Here’s what parents had to say about Vermont school using gender-neutral terms in sex ed class

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Parents and community members at a Vermont school district board meeting spoke out largely in favor of a new sex education curriculum that would focus on using gender-neutral terms for LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

One grandparent of a student, however, expressed concerns over how Essex Westford School District’s curriculum would teach fifth-grade students about sex without calling them boys and girls. The comments come as some states are banning gender ideology topics in class, while other states are promoting curriculums that emphasize gender inclusivity.

Most parents and community members who spoke publicly commended the district for one school’s decision to align an upcoming health unit curriculum with its equity policy by removing gendered language. 

The comments came after Founders Memorial School sent a letter to the families of fifth-grade students on April 20 saying it would use “person who produces sperm in place of boy, male and assigned male at birth” and “person who produces eggs in place of girl, female and assigned female at birth.”

Grandparent Tracy Lamphere told the board that he read the folder about the upcoming lessons on puberty and worried the topics would be “deep” for fifth-grade kids. He said his granddaughter had expressed concerns over discussing periods in front of fifth-grade boys. 

“At a fifth-grade level, I don’t feel that some of those subjects that were in that book need to be discussed because it’s going to embarrass the children amongst themselves to their peers,” Lamphere said. 

“Whose equity and social justice are we talking about?” Lamphere asked. “All the kids I talked about in fifth grade just want to be called a girl or a boy.”

Lamphere stressed that he wasn’t trying to say anything bad about gay, lesbian, transgender or nonbinary people and that everyone is an individual. He also indicated that kids at that age aren’t able to produce sperm or eggs yet even if they are transgender. 

“But our children want to be called girls and boys,” Lamphere said. “And at fifth-grade level, that’s what they are — girls and boys.”

Other parents and community members said they supported the district’s affirmation of LGBTQ+ students by avoiding gendered language.

The public comments came after the district’s gender-neutral policy garnered national attention after Erika Sanzi of Parents Defending Education posted the letter about the policy on Twitter. 

Vermont Gov. Phil Scot, a Republican, told local news station WCAX Wednesday that there seems to be a middle ground for using gender-inclusive terms.

“For sex education in those age groups — fifth and sixth graders — it seems like we could be talking about boys, girls and those who are born into different bodies and trans rights, things of that nature,” Scott said. “And we could build that in. It seems like we could have it both ways.”

The Vermont Agency of Education’s guide for educators about implementing LGBTQ+ inclusive sex ed recommends using gender-neutral and body-first language as a best practice. For example, using the phrase “people with uteruses often experience this during puberty” instead of “girls often experience this during puberty.”

The state’s guide also recommends using “body-first language to describe anatomy (‘people with penises’ and ‘people with vaginas’)” as well as phrases such as “sex assigned at birth.”

The guide also said that inclusive teaching about pregnancy “refers to people who give birth, are pregnant, or have abortions as ‘people who are pregnant,’ ‘gestational parent,’ or other term that recognizes that anyone with certain anatomy can become pregnant, including individuals of all genders” in place of “‘mothers’ and/or ‘women.’” 

The guide also states that sex ed instructors should “include LGBTQ+ folks in images, scenarios, etc.”  

Other states have taken a different approach to teaching about gender and sexual orientation. 

Florida’s Department of Education recently expanded the state’s ban on teaching intentional sexual orientation and gender content in the classroom to all students from grades 4-12 unless expressly required by state standards or as part of a health class lesson, Chalkboard Review previously reported. 

State law had previously banned educators from discussing gender identity topics for students in grades K-3, which critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill even the the word “gay” is not in the legislation. 

Iowa lawmakers have introduced legislation that would similarly ban discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in grades K-6. That legislation passed the Iowa House last month.

Brendan Clarey
Brendan Clarey is K-12 editor at Chalkboard Review. Reach him at

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