Parents Defending Education filed a public records request and obtained documents that included an email from a Gender & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) school advisor. The email contains classroom surveys that included student pronouns, gender identity and race, and how to handle pushback. The group also discussed how to deal with club meetings that might include unwanted students.
The statewide group includes teachers and staff from elementary to high school, district administration, nonprofit organizations, and staff member from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.
The GSA group email chain features commentary over whether administration should communicate unofficial name and pronoun changes to all teachers of the student in question. A staff member from the nonprofit Prevent School Violence Illinois states that in their opinion it “may infringe on the student’s rights.”
A New Trier High School librarian responds by adding that they would “push back against the impulse to out them in all classes.”
A Chicago Public Schools administrator in the GSA advisor group shared that “it is important to give the student the OPTION to have a name and pronoun communicated to all teachers.” They continue: Some students may not want the burden of individually coming out to every teacher every semester.”
The Diversity Club sponsor from Waterloo High School shared their student survey with the group, adding that they “literally just spoke with a student who told me that he doesn’t want particular kids knowing that he uses he/him pronouns because they would make fun of him.”
A teacher from Marian Catholic High School shared a survey they created for their classroom that asks students for their pronouns, ethnicity or race, and how they describe their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Also included in the email chain, a teacher from Mt Vernon Township High School shared a survey they use in their classroom that asks questions such as what name and pronouns “to be called in the classroom” and what name and pronouns should they use “if/when” contacting with parents and family.
According to the teacher’s email, they “spoke to GLSEN, Rainbow Cafe, and a professor from Colorado U. that teachers a course about gender and sexuality awareness” regarding the appropriateness of the survey for students. They also state that the survey is “completely optional and will field complaints from people who disagree with it all.”
On March 21, 2023, Waterloo High School’s GSA advisor reached out the group for guidance on how to handle which students can attend meetings. “Usually, our meetings are open. Unfortunately, some of the main players who are in favor of keeping transgender students out of the bathrooms are students who have been coming to meetings under the guise of support for our queer kids.”
The teacher linked to an article highlighting how students followed the district policy by using the bathroom in the nurse’s office. The situation resulted in a line of 135 students. As a result, the school district launched an investigation into the incident as potential harassment.
In response, a Champaign School District teacher shared their protocols for meetings which includes “no photos, videos, recording, or cell phones” and that “what happens in GSA stays in GSA OR Respect each other’s privacy.”
The middle school teacher also explained that they teach the GSA club members “about standing up, calling people in, and calling people out.” The teacher also suggested running “closed” meetings.