CMS: Gender unicorn, transgender training won’t greet students

Myths and misunderstandings on CMS transgender plan

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Ann Clark on what students will -- and won't -- see when school starts.
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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Ann Clark on what students will -- and won't -- see when school starts.

There won’t be lessons on gender identity featuring a purple unicorn. Teachers aren’t banned from referring to boys or girls. And you won’t find boys playing on girls’ sports teams.

Despite local protests and a national media storm over Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ new plans for transgender students, the changes won’t be obvious to most students when classes begin Aug. 29, Superintendent Ann Clark said Wednesday. She opened her back-to-school news conference by rebutting false statements that have circulated about the plan, which was unveiled in June.

“I would say to parents in this community that very little is going to be different in terms of your child’s experience unless you are the parent of a transgender student,” Clark said.

One of the most controversial parts of the June announcement – allowing transgender students to use restrooms and changing facilities based on their current identity – was later put on hold based on an August U.S. Supreme Court ruling. CMS still plans to require teachers to refer to transgender students using the pronoun and name that reflects their identity.

Even after the bathroom changes were suspended, a local protest drew dozens of people who were upset about the plan. Media reports across the country have talked about CMS brainwashing children with a purple cartoon “gender unicorn” and banning teachers from making any reference to gender.

The unicorn, which was created by a national transgender youth group and used in CMS principal training materials, has become an icon to protesters. CMS leaders say it was never intended for use with students.

“There is not a transgender curriculum for students,” Clark said. “There’s not a plan to have a transgender curriculum.”

The new regulations instruct teachers to avoid gender-based classroom activities that have no instructional value, such as having boys and girls line up separately. But the idea that teachers can’t refer to students as boys and girls “simply is not true,” Clark said.

Middle and high school students will follow North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules that say students are eligible for teams based on their biological gender, Clark said.

When it comes to locker rooms and restrooms, “we will continue to protect the privacy rights of all students,” Clark said. “We will continue to work with each transgender student and his or her parents to make sure there is a plan that protects the privacy of that student and makes that student feel welcomed.”

CMS does not track the number of transgender students and says such status is confidential. Experts estimate that 0.3 percent of the population is transgender, which would translate to more than 400 in a district with about 146,000 students.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms