Did An Albuquerque School Principal Tell Teachers Not To Call Kids ‘Boys’ And ‘Girls’?

Did an Albuquerque school principal tell teachers to no longer refer to kids as “boys” and “girls” as part of an effort to be more inclusive of transgender kids, or was the whole thing based on a mistake that got blown out of proportion in the media?

Last Friday, KOB-TV (Albuquerque) reported that teachers at Carlos Rey Elementary School were given a “letter,” titled “Gender Identity Procedural Directive,” forbidding them from addressing the kids as “boys” and “girls” in favor of more gender-neutral terms. Writer Danielle Todesco described the directive as taking the Albuquerque Public Schools’ transgender bathroom policy “a step further.”

Almost immediately, the directive drew outrage. A local minister described as a “regular at Albuquerque Public Schools board meetings,” Rev. Adelious D. Stith, has been a vocal opponent of allowing kids to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity rather than their biological sex at birth. He called the directive “outlandish.”

“This is outlandish. This just makes no sense at all.”

The story was picked up by other media outlets, nationally and internationally, by such publications as Education Week, Breitbart, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and San Francisco Chronicle, with headlines reading some variation of “Albuquerque Teachers Told Not To Refer To Kids As ‘Boys’ And ‘Girls.'”

In fact, according to APS spokesperson Monica Armenta, the entire story is based on a simple misunderstanding.

Speaking to the Albuquerque Journal on Monday, Armenta explained what happened. Weeks ago, at a meeting among Carlos Rey teachers and administrators, principal Judith Touloumis was giving a Power Point presentation explaining APS’ new transgender policy. One slide included the words “biological sex must be seen as a spectrum or range of possibilities rather than a binary set of only two options.”

“In other words, from August 8, 2016, our students at Carlos Rey will be collectively addressed as ‘students, Coyotes [the school mascot], engineers, scientists, mathematicians, etc.’ No longer will it be acceptable to call our students, ‘Boys and Girls.’ (A new paradigm shift).”

Those words didn’t come from Touloumis herself; rather, says Armenta, Touloumis copied and pasted those words from an unnamed LGBTQ advocacy group, substituting the school name and mascot as appropriate. Further, says Armenta, the suggestion from the advocacy group is not official policy in Albuquerque Public Schools.

Armenta then went on to apologize on behalf of Touloumis.

“She apologized profusely; she was embarrassed and has made every attempt to correct her mistake with staff, This was nothing more than a mistake by a human being.”

Taking things a step further, Touloumis has since sent out an email to all staff directing them to disregard that part of her presentation that referred to how to address the kids.

Regardless, controversial aspects of ABS’ transgender policy still remain in place. In essence, the policy allows kids in Albuquerque schools to live according to the gender they identify with, rather than their biological sex assigned at birth. That means that a child who, for example, is biologically male but identifies as female would be allowed to dress as a female, be addressed by the name she chooses, and be referred to with feminine pronouns such as “her” and “she.” Most controversially, the policy would allow such an individual to use the girls’ bathroom and locker room and play on girls’ sports teams.

APS’ policy does not, however, allow transgender kids (or any other kids) to simply walk into any bathroom they choose. Rather, transgender kids at Albuquerque Public Schools will be identified by school administrators and be given “special accommodation.”

[Image via Syda Productions/Shutterstock]