Social justice is making some serious progress this week, between lifting the temporary ban on gay marriage in Nevada and, now, the news that Nebraska's Lincoln Public School System is making an effort for gender inclusivity in the classroom. Yep, you read that right: Nebraska, of all places, is training its staff in transgender sensitivity. Go Nebraska!According to local newspaper the Lincoln Journal Star, teachers and staff were given various handouts on the subject, one of which discouraged using gendered terms and provided helpful alternatives, such as saying "campers" or "purple penguins" (which I don't totally get) instead of "boys and girls." Other suggestions included grouping students by characteristics such as food preferences or hobbies rather than by gender. A different handout discussed the continuum of gender, and the difference between biological sex and gender. Teachers were also advised to ask children and parents about preferred names or pronouns at the beginning of the year, and to refer to the child as such from then on. According to school administrators, all this is part of an effort to be "welcoming to all... [especially] gay, lesbian, and transgender students" because they are more likely to face bullying and suffer from mental illness than their heterosexual peers.Pretty standard stuff, right? In fact, according to LPS coordinator of social workers and counselors Brenda Leggiardo, the school system has been educating their staff on behavioral and social issues, including LGBT students, for years, and it's just this year that they've decided to specifically focus on transgender inclusivity. It's not exactly radical stuff like creating a new gender neutral pronoun. (Speaking of which, good for Sweden!)
However, not everyone sees this as just treating children with basic human sensitivity. The backlash from the community is pretty much exactly what you'd expect. Some parents, headed by Rachel Terry, claim this is all part of LPS pushing "social re-engineering" on their children, as well as the "deconstruction of fundamental family and religious values." Because having teachers avoid misgendering students is going to bring about the Atheist Anarchist Apocalypse we're all so desperate to avoid.
Similarly, Fox News got wind of the story and ran an opinion piece that, of course, quickly devolves into variations on "back when I was in school... girls were girls and men were men." I'm not kidding, that's an exact quote.The next school board meeting is October 14th, and Terry has reportedly prepared a speech to bring before the board members. Because the LPS staff have been trained in LGBT sensitivity for years, I can't imagine that one woman's hateful speech is going to have much of an effect on school policy. In the meantime, serious kudos to LPS for bringing transgender issues to the attention of your teachers. You probably made a number of kids' lives that much easier.
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