New York City, NY

NYC School: Stop Using Gendered Words Like 'Mom' & 'Dad'

Bryce Gruber

One Manhattan school is encouraging parents to toss gendered language.

One downtown Manhattan private school is asking students and parents to use more "inclusive language" while also asking them and faculty to toss gendered words like "mom," "dad," and "parents," because the words make "assumptions," about kids' lives at home.

If you're wondering which NYC school is serving this request, it's the popular pre-kindergarten through 12th grade Grace Church School in the city's downtown NoHo neighborhood. The school recently issued a 12-page guide to students and staff explaing the proposed outlook and goals for inclusivity, which seems to have ruffled the feathers of a lot of community folks.

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Credit: The Grace Church School

“Families are formed and structured in many ways. At Grace Church School, we use inclusive language that reflects this diversity. It’s important to refrain from making assumptions about who kids live with, who cares for them, whether they sleep in the same place every night, whether they see their parents, etc.,” the guide says. The incredibly detailed guide also suggests using the terms "folks," "family," or "guardians," as alternatives to "mom," and "dad," and goes on to prefer "caregiver" to "nanny/babysitter."

The eye-opening guide also asks students, families, and faculty to use appropirate terms relating to sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity, and stresses that instead of asking a person, "What are you? Where are you from?" the question should be, "What is your cultural/ethnic background? Where are your ancestors/is your family from?"

Some experts are excited about the idea of inclusivitity and matching vocabularies. "I believe that how we think about our actions should be in accordance with our values," says Elissa Gross, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist, Senior Psychologist at The Lukin Center. "In this particular situation, if demonstrating respect and inclusivity while in school, families can decide how they’re referred to in the home, are important values. Then that can help form your feelings and actions."

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Not all local parents are as enthusiastic, though. One popular Facebook comment on the New York Post's account of this story reads, "Not that my child goes there, But screw that. I will always be my son’s mom and he will call me mom. School doesn’t get to dictate what goes on in my family life, even if they think it is their right. With my students I make sure I know who is in their home so if I call or write a note home I am addressing who they live with. No need to disparage “mom and dad” because other families are different. Just take the time to get to know their family makeup of your students and you will be fine."

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Others are less upset and more understanding of the bold move, though. "People," writes another commenter. "They aren't saying the kids won't call you mom or the parents won't be recognized as such. It's just saying the teachers shouldn't always assume there's a mom/dad at home. "Take this home and have your mom or dad sign it" can be harsh to a kid that has lost one or both parents. It is a suggestion that TEACHERS use different language when speaking to kids. It is hard to remember 60+ different home situations."

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"If history has taught us anything, it is highly likely that such sensitive topics will continue to come up," adds Gross. "I feel that these situations provide us, as adults, with valuable opportunities to model for our children how to engage in respectful, meaningful and productive conversations as opposed to becoming polarized. It is possible to hold different beliefs and also show respect and kindness toward our fellow human beings." 

How do you feel about this gender-inclusive language move? Do you agree with with the inclusive nature, or would it upset you if your child's school proposed such a guide?

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Bryce Gruber covers women's lifestyle content and news ranging from shopping to travel, beauty to parenting, wellness and delicious eating. Find her at @brycegruber on social media, and across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting topics at TheLuxurySpot.com, Readers' Digest, Bravo, Parents.com, Martha Stewart, and on your TV screen through national talk shows including The Tamron Hall Show. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.

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