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‘A very scary thing to tell someone’: The debate over gender pronouns in schools, explained

Transgender and nonbinary students are urging educators to use inclusive language, but not everyone is on board.

By Linda K. Wertheimer Updated September 28, 2021, 11:58 a.m. Boston Globe Magazine

"MASSACHUSETTS STATE LAW sides with students, according to educators in several school systems. Since 2012, the state has specifically prohibited discrimination based on students’ gender identity. State education guidelines say that school personnel “should use the student’s chosen name and pronouns appropriate to a student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned birth sex.”

'The Boston Public Schools system has adapted its policies accordingly. Since 2016, it has had a written nondiscrimination policy regarding students and gender identity. That year, the school system also started offering formal support so individual students undergoing gender transition could get help navigating their school lives. School staff, including counselors, offer support and help figure out how to best make the students feel safe. If a staff member or student deliberately disrespects a student’s pronouns, the school system follows through with consequences, even termination. “The policy, the must-do, is you must call a student what they ask you to call them in terms of name and pronoun,” says Becky Shuster, BPS’s assistant superintendent of equity."

“These students are here. Whether we know who they are or know how they’ve been identifying or going to identify, they are here in our room, and they always have been,” he says. “It should be a thing where all the teachers involved are trained and ready, so the issue isn’t about a single kid.”

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