Teacher who asked for gender-neutral pronouns moved out of fifth grade classroom

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Published: Sep. 21, 2017 at 6:35 PM EDT
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By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
Updated September 27, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A Leon County teacher has been re-assigned after sending a letter to students about the teacher's gender neutral identity.

Chloe Bressack was a fifth grade teacher a Canopy Oaks Elementary School. Bressack has now been transferred to a teaching position at the adult basic education program.

The letter Bressack sent at Canopy Oaks asked students to say "Mx. Bressack" instead of "Ms." or "Mr.", and "they" and "them" instead of "he" or "she."

Some supporters of Bressack hope the transfer transfer wasn't against the teacher's will.

Tallahassee resident Wendy Halleck said, "I'm concerned that there was so much controversy that this decision was made to just stop controversy. I think that we're in a time in our culture where we need to face those kinds of controversies head on."

School Superintendent Rocky Hanna released a statement saying he and the teacher both agreed on the move.

He says the the district "Has a responsibility to provide a productive educational environment...free of distractions for our students, teachers, and staff."

Angela Dibella, a Tallahassee mother of two, says she wouldn't mind if a teacher ever asked her children to refer to the teacher as gender neutral.

She said, "It's something as simple as a pronoun. It's respect. If that's what they want to be called, what's the big deal?"

Jessica Nichols started a Facebook page called, "Letter of Support to Mx Bressack" to ask supporters to say: "Thank you. It's not an easy thing to take a stance and to put yourself out there like that. I think it was very brave and I think it was done really respectfully," Nichols said.

Tallahassee resident Angela Singleton said, "The moment I read the letter Chloe Bressack wrote and sent home with her students, I became enraged. I find it appalling that Chloe Bressack, a professional school teacher, would attempt to force her personal beliefs on young innocent children. I commend the parents who immediately withdrew their children from Canopy Oaks Elementary School."

Bressack has declined to comment.


By: Fletcher Keel | WCTV Eyewitness News

September 26, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A Leon County elementary school teacher has had their role in the school change following meetings with Leon County Schools.

"Mx. Bressack," as the teacher asked students to say, has been moved to the adult basic education program, leaving the Canopy Oaks Elementary School fifth grade class.

LCS superintendent Rocky Hanna released the following statement:

"This afternoon I had an open conversation with Teacher Bressack. 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. I respect the courage Chloe has shown through this ordeal and I am confident Teacher Bressack will do wonderful work with students in the adult basic education program. Although not easy, I honestly believe this change is best for everyone involved."


By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News

September 21, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A lot of people are speaking out on Chloe Bressack requesting a gender neutral classroom at Canopy Oaks Elementary.

Bressack, a fifth grade math teacher, sent a letter home asking students to refer to Bressack as "them" and "they," instead of saying "she," "her," "he," or "him."

Chris Sands with PFLAG, an organization of supporters of the LGBTQ community, says Bressack's request is new to a lot of people.

He says pronouns are important to those who choose to be gender neutral, saying "To ignore their pronouns is to sort of erase a part of their identity. So, all they're looking for is a little bit of acknowledgment.

"This is who I am, this is how I present myself to the world, I would like you to treat me with respect and use the title or the pronouns that I've asked you to," Sands continued.

Sands also says Bressack's fifth graders have the perfect opportunity to discuss what gender neutral is.

He says parents can talk to children about how some people don't want to identify themselves by a specific sex.

"Say, 'hey not everyone's the same and it's okay to be a little bit different.' I know that kids throughout their development, they're going to recognize differences in themselves and in their peers. To have this lesson of it's safe and it's okay to be different, is a great lesson to start with," Sands said.

See below for full statements from Bressack, Canopy Oaks principle Paul Lambert and Leon County Schools' superintendent Rocky Hanna

By: Alicia Turner | WCTV Eyewitness News

September 21, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Just one month into the new school year, and students at Canopy Oaks Elementary are getting a lesson many weren't expecting.

"To each their own, but I think they should go by 'mister' and 'miss,' because that's just been the way it's been all these years," said Marlene Lewandowski.

Lewandowski is one of many in the community reacting to a letter recently sent home to parents of the fifth graders in Chole Bressack’s class.

Bressack is a math and science teacher at the elementary school, who recently sent home a letter calling the classroom a gender neutral one.

The letter goes on to say instead of using “she,” “her,” “he,” or “him,” when referring to her, students should use “them” and “they.”

"I think they are probably confused, because they probably were brought up saying 'mister' and 'miss.' I mean, to call somebody differently, I don't think they would recognize it as much," Lewandowski explained.

While some feel this is inappropriate for school, others say it shows that society is changing.

"I think there are a lot of kids that struggle with the same gender issues. It gives them a role model, and someone that can help them get through the same kinds of issues," said Sarah Howell.

In the letter, Bressack also asked that students use Mx. (mix) instead of Ms. or Mr. Mx. Bressack declined an on camera interview, instead releasing a statement. It said, in part"

"I apologize for any confusion this letter may have caused. 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.

"I think, just in general, our society is changing, and just because it's always been one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way,” Howell continued.

Earlier on Thursday, Bressack, Canopy Oaks Elementary principle Paul Lambert and Leon County Schools' superintendent Rocky Hanna all released statements in response to the letters. They can all be seen in full at the bottom of the story.


By: Alicia Turner | WCTV Eyewitness News

September 21, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A Leon County teacher's note to their students is now going viral.

The letter is asking the students in a Canopy Oaks fifth graders to use gender neutral pronouns when addressing the teacher, wanting to teach in a gender-neutral environment.

The letter has triggered mixed emotions. Some parents are on board with the letter, saying it represents the changing times. Others say it's simply inappropriate.

In the letter, the teacher Chloe Bressack states a preference for students to refer Bressack "them" and "they" instead of using "he," "she," or "her."

So far, the letter has gotten a lot of attention.

Bressack's principal, Paul Lambert, Bressack and Leon County School's superintendent Rocky Hanna all released statements on Thursday, which can all be seen below.

The letter Bressack sent home to students can also be seen below.

Canopy Oaks principal, Paul Lambert

"A letter was recently sent home to parents from our new fifth grade math and science teacher, Chloe Bressack. There has been a lot of confusion about this letter, but as the principal of Canopy Oaks I can assure you that students throughout our school are greeted and responded to in the same way no matter which class they are in. Great instruction is taking place, the students are being treated respectfully and appropriately, and the class—like all classes—is continually monitored and assessed. The number one priority for us is the wellbeing and success of our students and teachers. We are available to speak with parents to address any concerns or questions they may have."

Chloe Bressack

Teacher Bressack has respectfully declined any media interviews at this time but has released the following statement: “I apologize for any confusion this letter may have caused. 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. 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 wellbeing is the priority. I am lucky to be teaching at Canopy Oaks and I look forward to working with my students this year.”

Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna

"I believe Teacher Bressack has cleared up any misunderstandings about the language used in the classroom. I can assure you I take matters like this very seriously and I will not allow teachers in our school system to influence our children negatively—though in this situation I do not believe this is the case.

"As superintendent I want to apologize for the letter going out to parents as I am the person who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in our school district. I will work hard to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again."