Gender identity training in Neb. schools frustrates some, applauded by others

Parents and other community members offered feedback for the Lincoln Board of Education regarding recent training received by teachers on gender identity issues.

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Lincoln Board of Education received a mixed response from parents about the district's gender identity training.

About 200 people, including parents, ministers, and former students, packed into the board room on Tuesday and filled two other rooms where the meeting was live-streamed on screens.

Before the academic year began, district officials spoke with school leaders to help them better understand issues transgender students face. Handouts were given to teachers that suggested words to replace gendered terms like "girls" and "boys." Among the suggestions were "campers" or group names like "purple penguins."

School officials have stressed that they were suggestions and not mandates, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

More than 40 people took turns at the podium in front of the Lincoln Board of Education to voice their opinions on the training. Some parents said they felt the handouts amounted to the district pushing a political agenda and said that families should be the ones discussing gender roles with their children.

"We cannot strip away one part of a child's identity to build another one up," said Courtney Criswell, a mother of three Lincoln Public Schools students. "Make no mistake, that is exactly what these materials promote. It creates unnecessary confusion for the majority of students."

Others said they supported the district's efforts in informing teachers about issues of gender identity. Diane Walkowiak, the parent of a transgender child, said teachers must be informed about issues of gender identity to reach all students. She replied to critics of the district's training, saying they were calling her son "immoral" and not worth the time teachers need to learn about the issues he faces.

"You may not agree, you may firmly believe in a binary gender, but please accept that staff needs to be informed about this issue and many other issues because education is not just reading, writing and arithmetic," she said. "It is so much more."

Board president Richard Meginnis said the board would listen but not address speakers.

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