- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Lincoln Public Schools superintendent said this week that critics of the district’s gender identity training, which has drawn national media attention, are misinformed.

Before the academic year began, district officials spoke with school leaders to help them better understand issues transgender students face. Teachers got handouts that suggested neutral words to replace gendered terms like “girls” and “boys.” Among the suggestions were “campers” or group names like “purple penguins.”

Superintendent Steve Joel said Thursday at a news conference that the handouts were suggestions and strategies, not mandates, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1oVVCwd ). He said no changes are being made to policy or procedures and that “there’s no changes being made to bathrooms in schools.”

“It’s indeed regrettable that for the last week and a half we’ve had to dedicate as much staff time and resources to address an issue that is not founded in fact,” he said.

Joel said the gender identity training occurred after a teacher sought guidance in dealing with students.

“This was about adults, professional educators, who care deeply about trying to reach and establish relationships with children,” Joel said. “They are looking for strategies about how to be more effective in the classroom.”

A parent who has children at Irving Middle School and Lincoln Southeast High School sent emails to other parents asking them to join her at an October school board meeting. Joel said a teacher who was uncomfortable with the handouts gave them to someone in the community.

Joel said the district won’t stop its efforts at learning how best to reach all students, including those who live in poverty. He said figuring out the best ways to reach a student is important in raising the district’s graduation rate from 87 percent to 90 percent.

“We’re not going to back away from educating ourselves on what it takes to be effective with children,” he said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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