In a recently uncovered virtual meeting with elementary school staffers, it was revealed these employees were bragging about ignoring requests from parents for their children to be referred to by their birth name and pronouns.
A virtual meeting titled "Creating and Sustaining GSAs in Elementary Schools", held over Zoom on April 26, saw moderator Katy Butler, a second grade public school teacher at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy in San Francisco, issue a question to her fellow panelists regarding student pronoun usage, according to the Daily Mail.
The question, brought forth to the group by an unnamed educator, requested advice on how to deal with parents who raise concerns over teachers' pronoun use.
"What should we do if a parent requests that we refer to their child by the pronouns associated with their sex assigned at birth instead of their preferred pronouns, and that we use a legal name instead of a student’s chosen name?" Butler said.
According to the Gender Inclusive Classrooms website, the organization that put on the webinar alongside the group Pride and Less Prejudice, Butler is labeled as a white queer cisgender female teacher. She is also one of the founders of the organization.
One panelist, fellow organization co-creator Kieran Slattery who is a transgender fifth grade teacher in Massachusetts, responded to the question, stating that the teacher has actively said no to accommodating these concerned parents’ requests.
"So, I can respond with something that I’ve done," Slattery, who teaches at Jackson Street Elementary, began.
"This came up for me - it’s come up in a couple different ways - but it’s come up for me where caregivers asked," Slattery continued. "I actually refer to their child’s name in an IEP meeting using the name the name they asked to be referred to and their chosen pronouns, and caregivers reacted very strongly." An IEP is an individualized education plan for students with special needs.
Slattery said the parents followed up after the meeting with the teacher and the principle, stating: "I noticed that you were using a different name and my child's given name at birth and the pronouns that we gave them, and I'm respectfully asking that you use the name and the pronouns that we gave them."
Slattery then detailed that the teacher went first to the school’s principle and superintendent "just to make sure that I had there that they had my back."
Slattery responded to the parent, which the teacher referred to as "caregiver," saying: I hear you I, I hear what you're saying. I — and I kind of tried to really like, affirm what the caregiver was asking me. Like in terms of, you know, I was like, I hear you saying that you're feeling uncomfortable with me, you know, using the child's preferred name and pronouns and I hear that you're using different different ones at home."
"Here at school, the expectation is that all of my students feel comfortable and welcome in my classroom," said Slattery. "So in my classroom, I will refer to your child by whatever name and pronouns that they've told me they feel most comfortable with. And just, just have that be it — almost like the the guidelines that I try to use when I'm like explaining hard topics to my students like less is more,"
"I just say like, it sounds like that really works for you at home and you can absolutely choose to do whatever you'd like at home," Slattery added, noting that the teacher sends out information to parents at the beginning of the school year stating that "this is an affirming class."
"But I just told them, no. Like, respectfully no. And it — because I had my principal and my super’s support, there wasn't much they could do," Slattery added.
Speaking next in regards to the question was Daniel Alonso, a 5th grade Spanish teacher at Chavez Elementary in Yonkers, New York, echoed similar sentiments.
"Similarly to what Kieran said," said Alonso, referring to Slattery, "in my school district, LGBTQ+ students have a bill of rights - and the fourth one is that they have the right to be referred to by their gender pronouns and a name that fits their gender identity."
"And so, similarly, there was a situation where a parent felt that the school was not doing what they wanted them to do, and we – I don’t even know if we were respectful about it – we were just like, no, sorry. Like, our district-wide rule is that the student determines that, not you, even though you are the parent" he said.
Maryland School Counselor Heather Eig also expressed agreement with the preceding panelists, saying that they will refer to the child as the pronouns and names that they want over parental requests.
"Ours is the same. And again, it really speaks to where you're working, what the district is, the state laws, and having the backing of your administration and your superintendent and the district that says this is our policy. And I'm going to follow a policy," said Eig.
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