Florida teacher asks students to use gender-neutral pronouns, angering parents

A Florida elementary school teacher's letter asking fifth-grade students to use gender-neutral pronouns in the classroom reportedly concerned some parents in the district, with one asking "what would your reaction be?"

Chloe Bressack, a math and science teacher recently hired at Canopy Oaks Elementary in Tallahassee, wrote the letter to parents as a way of introducing herself and her classroom methods, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

“One thing that you should know about me is that I use gender-neutral terms. My prefix is Mx. [pronounced Mix],” Bressack wrote in the letter. “My pronouns are ‘they, them, their’ instead of ‘he, his, she, hers.' I know it takes some practice for it to feel natural, but students catch on pretty quickly.”

letter

The letter Chloe Bressack wrote to parents and students.

She added: "We're not going for perfection, just making an effort! Please feel free to reach out to me or administration if you have any questions. My priority is for all of my students to be comfortable in my classroom and have a space where they can be themselves while learning."

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The note caused a divide among some parents.

A parent shared the letter in the Facebook group “Tally Moms Stay Connected” on Tuesday, concluding with the question: “What would your reaction be as a parent of 9 & 10-year-olds?”

The Tallahassee Democrat reported parents from opposing political views clashed in the comments section.

Paul Lambert, the school’s principal, said he and the school back Bressack.

"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." 

Bressack told the Tallahassee Democrat: “I feel very lucky to be teaching at Canopy Oaks, and I look forward to working with my students this year."  

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Lambert said the school has received several calls in connection with the letter.

"There has been some [calls from 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.

Lambert noted the teacher addresses each student by their “name or a gender-specific pronoun just like every other classroom in our building.”

Rocky Hanna, the district’s superintendent, said he was aware of the incident and met with the school’s administrators regarding the letter.

"According to Principal Lambert, the teacher addresses students daily by using the pronouns he, she, him and her," Hanna wrote in a statement. " The teacher also uses ma’am and sir when responding to students. As a personal preference, however, the teacher simply prefers to be referred to in gender-neutral terms as that of a coach."

Hanna added: "I can assure you that teachers in our district will not be allowed to use their influence in the classroom to advance any personal belief or political agenda. At this time, I do not believe that is the case in this instance."