SW Washington School District Prohibits Teachers From Requesting Students’ Pronouns

The superintendent of the La Center School District in southwest Washington declared that asking children for their pronouns, a practice that is becoming more and more prevalent, amounts to advising students on how to think about gender.

We need to provide an inclusive environment for all our students, including those who think differently about the pronoun issue,” La Center school staff received an email from the superintendent on October 28.

Rosenkranz continued, and his actions are still causing a commotion in the 1,700-student school district in northern Clark County.

In January, the district revised its “gender-inclusive schools” policy to clarify that kids might volunteer to teachers to use names or pronouns other than those recorded in school records and that teachers would respect those requests.

However, school administrators would also notify parents of any change, drawing criticism from advocates and families who claim the rules could endanger children with unsupportive parents.

SW Washington School District Prohibits Teachers From Requesting Students' Pronouns

The public testimony at a board meeting on Tuesday showed the community’s split over the policy. Which states “curriculum, instruction and ‘gender affirming’ activities in schools may cause gender confusion for children.”

However, the public school system does not seem to be taking changes into consideration, echoing some Republican-led states that have attempted to block protections for transgender children.

The Portland archbishop in Oregon instructed nearby Catholic private schools in January to use the pupils’ pronouns given to them at birth.

In October, Rosenkranz instructed district employees to refrain from requesting children’s pronouns to preserve their “neutrality.”

“Asking for pronouns in a public setting can make some feel included and others feel excluded,” he wrote in an email.

Rosenkranz reiterated his position in November, advising professors to simply ask for the names of pupils.

In response, the civil rights coordinator for the La Center School District, Lauri Landerholm, received a complaint from a teacher at La Center High School who also serves as the club’s advisor for the Genders and S*xualities Alliance, supported by 30 others.

“The district’s directive limits teachers’ abilities to create an LGBTQ-friendly learning environment and creates a systemic barrier towards full inclusivity of LGBTQ students,” the letter said.

The district requested a report from RLR Consulting, a Spokane Valley, Washington consulting company.

RLR consultant Gene Sementi observed in the following information that a district psychologist “is concerned that regularly asking all students about their pronoun preferences could be psychologically damaging at a time in their lives when they are prone to confusion.”

Sementi concluded in December that “the district’s new directive, which prohibits teachers from canvassing all students in their respective classes regarding preferred pronouns, is not a violation of the Civil Rights of Teachers or LGBTQ students.”

The La Center School District did not react immediately when asked how it selected the consulting firm.

Some students and teachers filed a second complaint with Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in February after the district’s “gender-inclusive schools” policy was implemented. On April 7, the investigation was launched.

Local activists once more attacked the policy at a school board meeting on Tuesday, claiming it exposed kids to abuse from rejecting parents.

A parent in the district named Darcie Niemi said she works with kids whose parents have physically abused them.

“You as educators have an ethical standard to keep children safe,” Niemi said. “A small minority might be affected by their parents knowing they’re transgender, but they could be in serious danger.”

At the meeting, school board member Win Muffett refuted such claims and referred to the procedures as “pro-family.”

He declared, “Parents are not dangerous,” and requested that everyone who disagreed with him be reminded of him.

The policy states that before alerting parents about a student’s gender-identity expression, school administrators will try communicating with children about their families’ beliefs to reduce potential danger.

Other parents also objected to the board’s stance on LGBTQ+ students.

“Students’ rights, students’ safety, students’ ability to succeed and a safe learning environment is your lane,” said Erin Smelser, a teacher in the district.

“It does not matter how many interviews you give claiming to be an expert on biology, or how many extremists you personally invite to our school board meetings to spread misinformation and stroke your ego. You are a state employer.”

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In an effort to outnumber LGBTQ+ activists at board meetings, Patriots United Washington, a conservative organization that supports Rosenkranz’s choice, invited its hundreds of Facebook and Twitter followers to attend.

“They are dramatic and unreasonable. Obviously a dark spirit behind those actions. LET THERE BE LIGHT!” the group wrote in a post.

Patriots United Washington leader Justine Stimmel asserted that Rosenkranz is a close friend in a livestream video uploaded to Facebook, urging her to bring her allies to board meetings.

Rosenkranz refuted the claim made by Stimmel.

“Justine Stimmel is a member of our school community, and, as such, we have occasional interaction, just as I do with many other individuals and families,” he wrote in an email.

Stimmel and others who supported the new regulation commended the board for its efforts and referred to gender expression as “delusion” and “fantasies.”

“Teachers are hired to educate and shouldn’t be put into difficult positions of hiding serious mental-health issues from families,”  Trish Huddleston, a school board member for the nearby Woodland Public Schools, expressed her desire that her district will adopt La Center’s pronoun regulations.

“I couldn’t imagine being a teacher and having to keep up with several students changing their names and pronouns every other day.”

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