The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) was put on notice this month that they are being sued for directing children — via the state ADE website — to chat rooms in which they can discuss sex, gender, and anything else — without their parents knowing.
The lawsuit, spearheaded by parent Peggy McClain, specifically names Kathy Hoffman, Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, who made the decision to direct children to the Q Chat website, using the taxpayer-funded ADE website.
Once on the Q Chat website, children, 13 years of age and older, are required to give their personal information to join the chats, including their age, location and romantic interests. According to Q Chat, the groups are run by "facilitators" who "guide group conversations and help if anything comes up."
These "facilitators," according to Q Chat, are "staff and volunteers from youth programs at LGBTQ+ centers across the United States" and are not required to be licensed in any of the topics they discuss with children. When children join a session, it unfolds as detailed below:
A facilitator will greet you when you arrive in the chat. There will be some time to informally meet others who are joining the chat. After introductions and a review of the group agreements, there will be open discussion on a designated topic. You are free to share as much or as little as you like. At the end, there will be a closing and some time to chat more informally.
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A place for LGBTQ+ children to have discussions with like-minded folks is not at all sinister and children should be able to have these conversations freely. That being said, as AZ Free News points out, some of the upcoming chat rooms are: “Sex and Relationships Q&A,” “FOR TRANS/NON-BINARY YOUTH: Activism and Allyship,” and “FOR TRANS/NONBINARY YOUTH: Sex Ed.”
While children should certainly have a space to talk about subjects that interest them, including anything related to the LGBTQ+ arena, the idea of anonymous adults chatting with children about these sensitive topics is rather worrisome. Moreover, the fact that it is done so behind their parents' backs and is being facilitated by the state, is even worse.
At the bottom of every page on the Q Chat site is an "escape" button which quickly redirects all users to Google.com. According to former Superintendent of Public Instruction and Arizona Attorney General, Tom Horne, this makes the site illegal as it violates the Arizona statute prohibiting government agencies from encouraging children to hide information from their parents. Horne says the escape button is designed to do just that.
Again, no one here is saying that children should be disallowed from having these consensual conversations. That being said, however, facilitating a process that explicitly allows children to hide it from their parents is not the way to go about it. When anonymous adults are then granted access to these children, the stakes are even higher and an entire door for child predation is opened.
Remove the entire LGBTQ+ label and this scenario is just as disturbing if it were marketed to straight kids. Parents would likely be just as uncomfortable with their children chatting anonymously online — without their consent — with straight anonymous adults having conversations about sex with their 13-year-old.