In America, government-funded schools can’t punish teachers for their speech about a proposed policy, and they can’t make teachers personally affirm things that they believe are harmful and untrue. The Loudoun County School Board is doing both, so I’m taking a stand.

I didn’t always teach in Loudoun County. More than 20 years ago, I started my teaching career at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland. After seven years in Maryland schools, I joined the faculty at Loudoun County Public Schools, where I’ve been ever since. In my quarter-century of teaching, I’ve taught students with diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. I’ve taught students born and raised in the Washington, D.C., area and students from around the globe. I have developed good relationships with my students to understand their personalities, strengths, and aspirations, and to help equip them to realize their potential. And I’ve succeeded in doing this with students with any background and from any place, of any religion or expressing any sexual orientation or gender identity, because I treasure each individual student.

Teaching this way requires two things: consistent honesty with students, and commitment to the student’s best interest. When the Loudoun County School Board adopted Policy 8040, it prohibited me from doing both.

There’s an earnest debate right now about how to best care for children suffering from gender dysphoria. LCPS has taken one side in that debate and mandated it for everyone by saying that I must use the pronouns specified by any “transgender or gender-expansive” student. That is wrong because it’s not the job of the government to coerce individual’s speech. And the policy requires using names and pronouns — which is part of a form of treatment for gender dysphoria — called “social transition” for a student “without any substantiating evidence.” That’s also wrong, because it’s essentially forcing teachers to participate in a type of medical treatment for a student before that student has even been diagnosed with any condition.

I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that it’s always harmful for government to force individuals to say things they believe are wrong. And I’m not a doctor, but even I know you can’t prescribe a treatment before diagnosing a condition. These are my genuine concerns, which have nothing to do with demographics and everything to do with a school district forcing one particular ideology on everyone. And while I am concerned about my constitutionally protected freedoms as all Americans should be, I am eminently more concerned about what’s best for my students.

I have taught many transgender-identifying students over the years. I’ve seen their real pain and discomfort with their physical bodies. I’ve also seen them simultaneously face many other conditions, including depression, eating disorders, and anxiety. The board’s mandate to begin social transition for every one of these students “without any substantiating evidence” doesn’t actually serve their best interests (and may divert them from getting other help they really need).

Research shows when kids who grapple with gender dysphoria are allowed to go uninterrupted through puberty, the vast majority will come to accept their biological sex. Those who go through social transition often go on to puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and surgery, all of which have irreversible physical and mental impacts that may cause a lifetime of regret. Willfully ignored by the board is the rising evidence of this problem among people who have “detransitioned.” The board’s one-size-fits-all policy only increases the likelihood of such harms, and for me, that is truly heartbreaking.

I’ve loved and respected every student I have taught over the years. But my duty to be honest and to always act in my students’ best interests means I can’t always do or say everything they ask. That’s why I call my transgender-identifying students by the name they choose, but I can’t use pronouns that are inconsistent with their sex because that would be affirming that a boy is actually a girl, or vice versa.

The board’s new rule keeps me from doing what I have always done: deal in love and honesty with every student that crosses the threshold into my classroom. That’s why I’ve chosen to be a part of the lawsuit challenging Policy 8040, and I will see it through to the end for the sake of each of those kids.

Monica Gill is a history teacher at Loudoun County High School and a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Loudoun County School Board over Policy 8040.

(1) comment

HSteacher

While I agree that LCPS should not have put a teacher on administrative leave over his refusal to support a PROPOSED policy, your overall argument would be stronger if you did not use a classic logical fallacy of "Research shows..." Provide the details on the research to strengthen your argument - which research studies, conducted by whom, with what results, etc. As an AP Government teacher, surely you teach such requirements to your students.

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