A North Carolina school district has received close to 2,500 complaints from angry parents over the use of a cartoon unicorn meant to help young students learn about gender identity.
Created by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district (CMS), the purple character with two hearts on its chest known as the "Gender Unicorn" is set to appear on a number of training materials for faculty and staff meant to help train students on the issue of gender identity. The character features three expressions of gender identity and expression, including male, female, and "other," as well as outlets for physical and emotional attraction.
The training literature maintains that 82% of transgender students feel uncomfortable while at school, with 39% stating they had heard derogatory comments made by staff members in regards to gender identity while on school grounds. An additional 47% said they skip class due to feeling uncomfortable.
The district states the unicorn will be used to help children uncover "who they go to bed as," in addition to "who they go to bed with." The district added that the character "is a tool used nationally to help explain gender identity terminology. It was used during the principal training session for that purpose only. Our goal remains providing a safe and welcoming school environment where every student can succeed academically and socially."
However, many parents throughout the district are not happy with the introduction of the Gender Unicorn, which was featured on the website of group Keep NC Safe.
"It was really slick marketing," remarked Donica Hudson, whose two children attend CMS schools. "It is friendly looking and deceitful because that unicorn, to me, represents the religion of sex. It is silencing and penalizing those of us who believe we were created male and female and should be able to use those terms."
Hudson said her feelings on the topic were solidified after a bathroom incident in which her 14-year-old daughter was in a public restroom with an adult male. She said her daughter hid in the stall and then came out, telling her mother that she was scared. Hudson said it was important to her that her daughter did not have a similar experience while at school.
The school district had previously said it will begin to allow students to use the bathroom and locker room that corresponds to their gender identity in the upcoming school year. However, that decision has been put on hold as a result of a stay was ordered by the Supreme Court on a decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of a transgender teen in Virginia, reports Ty Chandler for WCNC.
Parent Lori Dale suggested the district use something else and focus on training teachers to protect the rights of speech and the children. Dale, who has four children between fifth and tenth grade in the district, argues that her children's rights to freedom of speech are being threatened as a result of the training materials, which she says push teachers to address their classrooms as students or scholars in place of boys and girls.
"We definitely need to allow for LGBTs to have their say and their voice, but eliminating gender specific pronouns is not the way to do it," Dale asserted.