Karine Jean-Pierre
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Residents Protest the Hiring of Nonbinary School Teacher in Oregon

Griffin Creek Elementary School

A school board in Oregon heard complaints from district residents who objected to the hiring of a nonbinary teacher at a local elementary school.

The Mail Tribune reported the unnamed teacher was hired to teach first graders at Griffin Creek Elementary School in Medford this year, but the school board has been inundated with concerns from residents who objected to the hiring.

Medford School Board chair Suzanne Messer opened the meeting held earlier this month at North Medford High School by acknowledging the concerns of the parents while advising them district policy prevents discussion of specific teacher complaints at school board meetings.

While residents did not reference the teacher by name directly, it was clear the teacher was the main topic of discussion for many in attendance.

“Placing a nonbinary teacher into a first-grade class is in line with that policy only because it is vague,” said Tanner Fairrington, a district resident whose children are home-schooled. “First graders are very early in their development, and I believe that exposure to the complexity of preferred pronouns and gender roles is not appropriate for this age group. It naturally raises questions and encourages questions on the topic, and many parents want these conversations to be had at home and not at school.”

Fairrington suggested it was more age-appropriate to place nonbinary teachers with higher grade levels.

Medford resident and self-described concerned grandparent Kathy Hischar wanted the district to “go back to basics” and added students “should not have to question why their teacher is a girl but dresses like a boy, and why they can’t address her as Mrs. or Miss.”

Following the meeting, the founder and president of Southern Oregon Pride applauded the school district for hiring the unnamed teacher, but said the district still had more work to do in the matter.

Gina DuQuenne, founder and president of Southern Oregon Pride, said in an interview the day after the meeting that ongoing discussions offered a “chance to educate.”

“My thing is, if we put all these things in place, then let’s walk the walk and talk the talk. Let’s be who we say we are,” DuQuenne was quoted by the Mail Tribune. When it comes to pronouns, pronouns are respectful. If I’m not sure of someone’s pronouns, I’ll be the first one to ask. It isn’t a big deal. It’s a show of respecting another person.”

DuQuenne also offered some advice to those who objected to the hiring.

“I would really suggest these people who are protesting, they educate themselves and get with the program,” DuQuenne said. “We are coming out, we’ve been out and we’re not going away.”

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