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Marion public schools pull Sanford Harmony over how it counters gender stereotypes

The Rev. Jared Buchanan of Ocklawaha Baptist Church considers the SEL program a "Trojan horse" teach progressive educational ideas. Image: MCSP via YouTube

Note: This article has been corrected to include subsequent action by the board pulling the program.

A Baptist pastor asked the Marion County School Board to drop the Sanford Harmony social and emotional learning — or SEL — program because of how it counters gender stereotypes.

A majority of board members shared his concern at a meeting Thursday and the district pulled the free program. The district will implement another mental health curriculum.

The Rev. Jared Buchanan of Ocklawaha Bridge Baptist Church dug into the program after his son learned in kindergarten that he’s allowed to dress up dolls.

He says he spoke with 15 other pastors and they, too, are concerned.

The program blurs the line, he says, between  “boyness and girlness.”

“And though it’s a loveable little alien from out of space that has to learn gender norms and the kids love it and there’s little teddy bears,” Buchanan said. “I think it is in my opinion a Trojan horse to teach a progressive education that Marion County voters would not approve of.”

Sanford Harmony is a certified, no-cost SEL program used in 22,000 schools. It seeks to foster, quote, “intergender communication and understanding” and to help kids become compassionate adults.

Attempts by WMFE to reach Sanford Harmony for comment were unsuccessful. 


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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.