A Florida teacher sent a letter to parents requesting that students address her using gender-neutral pronouns, causing concern among parents.
Chloe Bressack, who teaches fifth grade math and science at Canopy Oaks Elementary School in Tallahassee, Florida, included the request in a welcome letter sent home to parents at the beginning of the school year, the Daily Mail reports.
“One thing you should know about me is that I use gender neutral terms,” the letter states. “My prefix is Mx. (pronounced Mix). Additionally, my pronouns are ‘they, them, their’ instead of ‘he, his, she, hers.'”
“My priority is for all of my students to be comfortable in my classroom and have a space where they can be themselves while learning,” the letter continues.
The Tallahassee Democrat obtained the letter after a concerned parent posted a picture of the letter in the Facebook group “Tally Moms Stay Connected” with the caption, “What would your reaction be as a parent of 9 and 10 year olds?”
Parents on both sides of the political spectrum sounded off on the letter.
Some defended the teacher’s preference to be addressed in “gender-neutral” terms.
“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,” parent Noelle Enright said.
Other parents, such as Joseph Christopher, disagreed.
“I’m sorry, but there is no such thing as gender neutral,” he said.
Canopy Oaks Principal Paul Lambert, acknowledging that many parents called the school about the issue, told the Democrat that the administration is supporting her use of the pronouns.
“We support her preference in how she’s addressed, we certainly do,” Lambert said. “I think a lot of times it might be decided that there is an agenda there, because of her preference—I can tell you her only agenda is teaching math and science at the greatest level she can.”
Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna said he met with Canopy Oak administrators after finding out about the letter and listening to concerned parents, telling parents she is not “advancing an agenda.”
“The teacher addresses students daily by using the pronouns he, she, him and her. The teacher also uses ma’am and sir when responding to students. As a personal preference, however, the teacher simply prefers to be referred to in gender neutral terms as that of a coach,” Hanna wrote.
“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,” he added.
Bressack avoided controversy by saying she looks forward to teaching her students.
“I feel very lucky to be teaching at Canopy Oaks, and I look forward to working with my students this year,” Bressack said.
Other school districts have taken the use of gender-neutral pronouns a step further than just allowing teachers to make students address them a certain way.
Chicago Public Schools updated its school policy in 2016 to force pupils to address transgender students and staff members using gender-neutral pronouns, or else face consequences.