This School Community Is Finding New Ways To Bully Transgender Students
Proponents of a trans-inclusive policy silently protest against their opponents in January.
Dave and Hannah Edwards no longer have their daughter enrolled in Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, but their complaint against the school for not respecting her gender identity is still pending. Since they pulled out of the charter school after being denied accommodations and enduring harassment from other families, Nova has since adopted new transgender-inclusive policies — but the implementation plan is far from perfect.
On its face, Nova’s new Gender Inclusion Policy protects transgender students consistent with the comprehensive approach countless other districts have taken. Trans students should be called by the name and pronouns that match their gender identity, they should be allowed to dress according to their gender identity, and they should have access to all activities and facilities in accordance with the gender identity.
But submitted along with the policy were recommendations about how to implement it, which derail and undermine many of its stated protections. As ThinkProgress previously reported, Nova officials seemed particularly concerned about appeasing the parents who aligned themselves with hate groups like the Minnesota Family Council and the Minnesota Child Protection League to oppose trans-inclusive policies. The recommendations directly reflect this attempt to cater to these opponents.
For example, the recommendations agree that students should be allowed to access bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity, and they also call for some of the school's bathrooms to be made gender neutral with floor-to-ceiling stalls — a change the Heritage Foundation found strangely noteworthy. But locker rooms are a different story:
Due to the small space available in the current locker rooms, we could not accommodate what we consider the ideal of having floor to ceiling changing stalls; therefore, we are recommending keeping the current system of locker rooms as separated by biological sex, since there is not presently a means to provide additional privacy for all students.
In other words, transgender students should still be denied access to the locker room and forced to use gender neutral bathrooms or the health room to change.
Furthermore, the recommendations agree that students should be called by their preferred name and pronouns, but they also give leeway to students not to use those pronouns if doing so makes them "uncomfortable."
We chose to allow the plural they/them/their to address the concerns of those who may be uncomfortable, for whatever reason, with using to a pronoun different than the biological sex pronoun. Using the plural pronoun gives a gender neutral option for addressing classmates.
It's unclear why a student would be uncomfortable, or why that discomfort warrants such an accommodation. The recommendations note that mistakes may be made, but that if students repeatedly or intentionally use the wrong gendered pronoun when addressing a classmate, it could be considered bullying that violates the nondiscrimination policy. The recommendations indicate no such concern for students who insist on using the plural alternative instead of a student's preferred pronoun.