It became a national topic of conversation last week.
Now, local opinions have been expressed about the controversy that flared up in Lincoln over gender-inclusiveness training at a middle school.
Dozens addressed the Lincoln Public School Board and school officials during the public comment period prior to the regular school board meeting Tuesday evening.
Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel dismissed suggestions the school district is discarding the use of the terms “boys” and “girls” in favor of gender-neutral terms for students, during a news conference last week. He accused national news media outlets and social media of misrepresenting the issue and failing to base reports on facts.
The issue arose from training material handed out during a teacher meeting at Irving Middle School as teachers sought to better understand and address transgender students.
Irving teacher Julie Hunter told the board the training is necessary.
“Teachers have to have this stuff on their radar, not because we’re going to change society and we have this agenda, because society is changing before our eyes,” Hunter said.
But parent Courtney Criswell contended the training documents handed out at Irving go too far.
“This is not the new normal,” Criswell said. “We’ve been told that the school board will not be held hostage by those of us with different opinions. That’s not reflective of the inclusive culture that LPS wants to provide; quite the opposite. It is the parents who are being held hostage here.”
Parent John Cosby told school board members he wants more transparency about the training.
“LPS policy is to foster and facilitate parental information on the education of children,” according to Cosby. “However, LPS has made it abundantly clear that the LPS training materials on gender were not meant for parents.”
Lincoln public school teacher Todd Tystad said he doesn’t view training materials such as those on gender-inclusiveness as mandates, referring to one of the aspects of the training that caught national attention.
“I am not going to refer to my students as purple penguins, because that’s not the language that suits my style of communication,” Tystad said. “I’m fortunate enough to work for a school district that does not dictate how I shall refer to my students, but rather trusts my professional capabilities.”
The Lincoln public schools have 39,000 students. Superintendent Joel has said the district has issued no mandates or policy on the subject.
Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN contributed to this report.