Charlotte, North Carolina, Schools 'Eliminate Gender Entirely'?

Schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district have received anti-bullying guidelines on how to best deal with transgender students.

Published Aug 15, 2016

Image Via Emma/Flickr

On 12 August 2016, social media lit up with the news that schools in Charlotte, North Carolina (2016's ground zero for the debate about transgender legislation), had eliminated the concept of gender altogether.

"Charlotte public schools have banished the terms “boy” and “girl” from their classrooms," protested a blogger on the Daily Caller:

The new transgender-affirming policy allows students to select their own gender and then choose the bathroom (although that part is on hold for now), extracurricular activity, sport, etc., that best fits whatever label they happen to identify with at the moment. Boys will even be permitted to take part in “all-girl” overnight excursions, so long as they become girls for the duration of the trip. Of course, the studious observer might wonder how a boy can identify as a girl if we aren’t allowed to call people girls anymore. Gender fluidity may allow a boy to not be a boy, but it also makes it impossible for him to be a girl, considering that both designations no longer mean anything.

The outrage here was somewhat misplaced, because this wasn't something that was actually mandated in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). A story about a district-wide June 2016 presentation (which can be read in its entirety here) referenced specific recommendations (not mandates) to school principals and counselors to keep them in line with updated Title IX regulations, as part of a wider campaign against bullying in schools.

The presentation doesn't state that gender fluidity is to be encouraged. Instead, it offers guidelines on how to deal with transgender students and eliminate gender bias in the classroom as much as possible in order to avoid situations that could lead to bullying on campus. The presentation reads, in part:

• CMS will evaluate all gender-based activities; maintain only those that have clear and sound pedagogical purpose

• Students are permitted to participate in gender-based activities consistent with their gender identity.

– Dress codes
– Single gender classes
– Classroom structure/management
– School ceremonies
– School photos
– Extracurricular activities
– Overnight field trips

That is the entirety of what this particular document says about overnight field trips. There is no stipulation in the presentation or anywhere else that students will be able to change their gender on a whim (and become, for example, a girl just for the duration of an all-girls' camping trip).

The same presentation also made it clear that gender expression does not extend to interscholastic athletics:

A student’s gender is determined by the gender noted on his or her certificate of birth.
-2015-16 North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Handbook

The column goes on to discuss the "Gender Unicorn," which is indeed a purple unicorn:

If you’re confused about how this works, the school system has provided a handy “gender unicorn” to explain everything. I wish I could say I made that up, but I did not. Students in the greater Charlotte area will actually be learning about gender from a gender unicorn. The gender unicorn is just like a regular unicorn, except this one is purple, has a tattoo on its crotch, and it wants to talk to your kids about sex. It’s truly the stuff of nightmares. The weird, drug induced nightmares of a mentally deranged pedophile. Luckily, the molester unicorn comes accompanied by a chart, which illustrates how “gender identity,” “gender presentation,” romantic attraction, and sexual attraction (all different things, evidently) exist on a spectrum that stretches out unending into the infinite universe.

As a side note, I did a little research into the gender unicorn — this is how I spend my days as a blogger — and I discovered that it was provided to Charlotte, and to many other schools across the nation, by a left wing extremist group called Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER). The gender unicorn is a somewhat new creation, apparently. The mascot for progressive gender theory used to be the Genderbread Person, but schools stopped using Mr. Genderbread when it was revealed that the individual who created him plagiarized it from “intersectionally marginalized people,” whatever in God’s name that means. Even worse, TSER tells us that the Genderbread chart made reference to “biological sex,” which, they say, is “harmful to trans people” because it is ”an ambiguous word that has no scale and no meaning besides that it is related to some sex characteristics.”

Trans Student Educational Resources, or TSER, is the group that originated the "Gender Unicorn" (indeed a purple unicorn) and is providing it to schools.  According to their mission statement, TSER is committed to educating the public and organizing trans activists:

We believe that justice for trans and gender nonconforming youth is contingent on an intersectional framework of activism. Ending oppression is a long-term process that can only be achieved through collaborative action.

Whether that qualifies as "left-wing extremism" is up to individual interpretation, but the unicorn infographic (like the presentation above) is not meant to be part of a hard-and-fast rule imposed throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, but rather one tool for understanding issues that affect transgender students, such as the following:

CMS announced it would allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity this upcoming school year; however, that has been put on hold after the Supreme Court ordered a stay on a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision that ruled in favor of a transgender Virginia student.  

At the CMS School Board meeting, officials went on record saying students will not have a class about transgender issues. Principals, however, are undergoing training to deal with transgender topics.

Superintendent Ann Clark said the district has put a hold on some of the recommendations as of 4 August 2016, after the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked a federal appeals court ruling that allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identities:

CMS remains committed to nurturing a safe and welcoming learning environment for every student. As a result of [the] U.S. Supreme Court ruling, we have placed a temporary hold on the section of the CMS bullying prevention regulation which states that transgender students will be given access to the restroom and locker room facilities corresponding to their gender identity. The rest of the regulation, which is intended to promote consistency in anti-bullying support for all students, will remain intact.  CMS will respect the Supreme Court's decision just as we did that of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Brooke Binkowski is a former editor for Snopes.