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DeWitt Public Schools cancels first-grade pronoun lesson

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(The Center Square) – DeWitt Public Schools canceled an optional “mini-lesson” for first-graders that would have taught they/them pronouns after parent reactions went viral on social media.

DeWitt Public Schools Superintendent Shanna Spickard said the lesson’s purpose was “to promote greater understanding, compassion, and kindness regarding gender identity and the use of pronouns after concerns were brought to our attention.”

Since then, Pickard said staff members have received “inappropriate, angry, and threatening phone calls, emails, and social media messages.” Other staff members have been “doxxed” – a cyberbullying strategy placing personal information such as home address, contact information, or family information online.

The Center Square reported the students would listen and discuss the book, ‘They She He Me Free to Be!’, practice using the pronouns ‘they/them’ and what to do if they make a mistake with pronouns, and learn that it’s not ok to change someone’s pronouns on purpose and to try to use the pronouns that people want to be called.

Parents had the option to remove their children from the lesson.

State Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, posted on social media that elementary schools should teach writing, writing, and math instead of gender identity.

“Hire me to teach the kids,” Carra wrote. “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…”

Pickard said most backlash originated from outside of the district.

“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,” Pickard said in a statement. “This is unacceptable. We are in contact with local law enforcement regarding these communications and have increased both police and administrative presence as precautionary measures.”

Pickard said the mini-lesson had become a “major disruption” and caused people to feel “unsafe” so she canceled the class.

“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.”

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