WICHITA, Kan. (CITC) — Teachers in one of the largest public school districts in Kansas are instructed to use a student's preferred name and pronouns with or without parental approval as it "could lead to death" otherwise.
Wichita Public Schools (WPS) provides its staff with training on how to foster positive learning environments for its "350+ students that identify as transgender." In copies of the training presentation obtained by advocacy group Parents Defending Education (PDE), WPS claims that public schools are "hostile places" for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and it is educators' responsibility to ensure students feel supported.
"The District owes every student a duty to protect that student’s gender identity," the presentation reads. "Staff need to respect, as much as possible, a student’s wishes in this area."
WPS asserts that such "respect" includes using students' preferred names and pronouns even if a parent has expressed concerns or opposition. Employees are told that failure to affirm a student's gender identity in the classroom is in violation of its own anti-discrimination policy and can have certain consequences.
The lack of using pronouns could lead to death," notes below one presentation slide read. "We are here to support and educate students, not to judge them or push them over the proverbial edge."
The presentation notes that there "may be value" in encouraging students to discuss their gender identity with their parents. However, WPS employees are advised that by abiding by a parent's request not to use their child's preferred name or pronouns, they are allowing themselves to "be deputized to discriminate."
WPS expands further on the roles of parents in its districtwide gender support plan. The plan, obtained by PDE, asks staff to determine if a student's parents are aware of their gender identity and how "public or private" related information can be made.
The plan also conveys that a student's preferred name and pronouns can be excluded from the district's student information system. The system, according to WPS's technology plan, provides parents with "24/7 access" to information regarding their child and has "laid a foundation for better communication."
“Yet again, school officials have chosen to side with activists over the families they serve," PDE investigative fellow Alex Nester told The National Desk (TND). "Policies that exclude parents from their child’s decision to live as the opposite sex at school divide families. They encourage kids to live a double life, which harms both them and their parents. Mothers and fathers—not teachers and administrators—are the first and foremost caregivers of a child. It’s vital that all school policies support and codify that simple fact.”
TND reached out to WPS for comment but did not immediately receive a response. This story will be updated if a response is received.