GOP senators accuse University of Arizona nursing school of ‘grooming’ children

Slides including gender identity questions in a doctoral nursing program went viral on right-wing social media

By: - September 8, 2023 5:18 pm

Photo by Brad Holt | Getty Images

Arizona Senate Republicans are accusing the University of Arizona school of nursing of “stealing the innocence of young children” by instructing doctoral candidates on how to discuss gender identity issues with patients.

In a Friday morning statement, the Republicans accused the school of “catering to a radical left agenda” after learning that students at the school were advised to begin asking children as young as 3 years old if they felt like they were a girl or a boy inside during annual wellness check ups. 

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

“I’m absolutely sickened that this institution of higher learning is perpetuating the lie that a person’s gender is based off feelings and not their God-given biological sex established upon conception,” Republican Sen. Janae Shamp, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services, said in the statement. “This is completely groomer garbage that strives to confuse our kids in an effort to cater to the evil that is being accepted by today’s society. As a nurse, I am so disheartened that the next generation of nurses are being hijacked of their capabilities to deliver ethical care.”

Arizona’s Sen. Shamp was there on Jan. 6

Pam Scott, a spokeswoman for the university, told the Arizona Mirror that the College of Nursing does not recommend that practitioners ask young children gender-related questions during wellness checks. 

“The college does not have a policy or position on this issue and does not integrate this type of training or education into its curriculum,” Scott said, via email. “The college teaches that practitioners should always work with the parents and guardians and with their permission, within their scope of the practice, and in alignment with the employing organization’s guidance when treating pediatric patients.”

The slides at the center of the uproar instructed students to say the following to children as young as 3 years old, during annual wellness checks: “Some kids feel like a girl on the inside, some kids feel like a boy on the inside, and some kids feel like neither, both, or someone else. What about you? How do you feel on the inside? There’s no right or wrong answer.” 

Scott explained that the slides were presented to a group of 31 doctor of nursing practice students, who are all already practicing nurses, as part of three days of seminars during the final semester of their doctoral program. She added that the material was not provided to undergraduate nursing students. 

“The slides in question were from a 40-minute session on complex issues nurse practitioners face in clinical practice for the purpose of encouraging discussion, analysis and evaluation,” Scott said. “The sessions are designed to give students the opportunity to engage with professionals on a wide variety of topics they may encounter in the field.”

Going viral on the right-wing social media

Someone provided the photos of the two slides to the conservative and provocative Libs of TikTok social media account run by Chaya Raichik, which shared the photos with its 2.5 million followers on Sept 6. 

Democratic state Sen. Anna Hernandez, of Phoenix, accused the Republican senators of grandstanding and focusing on nonissues instead of what she sees as the real issues including the housing shortage in the Valley and the uncertainty surrounding Arizona’s future water supply. 

“They’re fearful of what they don’t understand,” Hernandez told the Mirror. 

Republican Sen. T.J. Shope, of Coolidge, also weighed in, saying that, if the university doesn’t immediately put an end to teaching this practice, “Senate Republicans will weigh all options to make certain tax dollars are no longer used in such an egregious fashion.” 

Hernandez accused the senators of using this incident as just another avenue to attempt to defund public universities. 

Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, accused the school of sharing an “extremist agenda that continues to target minors in a predatory fashion.” 

“I’m looking forward to seeing what action President (Robert) Robbins takes to ensure that this immoral curriculum being taught, with the use of state funding, never reaches another classroom again,” Bennett said in the statement. 

The Republican senators were joined in their outrage by Sen. Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson, one of the most vocal proponents of several anti-drag show and trans bathroom restriction bills that passed through the legislature this year and were then vetoed by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs. 

“This is a disgusting use of your taxpayer dollars. Every single parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or anyone with a heart for children should be infuriated that this is happening at one of our prestigious universities,” Wadsack said, adding that medical professionals discussing gender identity with young patients is “victimizing” them.

Democratic Sen. Priya Sundareshan told the Mirror that the Republican senators’ outrage seemed like part of a “pattern of behavior where they’re using their culture war talking points to interfere” with relationships between health care providers and their patients. 

“It’s definitely concerning,” she said. 

The seminars where the slides were shared were intended to teach the doctoral nursing students to think critically in an effort to help them be more effective health care providers, Scott said. 

“The College of Nursing faculty members share evidence-based information, but do not recommend any specific practice guidelines related to gender-related issues,” she said. “Students are taught that providers need to choose their own approach to such issues.”

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Caitlin Sievers
Caitlin Sievers

Caitlin joined the Arizona Mirror in 2022 with almost 10 years of experience as a reporter and editor, holding local government leaders accountable from newsrooms across the West and Midwest. She's won statewide awards in Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin for reporting, photography and commentary.

MORE FROM AUTHOR