In what has become an all too far too familiar story, a teacher at Bethel Public Schools in Connecticut has allegedly administered a survey asking children for their pronouns, assuring them that their answers will "only be seen" by the teacher just in case there are any secrets to keep.
Bethel Superintendent Dr. Christine Carver said the school does not have a formal policy regarding pronoun usage in the district. Nor was she aware of other teachers asking students for pronouns. But she did indicate the the issue was "resolved" over the pronoun survey, though she could not speak any further on "personnel matters".
Carver said, "No, we do not have a formal policy about use of pronouns. I certainly do not remember other teachers issuing a survey about use of pronouns specifically, but at the beginning of the year teachers sometimes survey their students to find out their interests, ask questions to elicit their strengths and weaknesses as students and/or the subject."
A Bethel parent concerned about the intrusive survey said, “That teacher should be dismissed from the public school system. This is grooming. She's giving them a safe place to explore their sexuality. And she's telling them that she will keep it a secret. Not okay in any way shape or form!”
Let this be a lesson to Connecticut parents to opt their children out of all surveys, which is a right they have under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment.
Of course, this is hardly the first time that students in Connecticut were surveyed about their pronouns this year.
On August 31, 2023, parents in Westport complained that that a middle school chorus teacher in Bedford Middle School prompted students to write down their "preferred pronouns" and asked them to indicate whether this information should be kept secret from parents. Again the survey was administered without any parental consent or warning.
Westport Superintendent Thomas Scarice issued a statement to a concerned parent indicating that he had informed staff, "that for a number of reasons, staff should not affirmatively seek out this information (i.e., through a questionnaire or otherwise)."
Scarice also promised that he would be following up to ensure that this practice was consistent across the district.
Then on September 1, 2023, Libs of TikTok revealed a survey administered in Newtown Public Schools that asked for a student's preferred name and pronoun for communicating among other teachers. The survey also asked a "deep question" that encouraged students to reveal something personal about themselves, and assured students this secret would be for the teacher's eyes only.
But perhaps all of the pronoun surveys should not be a surprise in light of this position included in the Frequently Asked Questions to the State's Guidelines for Connecticut Schools to Comply with Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Laws. It specifically encourages teachers to privately ask transgender and gender nonconforming students for their pronouns, and whether those pronouns should be used in correspondence with parents and/or legal guardians.
The same is true for the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) teacher's union. The union tells members that educators should consider asking students for pronouns and preferred names at the beginning of the school year because it's important to affirm students' identities. The CEA even suggests that if teachers fail to do this, they could get into trouble for harassment under Title IX.
Other people argue that compelling someone to use pronouns is a violation of free speech. And that educators have no business keeping secrets about a student's gender or "preferred name" from parents, thereby driving a wedge between parents and their children.
This issue doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon.