The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has officially put links to a series of chat rooms on its website for the use of LGBTQ+ minors to talk about gender and sex with adult moderators present, all possibly without the knowledge or consent of their parents.
The ADE highlighted these minors to look into a pair of different websites: Gender Spectrum and Q Chat Space. Both make use of staff and teams of adult volunteers to moderate and facilitate their various chat rooms and do not do any sort of age verifications for any of those who choose to join the chats beyond directly asking the users for a birth date at account creation.
One of these chat room organizations that sport the approval of the ADE, Q Chat Space, is a collaboration between the LGBTQ+ support network organization PFLAG, Planned Parenthood, and LGBTQ+ community center organization CenterLink. Q Chat Space acquires its chat facilitators from multiple different organizations around the country: the LGBTQ Centers of Orange County and Long Beach, Center on Halsted, Smyal, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, Jasmyn, Time Out Youth, Youth Outlook, and Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation. They advertise their chat spaces as open to all minors aged 13-19.
The upcoming chat room topics for Q Chat Space range from gender to sex -- “Gender-Affirming Hairstyles & Clothes,” “Coming Out,” and “For Trans/Non-Binary Youth: Hormones! What Do They Do, What Don’t They Do?”-- all the way to pretty standard children's interests and hobbies such as "Beasts of the Wild: Favorite Animal Open Discussion" and "Cryptids and Creepy Pasta."
On the other hand, Gender Spectrum hosts chat rooms that sport a far wider range of ages from as young as 10 all the way to adults, which would include the parents and family members of LGBTQ+ youth. The group labeled Pearson, the education materials titan, as its "champion" and largest partner. Additionally, it marks the Biden Foundation as a key proponent for a recently launched national campaign that advocates for community and family acceptance of transgender youth. Joel Baum, the Senior Director, was also known as a contributor to Southern Poverty Law Center’s Learning for Justice initiative.
Gender Spectrum highlighted that it supplied k-12 schools and various affiliate organizations such as the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) with resources on gender identity ideology such as a "gender support plan" or "GSP," which was previously highlighted in a report from the New York Post put out this past October.
Back in June of 2020, a featured report went out on CNN about Gender Spectrum via an analytical piece centered on children going against gender norms throughout the remote learning of the pandemic. Jenna Redmond, Gender Spectrum’s director of online programming, stated to CNN that the group's chat rooms let kids focus on their childhood and gender identity while alleviating the social pressures of school.
"Taking away these layers of anxiety and trauma that many youth experience in their school settings is allowing a spaciousness," explained Redmond. "They finally have some room to just exist and be a kid."
As reported by Gender Spectrum, their pre-teen section, which serves kids aged 10-12, is large enough that it has sparked the need for a waitlist.
These ADE chat rooms were recently publicized by Libs Of TikTok, highlighting that the chat rooms hosted by Q Chat Space sports a quick escape feature, which could be utilized by minors attempting to cover up their activity from their parents.
Arizona Dept of Education provides a resource link for LGBT students. The link takes you to an online chat room with LGBT adults and teens where they talk about sex and gender.
The online chat room has a “quick escape” feature in case a kid wants to hide it from their parents. pic.twitter.com/ogCiYtU73i
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) May 23, 2022
The platform also lets minors make use of "discreet" text notifications about each upcoming chat. They also seem to be the spawn of the campaign promises for ADE Superintendent Kathy Hoffman. Hoffman advocated for far more progressive LGBTQ+ youth initiatives, and at one point even pledged to set up activities and support groups for LGBTQ+ students.
I'm advocating for clear policies, support groups, & activities for LGBTQ students & families. Protecting the right of LGBTQ students to learn in an environment that rejects bullying & discrimination, welcomes family diversity, and promotes inclusivity must be a priority for AZ. pic.twitter.com/kIHw564wHe
— Kathy Hoffman (@kathyhoffman_az) August 10, 2018