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Teacher Apologizes After Letter Asking 5th Grade Students To Use Gender Neutral Pronouns Divides Parents
"I understand that students will not always address me in the way I prefer, and that is okay."
Chloe Bressack, a teacher in the Canopy Oaks Elementary School in Tallahassee, Florida, became the subject of townwide scrutiny after a letter sent to parents about respecting gender neutral pronouns caught media attention.
According to USA Today, Bressack sent a letter to students' families asking for the kids to call them by the prefix "Mx." (a gender netural honorific recently introduced to the Oxford English and Merriam-Webster) and for the usage of "they/them/their" pronouns.
The story had attracted headlines nationwide and created debates in local Facebook groups, like the Tally Moms Stay Connected page.
By 5pm, Bressack and Leon County Schools issued a statement, in which the teacher apologized “for any confusion” the letter caused.
Facebook user Noelle Enright said, "Why is this even an issue? The world's not gonna end because someone wants to be addressed as them/they. It's their preference and literally does not affect you in any way."
Joseph Christopher, who objected to the request on social media, said: "I'm sorry, but there is no such thing as gender neutral."
"My practice in addressing my students is to refer to them by their personal pronouns, be they 'he, she, or they,' Bressack said in the statement. "We work together to create a positive environment of respect and understanding. I understand that students will not always address me in the way I prefer, and that is okay. We keep moving with a smile and continue on with our learning. In our classroom, our learning and our well-being is the priority," read the statement from Bressack.
“There has been a lot of confusion about this letter, but as the principal of Canopy Oaks I can assure you that students throughout our school are greeted and responded to in the same way no matter which class they are in,” added Canopy Oaks Principal Paul Lambert in the release.
"As superintendent, I want to apologize for the letter going out to parents as I am the person who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in our school district. I will work hard to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again,” concurred Superintendent Rocky Hanna. "I can assure you I take matters like this very seriously and I will not allow teachers in our school system to influence our children negatively—though in this situation I do not believe this is the case," Hanna said.
An earlier communication sent by Hanna showed that Bressack had the school's support.
"As a personal preference, however, the teacher simply prefers to be referred to in gender neutral terms as that of a coach," Hanna had written a day earlier. "I can assure you that teachers in our district will not be allowed to use their influence in the classroom to advance any personal belief or political agenda. At this time, I do not believe that is the case in this instance."
It is unclear whether the school issued any kind of official policy change over the matter.
[Photo: Leon County Schools/Facebook]