Controversy erupts at Lenape Middle School over how teachers should address students

DOYLESTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — A controversy has erupted at Lenape Middle School in Central Bucks County over how teachers should address their students, particularly students who do not identify with their gender at birth.

The controversial countywide policy recently became an issue at the middle school when teachers were reportedly instructed by school officials not to refer to students by their preferred pronouns unless parents were made aware.

Marlene Pray is a Central Bucks mom and local community organizer who says the district’s informal policy risks “outing” students struggling with gender identity issues or actually keeping them in the closet.

“It’s not legally justifiable, it’s not morally justifiable, it’s certainly not academically justifiable — it’s cruelty,” Pray said.

But county officials say the opposite is true.

They describe it as an informal expectation, not a written policy, intended to ensure parents are aware of a child’s request to be addressed by a different name or pronoun.

Superintendent Dr. Abe Lucabaugh sent a statement to Action News, saying: “Parents are also involved in these matters. We talk to students about the importance of involving parents in decisions like these, and we help students prepare for and facilitate those conversations to come to an amicable resolution.”

Action News spoke to some Central Bucks parents who say the district directive is simply putting young lives at risk.

“We’ve heard enough studies saying that when LGBTQ people are kept in the closet and not given a supportive environment, suicide, depression and drug use increase,” said Jennifer Herring of Doylestown.

Others say it’s also risky to exclude parents from such a deeply personal issue affecting children.

“It is their child and legally they are responsible. And I think if they don’t have information to work with, that’s not fair to them either,” Warwick’s Madlyn Mahan said.

In Pennsylvania, an estimated 10,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as transgender. That accounts for about 1.3% of teenagers in this age group across the Commonwealth.

That rate is more than double that of all adults nationwide who identify as transgender.

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