Parents and community members who attended a school board meeting in Vermont’s largest district mostly supported a decision to use the gender-nonspecific terms “person who produces sperm” and “person who produces eggs” in a 5th grade health class rather than the words male or female.
In the first school board meeting since a letter about the policy was distributed, all but two of more than a dozen parents who spoke praised the Essex/Westford School District for their choice.
During roughly 20-minutes allotted for public comment, all speakers kept within their 2-minute time limit and none raised their voices.
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“I am so grateful that my boys who go to school here are so much wiser and smarter and knowledgeable than I was at their age,” said Alexis Dubief. “I am so grateful for the education that they are getting to understand the breadth and depth of humanity.”
The district drew criticism last month after the principal of one school in the district distributed a letter to parents and caregivers about the change in terminology. The district said the instruction will not associate puberty with any specific gender but rather be clear about the differences in bodies and how that changes the experiences of puberty.
The letter was distributed last month at a time when gender identity issues are coming to dominate public discourse in some states. More than 15 states have banned sex changes for minors as conservatives across the country have targeted transgender rights.
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“This is designed to be LGBTQIA+ affirming, and a guide to supporting all students in understanding their own bodies without separating students by identified gender,” the Vermont district said in its statement.
Erika Sanzi, director of the group Parents Defending Education, said it learned of the policy through an online tip line shortly after the letter was distributed. She posted a copy of it on social media, where it went viral, and the group added a copy to its website under the label “Indoctrination.”
“If a person were to say, ‘I keep hearing that schools have been captured by gender ideology, what do they mean?’ I would point them to this letter and I would say this is what we mean,” Sanzi said.
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Lucy Leriche, of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said her organization encourages using gender-inclusive language and called the school board policy “a smart thing to do.”