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Why One North Carolina School District Is Telling Teachers Not to Call Kids “Boys” or “Girls”

According to the The Daily Mail, a North Carolina school district has recently issued some new guidelines for its teachers in an effort to eliminate gender bias: Students will no longer be referred to by the gender-specific pronouns “boys” or “girls.

At first read, there are at least a couple of ways to look at the new guidelines:

  1. The politically correct police have run amok.
  2. How cool is it that a school district in a state that has shown egregious prejudice towards transgender people is attempting to make all kids comfortable — and not just those who identify only as strictly male or female?

So far, it seems the public reaction has been a mix of both.

The new guideline was just one part of a 57-page training manual titled, “Supporting Transgender Students,” which was recently distributed to teachers in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg school district, with a suggestion that in order to make all kids feel at ease, they should be referred to as “students and scholars” instead of “boys and girls.” Also included in the guidelines is the notion that students need not necessarily dress in the clothes aligned with the gender assigned to them a birth.

An organization called Trans Student Equality Resources supplied a graphic for the manual that shows a purple “gender unicorn” and includes relevant terminology and explains through graphics the difference between gender identity and gender expression, as well the range of possibilities for emotional and physical attractions.

Besides making schools more widely inclusive under the new recommendations — by expanding the vocabulary of how transgender students are seen and referred to — their safety may also just become a little bit closer to guaranteed. Statistics show that more than 55 percent of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school, and because of that, 68 percent of them avoid school functions. Physical and verbal harassment of transgender students is also markedly higher than students who identify with the gender listed on their birth certificate.

By modeling “dignity and respect for all” and offering schools that support each child’s social and emotional well being, the manual says the schools hope to “maximize academic achievement for every child.”

Of course, it’ll take way more than a manual for meaningful changes to be felt. Inevitable protests to the changes have sprung up, including one by a group called the North Carolina Values Coalition. According to The Daily Mail, the group claims that the new proposed policy — which allows transgender students to use opposite-sex restrooms, locker rooms and showers — “will seriously endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, and severely impair an environment conducive to learning.”

FOX News host Todd Starnes also thinks the changes “range from the absurd to downright outrageous.”

“What if a teacher has a student who is dumb as a rock?” he wrote in an opinion column earlier this week. “Would the child still be called a scholar?”

Starnes also wondered aloud how teachers will have time to learn new terms like “questioning” and “gender nonconforming” while teaching things such as “Driver’s Ed and English 101.” (Suggestion: Integrate the new vocabulary words into the English 101 curriculum.)

Unfortunately, the school district won’t likely get much support in its new endeavors on the state level. In March of this year, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed off on a bill mandating people in public schools, public buildings, and universities use bathrooms that correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth.

The reality, though, is that many of the suggested school changes make sense not just for transgender students, but for all students; because the year is 2016 and it’s becoming exponentially obvious that most people don’t fit into neat little molds (nor should they have to). Lining up students by something non-gender-specific — such as alphabetically or according to their birth month — gives them an opportunity to further integrate with all of their classmates, not just the ones who have similar-length hair or favor particular superheroes or Barbies.

Considering the school district’s motto is “Every Child. Every Day. For a Better Tomorrow,” it makes perfect sense that they would move to ensure that every child is actually included, no matter what. And for students who’ve felt excluded and discriminated against for some time, these are changes that are long overdue.

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