Letter Asking Students Not to Refer to Teacher as "He" or "She" Divides Parents

teacher and kids raising hands in classroom
iStock.com/BraunS

School is an incredibly important part of childhood development. Not only do kids learn obviously vital things like reading and math, but they also develop much-needed social skills when surrounded by teachers and peers. In school, kids learn to interact with people who are different from them. They learn patience and tolerance, and they have a surprisingly easy time grasping new concepts. And when it comes to lessons like this one by a Florida teacher who asked that students refer to them in gender-neutral pronouns, it seems to be the parents who have the most difficulty adjusting.

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Chloe Bressack, who teaches math and science at Canopy Oaks Elementary School in Tallahassee, Florida, unintentionally caused a bit of a stir with a letter sent home to fifth-grade students. In the letter -- titled "About Mx. Bressack" -- the teacher requests that students refrain from using "she" or "he" pronouns when speaking to them, asking instead that they use gender-neutral signifiers.

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"...My pronouns are 'they, them, their' instead of 'he, his, her, hers,'" the teacher wrote. "I know it takes some practice for it to feel natural, but students catch on pretty quickly." 

Instead of "Mr." or "Mrs.," Bressack also asked that students address them as "Mx."

gender neutral teacher letter
TDonline/Twitter

While many parents seemed supportive of the teacher's request, others were alarmed. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the letter garnered plenty of attention when the parent of one of the students in Bressack's class posted a photo of the letter in a Facebook group.

"What would your reaction be as a parent of 9 & 10 year olds?" the parent asked at the end of her post, sparking a debate among parents with differing opinions that's taken over the Internet. Some had strong objections:


Dawn_of_Marie/Twitter

Schekyi/Twitter

But others saw no issue with teaching children to respect how others would like to be addressed:


whitevangelical/Twitter


pukachell/Twitter

While parents have continued to clash, Canopy Oaks Elementary is standing firm in its decision to support Bressack. "We support her preference in how she's addressed, we certainly do," the school's principal, Paul Lambert, told the Tallahassee Democrat.

He also stressed the fact that Bressack's preferred pronouns came with no pressure to have the students "question" their own gender identities or change how they address one another. "There has been some [contact from concerned parents], the thing that has brought good understanding is, it's not a preference that's being applied to anyone other than the teacher," he said. 

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Reports from the superintendent stressed that Bressack refers to their students using the gendered pronouns of "he," "she," etc., every day and makes no attempts to "advance any personal belief or political agenda." 

As Lambert stressed, "[The] only agenda is teaching math and science at the greatest level she can."

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