Michigan school cancels pronoun lesson following overwhelming online criticism

A public school in Michigan has decided to forgo teaching an optional mini-lesson regarding pronouns to a group of elementary students due to staff members facing online harassment.

Shanna Spickard, the Superintendent of DeWitt Public Schools, issued an apology to those who were anticipating the lesson initially planned for first-graders at Schavey Road Elementary School. She emphasized that the choice to cancel the lesson was not made lightly and cited that multiple staff members are now hesitant to attend school due to the online backlash.

The criticism of the lesson’s plan commenced last week and has since spread widely. The school, located just north of Lansing, the state capital in DeWitt, reported an increased police and administrative presence in response to the situation.

The controversy surrounding the lesson plan began last week and has since gained widespread attention. The school district has confirmed that there has been an escalation in police and administrative presence to address the issue.

School district responds to controversy

In a Facebook post, Spickard revealed that staff members had received inappropriate and threatening communications via calls, emails, and social media messages. Some staff members have been doxed with personal details about their families shared online, leading to harassment and intimidation.

Spickard stated, “While most of these inappropriate communications originated from outside our community, several staff members have expressed feeling anxious, stressed, and even fearful about going to school. This is unacceptable. We are in contact with local law enforcement regarding these communications and have increased both police and administrative presence as precautionary measures.”

Below is the full statement:

State Rep. Steve Carra from Three Rivers, a Republican, openly criticized the lesson in a Facebook post. Carra’s post received numerous comments and shares.

“Hire me to teach the kids,” Carra remarked in his post. “‘Little Jack, you’re a boy even if you pretend to be a girl. Other people shouldn’t be forced to pretend along with you. Your pronouns are he/him.’ Great, now back to reading, writing, and arithmetic…”

What was included in the lesson plan?

The optional lesson intended to introduce students in a particular classroom to they/them pronouns, which are utilized by individuals who do not identify with traditional gendered pronouns such as he/him or she/her. The class had planned to engage with “They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!” by Matthew Sg and Maya Christina Gonzalez to explore topics such as pronoun use and non-binary gender identities.

The school district informed the community that the lesson aimed to promote understanding and inclusivity among all students.

Spickard previously mentioned in a statement that the “lesson emphasizes the importance of inclusivity, which is a fundamental value of the district. The mini-lesson is not intended to challenge or change family beliefs but rather to ensure a safe and respectful learning environment.”

Which states mandate LGBTQ topics in public school curriculums?

Access to resources for educators interested in teaching about gender identity is increasing. The Washington Post reported that at least six states along with Washington, D.C. require LGBTQ topics to be included in curriculums, including Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, California, Illinois, and New Jersey.

Washington is the latest state to pass legislation mandating LGBTQ history to be taught in all public schools starting in 2025.

As of 2022, the American Bar Association reported that 11 states have laws ensuring sex education curriculum includes information affirming LGBTQ identities. Additionally, five states and Washington, D.C. mandate that education about “LGBTQ sexual health and relationships” remain neutral.

Six states require that “LGBTQ-inclusive health education curricula” promote positive relationships, with California, Colorado, Oregon, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington being specified.

Contributing: Lansing State Journal

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