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Elementary School Cancels Pronoun Lessons After Staff Receives Threatening Messages

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Elementary School Cancels Pronoun Lessons After Staff Receives Threatening Messages

Elementary School Cancels Pronoun Lessons After Staff Receives Threatening Messages

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Last week Friday, Dewitt Public Schools Superintendent Shanna Spickard announced that the school district had canceled plans for a mini-lesson on gender identity and pronouns because of the backlash it was getting from community members and netizens. According to Spickard, some of its staff members received threatening phone calls while others have had their personal information published online in an attempt to harass them.

About the Gender Lesson

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The lesson to be taught to schoolchildren was announced as a way to “promote greater understanding, compassion, and kindness regarding gender identity and the use of pronouns.” The school district informed parents of the lesson in advance, allowing those who wanted to opt their children out of participation to do so. Spickard was very clear about that; it was a voluntary lesson.

The Lesson Curriculum

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According to the Lansing State Journal, the lesson was scheduled to occur during the next few weeks and was to introduce students in one classroom to they/them pronouns. The classroom was slated to read a book called “They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!” by Matthew Sg and Maya Christina Gonzalez. They were also to participate in a discussion about the themes and feelings discussed in the book.

The Lesson’s Goal

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The now-canceled lesson was intended to bring the community together. However, Spickard says the whole ordeal has only led to students feeling unsafe. “The goal of the voluntary mini-lesson was to help promote Dewitt Public Schools’ vision of a safe, nurturing, and supportive learning environment where all learners can succeed,” Spickard said. “Unfortunately, it has become a major disruption and distraction to that vision in which our staff, administrators, and students feel unsafe.”

The Community’s Anger

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After the school district initially announced the lesson, Superintendent Spickard claimed that staff members received “inappropriate, angry, and threatening phone calls, emails, and social media messages.” Several staff members were forcefully doxxed, a tactic that sees their personal information released online “to harass and intimidate them.”

Spickard on Where the Hate Comes From

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In comments describing the reaction to the pronoun lesson, Spickard claimed that much of the hate came from outside the community. However, staff members were still afraid to go to work under the pressure of the hateful messages. “While the vast majority of these inappropriate communications have originated outside of our community, several staff members have expressed feeling anxious, stressed, and even afraid to go to school,” she said. “This is unacceptable.”

Law Enforcement Are Involved 

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Superintendent Spickard has said that police are taking the threats to school staff members seriously, and the school has increased the presence of authorities on campus as a safety measure. “We are in contact with local law enforcement regarding these communications and have increased both police and administrative presence as precautionary measures,” said Spickard.

Canceling the Lesson 

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Spickard did not like the way things turned out, but nevertheless, the decision to cancel the lesson was not easy. “We realize this decision will please some and disappoint others in our school community, and I can assure you we did not reach this decision lightly. We did so simply out of legitimate safety concerns expressed by the amazing group of educators and administrators who work hard every day to provide a culture of excellence,” Spickard said.

How Netizens Reacted

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In a post that got hundreds of shares and comments on Facebook, Michigan State House Representative Steve Carra posted a copy of the pronoun lesson notice with a mocking caption. “Hire me to teach the kids. “Little Jack, you’re a boy even if you pretend to be a girl. Other people shouldn’t be forced to pretend along with you. Your pronouns are he/him.” Great, now back to reading, writing, and arithmetic…” Carra wrote.

What Parents Want

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An account called Libs of TikTok on social media platform X made the matter go viral when it picked up the story last week. In one of their posts covering a WILX News 10 clip, parents expressed dissatisfaction with the pronoun lessons, saying they prefer to keep sexualized language out of the classrooms.

The Purpose for the Lesson Was Not Achieved

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Superintendent Spickard specifically addressed those who saw the lesson as an attack on schoolchildren in a post shared on Facebook on April 17. “The purpose is to promote greater understanding, compassion, and kindness regarding gender identity and the use of pronouns,” Spickard said. “The mini-lesson is not designed to challenge, persuade, or alter family beliefs. Instead, it aims to promote a safe and respectful learning environment where all our students feel valued.” Sadly, the purpose was not achieved.