Protecting Trans Students in Seattle Public Schools Part Three: The K-5 Gender Book Kit

by Gracie Bucklew

Kindergarten through fifth grade is the prime time when our minds and core understandings of life and ourselves are being molded by our guardians, the media, other kids, and perhaps most intensely, by school. It is the time during which we learn the basics of life: how you’re expected to treat others, the difference between right and wrong, and how you’re supposed to be and act if you’re a girl and if you’re a boy. These core understandings, if misconstrued, incomplete, biased, or outright wrong, can seriously skew our expectations of others and our self-image and identity. Thus, it is imperative school curriculum include a diversity of perspectives and life experiences throughout all grades, but especially, in the early years. Seattle progressed in this regard earlier this school year with the introduction of a new K-5 Gender Book Kit.

Assembled by a task force of parents, teachers, librarians, and public health workers and piloted in a dozen Seattle Public Schools (SPS), the Book Kit ultimately aims to “provide accurate, age-appropriate information about gender identity and expression.” Inclusive curriculum like this kit validates trans students by allowing them to see themselves reflected in school assignments and lessons. (Please note: I am a cis student writing about trans issues. I am not an expert.) Contrary to popular belief, excluding trans issues and history from curriculum does not simply ignore that population, it sends a very clear message to them that they do not matter and their narratives do not belong in our schools, just as they themselves do not.

Inclusive curriculum also has measurable benefits. 75.2% of LGBTQ+ students report having somewhat or very accepting peers if their school has an inclusive curriculum, compared to 39.6% if it doesn’t. This social acceptance rating increase is stark. Students in schools with an inclusive curriculum hear negative remarks about transgender people and gender expression less frequently. They are also half as likely to experience severe victimization, compared to students in schools without an inclusive curriculum.

While moving in the right direction with this kit, Seattle still falls short. The Book Kit is but only a resource for teachers who seek it. The argument for keeping inclusive curriculum optional is weak. It sends a message loud and clear to trans students: It’s optional to acknowledge your existence in our schools. It’s optional to acknowledge your history in our schools. It’s optional to acknowledge your body in our schools. It’s optional to acknowledge your lived experience in our schools.

Further, consisting of a measly one little book and one little lesson per grade for six years, the Book Kit is a nearly laughable advance toward the end goal of total trans inclusion and integration in school curriculum. This is hopeful but insufficient representation.

In my investigation of SPS, I learned that none of the 12 schools piloting the Book Kit mention it anywhere on their website, which isn’t incredibly shocking; all of the SPS websites woefully need tremendous updating and attention. Also, not all of the 12 schools participating reported having actually received the materials for the kit, defeating the entire purpose of the rollout. Many of the office administrators both at schools participating in the pilot and not participating in the pilot had not heard of the kit at all, which leads me to believe the district is not excited enough about this new development in curriculum or else more people would know about it.

Only when every elementary school in Seattle is utilizing the Book Kit, only when the Book Kit expands to more than one book and one lesson per grade, only when this learning and exploration continues into middle and high school, only when the Book Kit seems insignificant contrasted to the great inclusive curriculum SPS uses, only when trans inclusive curriculum is mandated at every grade level in every school, only then will SPS successfully “build empathy for people whose experiences are different from their own and reflect the lived experiences of students, families, and friends.”

Please comment how, if at all, this article impacted you. I crave your feedback, thoughts, and praise!


Gracie Bucklew is a musician, artist, Unitarian Universalist, intersectional feminist, and activist and contributes a regular local pop-culture column to the Emerald. She is currently a student at The Center School. She lives on Beacon Hill with one of her moms, and is a lifelong resident of Rainier Beach with her other mom. She loves her friends, cats, and ice cream.

Featured image by Carolyn Bick

10 thoughts on “Protecting Trans Students in Seattle Public Schools Part Three: The K-5 Gender Book Kit”

  1. This series, and especially this article, should be published in the Opinion section of The Seattle Times. It is written by Gracie Bucklew, a senior in a Seattle high school, and although she claims she is not an expert, she most certainly is! The research, life experience, and excellent writing skills that she has brought to this project are a credit to the Seattle public school system of which she is a product – but some students are left out, as she so eloquently informs us. Gracie’s passionate series, “Protecting Trans Students in Seattle Public Schools” deserves a wider audience.

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    1. Did you mean to be offensive to the Emerald? The reason this article was able to be published is that they welcome these types of thoughts and opinions. The Times has a track record of not doing so.

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      1. Certainly not. I appreciate the Emerald publishing this. I just think the Seattle Times has a larger readership but I may be wrong. Jeez, everybody is so crabby these days. No need to take offense!

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    2. Sorry, re-reading your post I jumped the gun a bit. I guess I just thought a trolly Seattle Times commenter made their way here. I apologize to you.

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  2. We learn and connect through stories. Everyone needs to see themselves included in the narrative and I’m glad to hear that SPS is taking that first step to making trans students visible. Let’s keep pushing our schools to include all the kids’ stories in the classroom.

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  3. I’ve read Gracie Bucklew’s articles on gender justice. By doing the leg work, by speaking to interested parties and Seattle schools she makes a good case for how important it is for children (even pre-K) to be accepted for who they are.
    I’m proud of Gracie and her peers for advocating for non gender identified/trans kids and young adults and educating the rest of society. You will move mountains.
    I wish I had such support when I was young. It would have made all the difference.
    I applaud the excellent journalistic work that Gracie is doing

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  4. I love this series! I was especially struck by this part: “Contrary to popular belief, excluding trans issues and history from curriculum does not simply ignore that population, it sends a very clear message to them that they do not matter and their narratives do not belong in our schools, just as they themselves do not.”
    Incredible work by an incredible writer and activist, Gracie I’m so proud of you!

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  5. What a great series! I was especially struck by this part: “Contrary to popular belief, excluding trans issues and history from curriculum does not simply ignore that population, it sends a very clear message to them that they do not matter and their narratives do not belong in our schools, just as they themselves do not.”

    Incredible writing by an incredible journalist & activist! You go Gracie!

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  6. Great work digging past the superficial fact that the toolkit exists and finding that pilot schools don’t know about it – excellent fact-checking. (And BTW, thank you for pointing out – multiple times – how outdated SPS web pages are!! Just one example of poor communication with families and the public on the part of SPS. Particularly egregious given our region’s tech-forward reputation.)

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  7. I was excited to hear about the book toolkit, but I agree with the comment above that digging past the surface shows that it’s not enough at this point. I hope that SPS moves boldly forward and integrates it into every elementary school. One book and lesson a year isn’t much, but if it was every year in every school it would do a lot to set an inclusive tone and break taboo – a good start. This statistic was so striking, and makes so much sense “75.2% of LGBTQ+ students report having somewhat or very accepting peers if their school has an inclusive curriculum, compared to 39.6% if it doesn’t.” Thanks for the great series! This is really on point for me and my family.

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