A Nebraska school district superintendent responded to Fox News' inaccurate reporting about the district's recommendations for accommodating transgender and gender non-conforming students.
On October 9, Fox News ran several segments attacking the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district for distributing informational materials aimed at helping teachers better accommodate transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included recommendations that teachers stop gender-based bullying and avoid using gendered phrases like “ladies and gentlemen” when referring to students. Instead, teachers could use phrases like “campers,” “readers,” or classroom nicknames like “purple penguins.”
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson falsely accused the school district of “banning” the use of gendered language, and a Fox News report echoed the claims of one parent who believes the school district was using “taxpayer dollars” to promote a gender-neutral agenda.
Following Fox News' inaccurate reporting, LPS Superintendent Steve Joel announced a press conference to discuss the training materials, according to the Lincoln Journal Star:
At the press conference, Joel aimed “to set the record straight” and correct the “recent confusion and misinformation” caused by inaccurate reporting about the training materials. From Watchdog.org:
[A]fter three FOX News shows derided Lincoln Public Schools' gender sensitivity training on Thursday, the superintendent called a press conference, and with his school board seated behind him, clarified what happened without backing down.
“Our teachers are allowed to use boys and girls in the classroom, and they do so in schools every day across the community,” he said in the message to parents. “We are telling our staff to be sensitive to the needs of all students, and those with gender identity issues are particularly vulnerable to bullying and suicide.”
During his press conference, Joel called it “regrettable” and “truly unfortunate” that the school district has had to waste so much time and energy answering questions and fielding calls about the training on gender inclusiveness used during summer teacher training at Irving Middle School, and possibly other LPS schools.
The press conference hasn't stopped Fox News from attacking the school district. During the October 10 edition of Fox & Friends, the network invited a parent opposed to the training materials to accuse LPS of bowing to “political correctness”:
Fortunately, Fox's misinformation hasn't deterred the school district from their efforts to accommodate transgender and gender non-conforming students:
Despite the backlash, Joel said, LPS will not stop efforts to reach all students, including those who are gender non-conforming or transgender. The district works with all kinds of students -- those who live in poverty, who come from all over the world -- and learning how best to reach them will be instrumental in raising the district's graduation rate from 87 percent to 90 percent, he said.
“We're not going to back away from educating ourselves on what it takes to be effective with children,” he said.