Irvington administration initiates use of gender neutral pronouns


New Republic

Irvington administration believes that no matter what gender one identifies as, Irvington should provide a safe environment for them.

Elaine Chan, Staff Writer

Despite President Trump’s recent withdrawal of federal protection for transgender students, Irvington remains steadfast in its decision to support and welcome all students, regardless of where they fall on the gender spectrum or their sexual orientation. Although the California Title 9 Civil Rights Protections for Transgender Students became law in 1972, the district hasn’t initiated constructive action to curb discrimination toward these issues yet.  In light of FUSD’s adoption of the Student Safety Resolution on Feb 7., administration held a meeting to spread awareness and have critical discussions about the gender spectrum with Irvington staff and faculty. During the meeting, Principal Barrious shared an article and a brief Youtube video detailing the gender spectrum from a student’s perspective. Unlike the binary system where one is either male or female, the video explained the reality of the gender spectrum composed of factors such as self-identity, expression, and physical characteristics.

Administration hopes to implement such an understanding into the classroom, especially with substitute teachers.  For example, Principal Barrius explained a substitute will often not doubt the sincerity of a student if a student were to answer in a tone stereotypically opposite of their written birth gender on the roll sheet.  This can be changed by letting students list what pronouns they would like to be addressed by rather than requiring students to fill in male or female during registration. In addition, classes such as physical education, gender equality can further be implemented by refraining from phrases such as, “boys on this side and girls on that side.”

Principal Barrious admits that it’s not easy to convince people to believe in the gender spectrum where a majority of the population has grown up with the binary system. She explains that her own father grew up in a very traditional binary community in the east coast, and only recently discovered the reality of an non-binary system after taking a formal course on it.  

Teachers, such as Ms. Burton, appreciate the school’s attention to this issue.  

“At this very school, many students have come up to me from being bullied because of their gender identity,” Burton said. “It’s has been an ongoing problem, and it’s great that the district and Irvington are finally doing something about that.”

French teacher, Madame Cayla, brought awareness of gender spectrum into her classroom as well.  

“I let my students choose their French names at the beginning of French 1 or each school year because, other than for the fun of it, I’m giving students the freedom to be referred to as whatever they wish,” Cayla said. “I also prefer not to refer to my students as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ but instead with other alternatives.”  

Although working with substitutes and using alternatives to refer to students is a starting point, Principal Barrius does acknowledge that there are many places where gender equality is still lacking.  For example, much of school curriculum, whether it being literature or textbooks, is written with very binary stereotypes that are not as relevant today.  However, Principal Barrious is hopeful for change in the future to this aspect as the Fair Education Act is already working on diversifying curriculum.  

She explains that high school is a time when students are still trying to determine who they are.  Instead of trying to draw lines, force rules, and enforce “equality,” Principal Barrious proposes a different approach.