A religion teacher at a private Christian school in Virginia sent an email to high school students days after the Nashville mass shooting encouraging them to attend pro-transgender protests and donate money to transgender organizations.
Scott Singer, religion teacher at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School, a private Episcopalian school in Alexandria, Va., sent the email to high school students on March 31, "International Trans Day of Visibility." In the message, which was not sent to parents, Singer pushed students to "recognize and affirm trans youth."
"Queer existence is being rendered invisible by force of law across our nation," Singer said. "What can we do today to say: I see you? Here are a few ideas!"
The email came just four days after transgender shooter Audrey Hale murdered six people, including three children, at a Christian school in Nashville. Transgender activists had planned protests for a "Trans Day of Vengeance" the weekend Singer sent the email, but organizers eventually canceled the protests, citing a "credible threat to life and safety."
Parents of students at the school complained that Singer's email pressured students to engage in activism. "What do you think these kids are going to feel they have to do to get good grades, a letter of recommendation? This is coercive," a parent of a St. Stephen's student who requested anonymity told the Washington Free Beacon.
"That email was inappropriate because it was trying to incite a very strong emotion," another parent said. "I use the word incite because it was so obviously trying to incite action."
St. Stephen's and St. Agnes, which charges more than $39,000 in tuition, is part of the National Association of Independent Schools, a group of more than 1,600 U.S. private schools that requires certain diversity, equity, and inclusion protocols to be in place for accreditation.
Singer listed several other ideas for students, suggesting they volunteer for "amazing" transgender organizations and "pay attention to your own language and biases." He also said if students "have the gift of money" they should "give freely to organizations supporting trans folk."
A school spokeswoman defended Singer, and said his message "fits within our mission."
"Our school community encourages teachers to share information with students that is educational, timely, and relevant to the lives of young people," Jen Desautels, director of communications for St. Stephen's, told the Free Beacon. "This fits within our mission of preparing students to be active members of a vibrant and complex society. We generally defer from highlighting any particular organization to avoid the possibility of a reference being seen as an endorsement."
Singer did not return a request for comment before press time.
One of the parents who spoke to the Free Beacon said they don't think the school considered the danger students could have faced by attending protests as Singer's email encouraged.
"I don't think they’ve thought of the liability if, God forbid, something happens to that child when you guys have been pushing them to do this," the parent said. "You're asking them to participate in protests when all you have to do is turn the TV on to see what's happening at protests."
The email is not the first controversial move by St. Stephen's. In March, the school sent a book list to parents of fourth-graders that included the novel Melissa, which tells of a fourth-grade boy named George who believes he is a girl.
The characters in the book discuss genitalia, and includes graphic lines such as "what she has between her legs was nobody’s business but hers and her boyfriend." The author, Alex Gino, is an activist for the "LGBTQIAP+" community and serves on the board of NOLOSE, a "fat-positive, queer, feminist organization dedicated to supporting radical fat acceptance and culture," according to Gino’s website.
A school administrator justified the assignment to parents in the name of "DEIB," or diversity, equity, inclusion, and a fourth term: belonging. "I worked with teachers to identify books for this unit that provide both mirrors and windows into diverse identities and experiences," St. Stephen's librarian Julie Esanu, who refers to herself as a "DEIB advocate," wrote in her email announcing the book list.