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School's Gender-Inclusive 'Purple Penguins' Tip Causes Stir

Some parents were concerned when teachers at a Nebraska school received handouts with suggestions intended to make classrooms more inclusive.
Posted at 3:30 PM, Oct 10, 2014

A Nebraska middle school's gender identity training intended to make classrooms more inclusive has raised concerns from some parents and media outlets.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports parents within the school district obtained handouts promoting gender inclusivity and advising against grouping students by genders and asking students their preferred names and pronouns. Some reportedly became concerned the school was promoting a social agenda. 

Nebraska Watchdog published one handout titled, "12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness." The second step reads: "Don't use phrases such as 'boys and girls' ... and similarly gendered expressions to get kids' attention. Instead say things like 'calling all readers,' or 'hey campers' or 'could all of the athletes come here.' Create classroom names and then ask all of the 'purple penguins' to meet at the rug."

It's the "purple penguins" phrasing that resonated most among some media outlets.

FOX NEWS: "This is outrageous, is it not?"
"Do you have something against penguins? I'm going to call PETA and say you have something against penguins."

GLENN BECK VIA THE BLAZE: "Purple. No, they're not purple. They might be black, white, pink, yellow. They're definitely not purple."

Some Twitter users responding to a Fox News contributor's tweet about the phrase also disagreed with the idea.

But it might not be what it sounds. No, teachers aren't required to start calling kids purple penguins or campers or any of the other suggestions. The handouts were simply meant to provide teachers with some information and ideas.

The Lincoln Public Schools superintendent defended the discussion — saying, "There's no policy, there's no procedure, there's no changes being made to bathrooms in schools."

Again, the handouts were just strategies, not mandates, that came in response to the request of a teacher seeking help in dealing with students.

Gender Spectrum, the organization that created the handouts, says its goal is to help "identify and remove ... obstacles so all are free to be their authentic selves."

A writer for Bustle notes the move doesn't go so far as naming an entire new pronoun, like Sweden's "hen," but the school has been conducting similar training regarding behavioral and social issues for years.

Many parents plan to voice their concerns at the school's next board meeting Oct. 14. Despite the backlash, the school district says it plans to continue its efforts in making all students, regardless of gender, feel included.