websterville Baptist School which proposes to rearrange its facilities to accommodate fifty more students without increasing its teaching staff. The school serves pre-K through twelfth grade.
  • St John the Baptist Church in Enosburg which proposes to use a multi-faceted approach to address youth and community needs. There currently is an eager and large group of volunteers on hand to ensure that their objectives are met.

There is a fourth option: vote with your feet. Leave Vermont.

All across the state, young families have pulled up stakes and moved to where (they hope) the grass is greener. Many of these families had already become disenchanted with current and future employment and housing opportunities, political under-representation, and creeping government oversight into families and the workplace. But whether the trans/DEI takeover of public schools was the main reason or merely the last straw, these parents ultimately decided that the Green Mountain State was no longer fertile ground to raise children.

Categories: Education

27 replies »

  1. Yes the Diversion, Exclusion and Insanity programs being pushed by the DOE, AOE, NSA, VSBA are concerning to say the least. And even if you reluctantly tolerate such policies you cannot ignore the fact that since their implementation, anxiety, depression, self-harm and even suicide rates have spiked amongst public school children while academics have significantly declined. The purpose is neither to heal the children nor educate them but rather to drive a larger and larger wedge between the students and their families. This has happened before under Stalin and Mao. This is textbook and the result is devastating.

  2. For all the talk of things that are a “threat to our democracy” it’s hard to imagine anything worse than shield laws that put matters of great public concern outside the purview of democratic institutions. Signing on to this law was among Governor Scott’s most shameful acts.

  3. Part of the suicide prevention bill Gov. Scott just signed into law aims to address suicide in Vermont by “preventing, using language around and identifying eating disorders in youth”. I think we can be sure that dealing with eating disorders is NOT best accomplished by concurring with unhealthily slim youngsters who “identify as” overweight that they need to limit their food intake. Yet that is precisely the OPPOSITE of how school officials deal with a student who supposedly has a gender identification issue. In the same way, if a child “identifies as” an animal such as a cat, best to not feed them mice and have them pee in a litterbox. In a general sense, it is best to be truthful about biological realities when educating children and NOT indulging their social contagion-based fantasies.

  4. Good to see a parallel education system emerging and growing. Even fed-up educators can sub-contract on their own terms and seize new opportunities in the parallel system. The process started during the lockdowns and it’s gaining more traction thanks to government sponsored activist nonsense. Parents want their children educated, not socially engineered. The time is now to seize on the shifting and shaking. A new valuable, ethical, and prosperous system is emerging.

    • It’s nice to have choices, despite Sen. Sanders’ past growling about how we have too many choices for underarm deodorant. If you dont like Bud Light for whatever reason, there are many other similar products on nearby shelves. If you dont like shopping at Target, many other retailers carry similar product lines. God Bless America.

  5. Years ago, when offered the chance to return to Vermont my wife and I, both Vermonters, never had to consider quality or conditions of the education system. We knew it would be good for our children. Today, I would be very concerned about moving back to Vermont if I had children in school. Being a parent is hard enough without the state depriving you of the knowledge of what your child might be, or even has considered, doing. Do you only find out about this when the doctors’ bills arrive? Will you even be able to learn then what you are paying for or will you only learn when the treatments become apparent. Do our politicians really want to teach our children to lie and conceal actions from their parents? Is this an example of good citizenship?

    There were many concerns about how reliable the covid vaccines were, how reliable the data was and who was tracking the results of the treatment. Where is all that concern about: Diagnosis of transgender feelings, treatment, results, dangers, and possibility, or not, of “fixes” when it “was a mistake”. Our legislators seem to base their decisions on feelings and rights rather than data and knowledge.

    The members of the legislature will not have to pay for their mistake, the children and their parents will, most decidedly the children when they want to “go back, and can’t.”

    • > Do our politicians really want to teach our children to lie and conceal actions from their parents?
      Not just that. They’d also like them to inform on you about any non-party behavior.

  6. That fourth option concerns me a bit. With so many leaving, who will be left behind to fight for the Vermont we grew up in?

  7. Our son was homeschooled, graduated from Lyndon Institute, went to college and got his degree in diesel technologies, came home for a year and drove school buses, and then hightailed it out of Vermont and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Well employed, connected to a church, away from Vermont’s “progressive” politics, lower taxes, and a lower cost of living. Many of his friends and classmates are on the same path . . . out of Vermont. Well done Montpelier!!!

    • And Vermont is anxious to replace them with illegal immigrants, migrants, and Communists. Bye, bye Vermont….. says all the tourists AND their money!!!!!!!!!

      You gotta laugh about the hell hole which will be left by these fanatical, ignorant, tyrants.

    • The moonbats think they have accomplished something by having Vermont be rid of decent, God-fearing Constitutionalists, but with them, so goes their money, and how will the moonbats fund all their precious programs?

  8. How sad to hear that parents no longer have the right to say no to such indocumentation of their own children. I hope the state education system comes to its senses before we loose all the young people who are in our schools. But, I have my doubts since the self proclaimed socialist Sen. Sanders is at the helm of our educational system. I guess it’s time for all straight people to give them the state and turn it into another California or New York, it’s well on its way!

  9. Sorry Guy, our family is going for option 4.
    When liberal atheists are fleeing your state, it may be time to admin there’s a problem.

  10. Waving the white flag and leaving the state is not a solution. It is only kicking the can down the road. There are thousands of people who do not want Vermont to slide into the abyss. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Speak out against the leftist nonsense. Stand and fight. You are the solution to the problem.

    • Unfortunately if you have non neo-liberal values, you are also putting yourself and your family in a very vulnerable and dangerous situation by staying in occupied vermont. If you’re not left of left, vermont is no longer safe for you. Leave if you can.

    • Agree. Child exploitation, of any kind, is a criminal offense – full stop. People must demand the criminals perpetrating criminal activity against minors be arrested, charged, and prosecuted. If the Judiciary won’t uphold the law, the People have an absolute right to do so. Not long ago, there was zero-tolerance of this behavior. There must be zero-tolerance of it now.

  11. let the money go with the child to get the education the parents think is best.

  12. I have decided to stay until the bitter end and hopefully be a thorn in the sides of those trying to enjoy the dystopian world they’ve created. I will also become increasingly “criminal” in my actions as the Montpelier Politburo continues to enact unconstitutional edicts.

  13. I moved to this state 30 years ago.

    Since the commies took over, everything I loved has been all but destroyed. The only live churches have gotten plenty of money for new buildings and whatever else they want just for putting rainbow flags and blm signs up. Not biblical, but that’s okay.

    Parents can’t just drop in to say hello or check on their own kids. They are treated like potential assassins. When my kids went to school everyone knew I would be stopping in, whenever, just to check on my kids and chit chat with the teachers in their lounge. They loved me. I cared.

    Now the schools are locked up like prisons.

    I have been so boxed in financially I would have to leave this state with nothing but the clothes on my back. You know, b/c of the shamdemic. B/c of the stolen election that let the usurpers take over.

    And don’t kid yourselves, Vermont, they STOLE Vermont’s votes. Am I the only one who knows they made another LAW (so tired of their illegal edicts) that only dominion machines do the votes? Am I the onlty one who noticed election after election all results in VT were announced less than 20 minutes after polls closed election after election???

    I am, more and more, resenting Vermont residents. You have capitulated at every turn. B/c of that, I and others like me are having to pay the price.

    When do you wake up and stop this crap????

  14. Richard Stans, I take umbrage at your accusation that we native Vermonters have been idle in the fight against (name it correctly) the Marxist march of the left. I, and my native Vermont friends from around the state have fought it for many years. When Act 200 (planning law) was proposed, we organized in towns all over the state to put a vote on the proposed law on the agenda of Town Meetings of most of the towns in VT. The result was that 98% of the towns voted NO, yet our legislature voted it in anyway. We have fought these leftist proposals all along the way. Our problem is money, as most grassroots organizations know is a problem. Most of us Vermonters are hardworking, raising families, giving back to the community, and have precious few resources of time and money to devote to the cause. And it’s hard to fight against out of state, big moneyed foundations, who target Vermont in particular because of our small size. If you have a better solution, please let us know. As a lifelong Vermonter, I am even thinking of leaving Vermont, even though my roots run deep. It is no longer Vermont, as I have known it. The stench and results of liberalism have made it a hellhole that I and my family don’t recognize, and don’t want to support. We will not sacrifice our progeny on the altar of “Progressivism” (which is really regressivist in nature).

  15. Im a trans man (female at birth) who didnt realize my identity until my mid 30s. I had to go through 2 years of therapy trying to figure out why my mental health was so terrible. I had EKGs done for heart issues, ultrasounds for stomach issues, and issues with eczema. Nothing was conclusive, except that it seemed to be stress related. I gave up my management job, sold my house, got divorced, did yoga every day, ate a clean diet, meditated, did weekly therapy, the list goes on. And still I thought I might have to go on disability. I would sleep for 16+ hours a day and be completely exhausted by small tasks. Once I realized I am (and have always been) trans, I felt warmth course through my body for the first time since I can remember. I literally didn’t know what happiness felt like. I had as a child taught myself that anything that made me happy was bad, and lived completely numb and dissociated for 20+ years without knowing it.

    It took me another 8 months of socially transitioning, studying gender as a social construct, before starting hormones. I knew within a day my brain had the right fuel for the first time. Ive stopped having su****al thoughts for the first time since I was a teenager. And I didnt event know what being trans was as a kid. Hormonal changes take months and years to show, but even 2 months in my skin texture has changed just enough I can touch my own skin without it going numb. Its not that I hate my body, its that my brain literally cant recognize and connect to my female body.

    I know 2 other trans people who transitioned in middle age and were on disability. Once they started transition they both went back to school and work full time. One guy is in his mid 60s and transitioned 20 years ago. He lives in the southwest and the only people that know hes trans are his doctor, wife, and a few friends. You have likely met trans people and not even known it.

    Trans people make up less than 1% of the population in the US. But are taking up huge amounts of media time on both sides. I personally think this is a fabricated moral panic meant to distract us from corporations who are truly indoctrinating and exploiting children and families.

    We trans people just want to live our lives in a way that allows us to feel joy. I promise you its not a choice. I know thats difficult to understand when its not your life experience, but I hope in sharing my story even one reader will think about trans people in a different more accepting way.

  16. It is sad that society had destroyed your mind so that you then destroyed your body. It is easy to see why some of you weak minded people do what you do. In a society that pats you on the back “just for showing up” you are the victim of the plot from The Incredibles. Syndrome said it best. If I make everyone a super then…. nobody is super.
    I have seen again and again that you all are just seeking attention for some sexual/mental disfunction you possess. You should have been counseled on the alleged abuse you did or feel you had experienced, not just acknowledged your sickness. No I will not bother or discriminate against you mostly I will shake my head and just keep walking.
    I genuinely feel so sad and sorry for you. It is almost as bad, actually it is as bad as the lie of Michael Jackson having a disease that did not hit him until he was well into his 30s (turning white). He was so mentally tortured he bleached himself white. That and all the other drugs brought out the worst of him, who was also abused by his father.
    Abuse can be in many forms and having someone actually hear you is the key to growth and understanding not self mutilation.

    I agree w/ Richard. Too many of you have just let others , here in VT, do what you should be doing. Caring for your kids. Too many of you make kids a attempted clone to do what you did not as a child. Others are so caught up in social attention they again, forget they need to bring up a kid, not just give birth and let them loose on society. Remember we put bad animals down for that behavior. Now we just use them to fill the prisons.

    As far as solutions. How about you lobby the various Philanthropic and or non-profit organizations to help get the word out or have gatherings. If you are not blind and deaf you can see the results of the DEMs and progressives all over the TV the paper and radio and all over the internet. School lunch, solar , wind, you kids, covid and of course climate change( in other words the weather). All on the air and web, from the same people who helped mess up this state and brought about the deep state. . All paid for from OUT OF STATE and COUNTRY SOURCES.
    What have you actually done to solicit any of the same kinds of organizations….. what ,,,, crickets chirping. You ( I mean the VTGOP) do nothing while the opponent has full coffers and is spending it as fast as they can on propaganda that works… Money does win but if all you do is BLAME, you will never do better. Life is more than money.
    You all spend too much time virtue signaling. Who cares. Are you the messenger or the message?
    Last I knew God made sure you understood the message and only one messenger was to be top dog and that was/is Jesus. Pray to the Lord for answers. If you are humble and truly open to his message, the answer WILL come to you. Always does.