Chloe Bressack was hired to teach math and science at Canopy Oaks Elementary School in Florida this year. Earlier this month, they sent home an informational letter to parents with information about their experience, their enthusiasm, and their favorite things.
It also included a paragraph asking to be referred to with gender neutral pronouns. “One thing you should know about me is that I use gender neutral terms,” they wrote. “My prefix is Mx (pronounced Mix).”
“My practice in addressing my students is to refer to them by their personal pronouns, be they ‘he, she, or they.’ We work together to create a positive environment of respect and understanding,” they wrote. “I understand that students will not always address me in the way I prefer, and that is okay. We keep moving with a smile and continue on with our learning. In our classroom, our learning and our well-being is the priority. I am lucky to be teaching at Canopy Oaks and I look forward to working with my students this year.”
The letter led to an explosion of hateful commentary on Facebook from parents, and right-wing organizations and media were outraged.
Even former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee expressed outrage to the Washington Times, which of course misgendered Bressack. “I would yank my kid out of a classroom. I really would. There’s no way that I would let my child be influenced by someone who is so devoid of common sense that they don’t understand that there are men and women, boys and girls. I’m appalled by that.”
So the administration moved Mx Bressack to a class with adults. “Given the complexity of this issue, we both agreed a different environment would be best for Teacher Bressack’s educational career and for the young students at Canopy Oaks,” superintendent Rocky Hanna said in a statement.
A transgender teacher who spoke anonymously with the Salt Lake Tribune said that the issue of addressing a teacher in the way they prefer is only a problem when it comes to trans people. “Some teachers want to be called Mr., or Ms., or Mrs., or some teachers let students call them by their first name,” she said. “It’s the same as if a heterosexual teacher got married, and takes her husband’s name in the traditional style. If she asks her students to call her by her new name, nobody has a problem with that.”
Chris Sands of the Tallahassee chapter of PFLAG said that this case is a “tough line for the superintendant to walk.”
“I think the reaction that’s happening is loud, vocal, irrational, and coming more from parents than students. I think most kids accept it.”