Little kids in the schoolyard can be vicious to each other, especially when they think a little boy isn’t behaving as boyish as the others.
When it came time for David and Hannah Edwards to send their five-year-old to school for the first time, they decided on Nova Classical Academy, a charter school in St. Paul.
From the start, the Edwards’ son was more interested in wearing clothes and playing games commonly associated with girls. It wasn’t easy. There was teasing and taunting and gossiping about the little boy who dressed like a girl.
But as time went on, it was clear that the kindergartner really related to girls, and felt in his heart that he was one. The Edwards helped their kid make all the outward changes so that the world would see it too.
They let the school know that, officially, they had a daughter now. If there was anything teachers and the principal could do about the bullying, that would be great too.
Teachers felt for the kid. When Nova’s anti-bullying week came in October, they decided to talk about gender in their classrooms, and to use the nationally prominent book “My Princess Boy” to illustrate the concept of gender fluidity. The principal emailed parents about all those plans, along with a reminder to talk to their kids about being kind.
A number of Nova parents flipped out. They didn’t want their children to be told about transgender people. It was too complex, they said. They worried about how complicated going into a bathroom stall might become. Their kids were coming home and talking about how individuals could choose whether to be a boy or a girl. They were coming home with questions.
Parents called this “traumatizing.” They started a petition and complained to the school board. They held a public meeting on the issue that was attended by the conservative Minnesota Family Council and protested by LBGT activists. Nearly a dozen students transferred out of Nova.
Nova administrators backpedaled. New books about transgender had to be approved by the proper committees before being shown to kids, executive director Eric Williams said. The school needed time to figure out an opt-out for kids whose parents opposed it.
Nova also refused to inform other students that the Edwards’ child had changed her name because some parents might not want to hear it.
The Edwards withdrew their child from Nova in February and filed a complaint with the St. Paul Human Rights Department a month later. Nova has until April 20 to respond.
"At Nova we are committed to providing a school environment free of gender-bias and discrimination of any kind, where every student feels safe, welcomed, accepted and valued," Williams said in a statement. "We plan to respond to the complaint by denying the allegations. We will present evidence that the school has taken all due measures to protect the student’s rights."