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Let’s accept all kids

To the editor:

As a former teacher in the New Ulm School District, I worked really hard to make sure all kids were welcomed into my classroom. No matter the student’s race, gender, religion, or political beliefs, I tried to make sure each kid felt safe and ready to learn. Whether the student had a Biden or a Trump mask, I was excited to connect with each child and help them reach their potential, and I valued each student that walked in my classroom.

Last year my oldest child came out as lesbian and non-binary. They told me they felt like they were not a boy or a girl, and that they preferred they/them pronouns. Is this confusing at times? Yes, especially for an English teacher who is used to “they” being used as a plural only. However, is denying this change worth the cost of making my kid feel like a bad person who isn’t seen for who they are? Absolutely not. We can debate what gender is and isn’t all day long, but at the end of the day, what’s important to me is that my kid feels seen, respected, and loved.

I can’t commend the staff at Jefferson elementary enough for switching gears and using my kid’s chosen pronouns. They were so awesome and it was wonderful to send my kid to a school where they felt respected for who they are. Did they make mistakes at times? No more than I did at home! The important thing is, the staff put in effort every day to see my kid for who they are. And my kid noticed that, which made it much easier for them to learn.

It makes me disappointed to know that there is an organized group of parents in the community trying to bully teachers for doing the work of making kids feel safe by simply asking their preferred pronouns. This simple ask doesn’t affect anyone in a negative way. It makes more students feel welcomed in their schools and reduces stress which can only enhance learning. It is likely all our kids are going to go into a future workforce with racial and gender diversities so it makes sense for them to see the world this way.

New Ulm prides itself as being a strong, welcoming community. Living up to that means showing a little bit of grace and openness when it comes to people that are different. The former First Lady asked people to “Be Best.” This is an opportunity to showcase that attitude and let all kids feel seen, heard and welcomed.

Bill Skar

Inver Grove Heights

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