Elementary school students are getting an unexpected lesson in gender theory.
Chloe Bressack, an elementary school teacher at Canopy Oaks in Tallahasee, Florida, sent a note to parents asking children to use gender-neutral pronouns.
“One thing that you should know about me is that I use gender neutral terms. My prefix is Mx. (pronounced Mix). Additionally, my pronouns are ‘they, them, their’ instead of ‘he, his, she, hers,’” Bressack wrote in the note.
A post Tuesday night in the “Tally Moms Stay Connected” Facebook group included the full letter and posed a question to the other members: “What would your reaction be as a parent of 9 & 10 year olds?”
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that the parents were split between conservative and liberal viewpoints.
WCTV interviewed members of the surrounding community about the teacher’s request. Some aren’t sure it’s appropriate for schools.
“To each their own, but I think they should go by ‘mister’ and ‘miss,’ because that’s just been the way it’s been all these years,” Marlene Lewandowski told WCTV.
Sarah Howell, another member of the community, said the letter is simply a sign of different times.
“I think there are a lot of kids that struggle with the same gender issues. It gives them a role model, and someone that can help them get through the same kinds of issues,” Howell told WCTV. “I think, just in general, our society is changing, and just because it's always been one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way,” Howell continued.
Canopy Oaks Principal Paul Lambert told the Democrat on Tuesday that multiple parents have called the school since the letter was sent out.
“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,” Lambert said.
“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.”
In a statement released Thursday, Lambert reiterated that the students were being treated with respect.
Leon County Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna also apologized Thursday for the way the letter was sent but supported Bressack.
“I believe Teacher Bressack has cleared up any misunderstandings about the language used in the classroom,” Hanna said. “I can assure you I take matters like this very seriously and I will not allow teachers in our school system to influence our children negatively—though in this situation I do not believe this is the case.”
Bressack also apologized “for any confusion this letter may have caused.”
“We work together to create a positive environment of respect and understanding. I understand that students will not always address me in the way I prefer, and that is okay. We keep moving with a smile and continue on with our learning. In our classroom, our learning and our well-being is the priority,” Bressack said in the statement.
According to Florida A&M University’s student newspaper, The Famuan, in February, Bressack participated in a protest advocating for transgender student rights. Bressack said they were accused of being “selfish” for wanting to be around children.
“I had people look me in the eye and tell me that I am selfish for being a teacher, selfish for putting myself into a position where I am around children and exposing them to the transgender lifestyle, whatever that is,” Bressack said. “I will not be spending my entire life pretending to be someone that I am not. I refuse to show students that their gender identities are something to be ashamed of. I refuse to show students that their gender identity makes them a danger to other students.”