After all the recent social media and news coverage of what I consider ignorant and disrespectful responses to President Obama’s call for public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching how they self-identify their gender, I was proud to see the response the principal of my kids’ school sent to our school community (below). I have learned that much thought and many voices contributed to the nearly 20 drafts it took to craft a message that conveyed the values the staff is bring to our children.
Here’s our principal’s message:
As a school community that values each member, child and adult, and the gifts and differences of each, we consistently strive to be inclusive. We have had multiple conversations across the year, in professional development, in “grown-up” meetings, and in classrooms with our children about the care and respect due to each person in our school and world communities. These conversations, aligned with the NYCDOE’s Respect for All initiative have touched on race, culture, ethnic identity and even gender identity. I want to talk briefly about our conversations regarding gender identity.
These discussions have included thoughts on how gender roles are communicated in society. For example, our younger students have discussed how toys are marketed to boys and girls. They have also talked about books that show children behaving in gender creative ways and how labels are used to describe outside appearances rather than how people feel on the inside. Older classes have engaged in conversations around current events involving transgender civil rights. In all situations, conversations in class rooms have been handled in developmentally appropriate ways.
It is a testament to the strong values of diversity and respect that you are providing your children that they are making thoughtful comments in these conversations and then happily return to their work of being children and students.
“Transgender” is a word we cannot turn on the TV without hearing about, but our conversations around gender transcend just this word. We can all think back to a time when we may have been told that girls do XYZ or boys can’t do ABC. When we put our students, their families, our staff, and community members in a box – it makes it hard to break out of that box. For transgender individuals who have the courage to affirm their identity, this can be a challenging road and we as a community need to support our students, families, and staff who identify as transgender.
There are many resources that are available to support communities. We recommend the following as a starting point:
As a school, we invite you to direct any questions regarding our initiatives to your child’s teacher.