Teacher asks students to use gender-neutral language

Teacher asks students to use gender-neutral language
Posted at 5:53 PM, Sep 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 14:47:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL/RNN) - A Tallahassee teacher is making national headlines for asking students to use gender-neutral language when referring to each other. 

Fifth-grade teacher Chloe Bressack sent a letter home asking students to refer to the teacher as "Mx. Bressack," who identifies with the pronouns "they, them and their." Bressack works at Canopy Oaks Elementary School and before that at Florida High.

In the letter, she asks students to make an effort to avoid using "he", "she" and other gendered pronouns, because they identify as "non-binary."

Local activist Lakey Love is a friend of Chloe. She says Chloe's letter is an opportunity to teach others about those who don't identify as either male or female. "This is an ongoing struggle that gender-non-conforming people face on a daily basis. They get pigeonholed, marginalized and oppressed, and often bullied," explained Love. "And I don't feel like it's asking for much, right? A preferred pronoun is exactly that: A preferred pronoun. You deserve the title that you prefer."

On Thursday, Leon County Schools sent out three statements regarding the matter:

Principal Paul Lambert:  "A letter was recently sent home to parents from our new fifth grade math and science teacher, Chloe 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.  Great instruction is taking place, the students are being treated respectfully and appropriately, and the class - like all classes - is continually monitored and assessed. The number one priority for us is the well-being and success of our students and teachers. We are available to speak with parents to address any concerns or questions they may have."

Teacher Chloe Bressack: Teacher Bressack has respectfully declined any media interviews at this time but has released the following statement: “I apologize for any confusion this letter may have caused. My practice in addressing my students is to refer to them by their personal pronouns, be they “he, she, or they.” 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. I am lucky to be teaching at Canopy Oaks and I look forward to working with my students this year.”

Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna: "I believe Teacher Bressack has cleared up any misunderstandings about the language used in the classroom. 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.

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."

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