Students and teachers in Catholic schools who wish to be identified by a gender other than their sex at birth could be kicked out of school or lose their jobs under new policies in the Archdiocese of Omaha.
The archdiocese requires its 70 schools to comply with Catholic teachings on gender identity. The new policies, which have been given to schools in recent weeks, will come into effect on January 1.
The policies cover the use of pronouns, dress codes and participation in sports. They also prohibit “gender-affirming psychotherapy,” the use of hormonal drugs, or surgery that goes against Catholic principles on human sexuality.
Schools in the Archdiocese serve approximately 19,000 students.
Approved by Archbishop George Lucas, the policies address how schools should respond to children with gender dysphoria. The archbishop has authority over the schools of the archdiocese in matters of faith.
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The church defines gender dysphoria as involving “a conflict between a person’s physical gender/sex and the gender they identify with.”
The policies also specify how school employees and volunteers should conduct themselves with respect to gender identity.
According to the policies, a student or prospective student with gender dysphoria “should not be denied admission or expelled from [the school] for this reason, provided that the student and his or her parent(s) agree that the child will meet the expectations and standards of behavior established by the school.
Students could be denied admission or expelled from school “in the event that the child’s parent or parents resist the school teaching the child in Catholic principles concerning the human person and human sexuality”.
“A child whose parent(s) authorizes gender-affirming psychotherapy or the administration of puberty-blocking drugs or cross-sex hormones to such child or authorizes sexual procedures or surgery cannot be enrolled in [the school]”, according to the policies.
In this case, the parents would have the possibility of withdrawing the child. If they didn’t, the school would expel the student.
“Respectful and critical questioning of Catholic teaching in the classroom is acceptable so long as it is intended to help the student progress toward greater awareness and understanding,” the model policy states. “Showing hostility or contempt toward the teaching of the Church demonstrates that a student is not a good candidate for school.”
Students will be addressed with the pronoun that reflects their biological sex. They will also be expected to adhere to the dress code and school uniform policy appropriate to their biological sex.
Students’ eligibility to participate in athletic or recreational competitions and single-sex activities will be based on their biological sex.
Employees and volunteers will be required to conduct themselves “in accordance with their biological sex at birth at all times”. They should use names, titles and pronouns consistent with their biological sex.
Deacon Tim McNeil, spokesman for the archdiocese, said that in the past, schools and church leaders have been given guidance for dealing with gender identity situations. But he said local headteachers then asked the archdiocese to provide specific policies.
“What was offered should come as no surprise,” McNeil said. “The church has been clear. Pope Francis was clear. Pope Benedict was clear. Pope John Paul II was clear about this. The catechism is clear.
McNeil said the response from schools has been favourable.
“We are confident that they will implement the policy with compassion. They want to associate with students. They want to associate with the parents.
In previous guidelines, the archdiocese said “man’s soul and his relationship to God cannot be separated from the bodily expression of that identity,” he said. “A person’s gender is determined by their biological sex; there can be no separation between the two.
He said people with gender dysphoria “need to be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity”.
McNeil said the archdiocese expects criticism over the policies.
The Trevor Project, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ youth, says these young people need support.
The organization reports that LGBTQ youth in affirmation schools were nearly 40% less likely to attempt suicide compared to LGBTQ youth in non-affirmation schools.
The organization also reported that supportive actions taken by parents and caregivers were associated with a lower suicide risk among LGBTQ youth.
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