Recent training materials distributed to teachers in Lincoln, Nebraska have sparked a polarizing controversy the school district wasn't expecting.
The materials contained guidelines for the teachers to follow in order to foster a gender inclusive environment, including no longer using phrases such as "boys and girls" or "ladies and gentlemen" to address their class. Instead, the guidelines suggest more inclusive alternatives including athletes, readers, or creating a classroom mascot to represent the children such as âpurple penguins', reports Anna Lanfreschi from HLN.
The handout labeled "12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness"discusses various options on how teachers can promote gender equality. Initiatives include letting students chose their preferred pronoun and dividing the class for activities by using interests instead of gender, writes Selwyn Duke for The New American. Teachers also received "The Gingerbread Person" chart which defines gender identity, gender expression and biological sex as three separate sliding scales which children may identify with.
The ideology this reflects, InfoWars' Steve Watson writes, "Elsewhere in the documents used by teachers in Lincoln is a handout that defines âgender identity' as âa psychological quality; unlike biological sex, it can't be observed or measured, only reported by the individual.'" This is the idea that a person's "gender" can be whatever he feels it is, that if a boy "identifies" as a girl — as has happened already in a number of schools — we must view and address him as one.
However, not everyone feels this politically correct ideology is an appropriate approach. A commenter on a piece in the National Review wrote, "If one's self-perception is wrong, then it's a mental disorder. Otherwise we need to start calling anorexic girls "fat.""
Various news outlets attacked the school district. Fox News ran three segments in two days claiming the school was attempting to indoctrinate students, reports Carlos Maza for Media Matters for America. He writes that the news stations did not bother to take comment or fact check with the creator of the handouts, Gender Spectrum. According to the company's Director of Education Joel Balm, the news outlets misrepresented information and took many examples out of context including the "purple penguins" label for students.
Fox News contributor Todd Starnes referred to Lincoln Public School District as âmorons' and poked fun at the stringent gender equalizing guidelines.
The school district shows no sign of bending to the pressure. Teacher Julie Hunter, who distributed the training sheets, explained that the handouts were merely a way to spark conversation about gender-inclusiveness — not outrage the nation, reports Deena Winter for Nebraska Watchdog.
"We're just making sure that students feel comfortable, we know where they're coming from and trying to engage them so that they can be the best possible learner in our classrooms," she said.
She said one axiom that stayed with her from the training was, "If you don't deliberately include everyone, you unintentionally exclude someone."
Hunter stressed that there is no hidden agenda. As the school's equality liaison she learned that 237 of the district's 39,000 students are expected to be transgendered. She feels that it is important that those students are greeted with teachers who are informed and compassionate about their gender identity.