FOR THE RECORD: Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta says it’s “ridiculous” that anyone would believe APS would ask employees not to call students “boys and girls.” An earlier version of this story quoted her as saying the outcry over the mistaken directive was ridiculous.
An elementary school principal in Albuquerque has “apologized profusely” for a mistake in her PowerPoint presentation to teachers and staff that said it would “no longer be acceptable to call our students boys and girls.”
APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said Monday that teachers at Carlos Rey Elementary are not barred from calling students “boys and girls,” and that the simple misunderstanding was blown out of proportion in at least one media report.
A few weeks ago, the school’s principal, Judith Touloumis, delivered a PowerPoint presentation to inform staff about the new APS transgender procedural directive, which went into effect this summer. One of the slides included the statement that “biological sex must be seen as a spectrum or range of possibilities rather than a binary set of only two options.”
“In other words, from August 8, 2016, our students at Carlos Rey will be collectively addressed as ‘students, Coyotes, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, etc.’ No longer will it be acceptable to call our students, ‘Boys and Girls.’ (A new paradigm shift).”
Armenta said Touloumis had copied and pasted information from an LGBT advocacy group that does not represent district policy.
“She apologized profusely; she was embarrassed and has made every attempt to correct her mistake with staff,” Armenta said. “This was nothing more than a mistake by a human being.”
Touloumis declined an interview with the Journal .
Last Wednesday, Touloumis sent a staff-wide email clarifying that she had misunderstood the new rules and apologizing “to whomever was offended or made uncomfortable during the presentation.”
“Please disregard the following which was identified as part of the district procedural directive,” the email states in large red letters, before quoting the sentences about the spectrum of biological sex.
Armenta said it’s “ridiculous” that anyone would believe APS would ask employees not to call students “boys and girls.”
“We are now in a situation that is so emotional that anything that happens is going to be elevated, whether people know it is true or not,” she said. “Still, because of the emotional reaction that this issue continues to evoke, it continues to garner all sorts of attention.”
On Saturday, the Associated Press’ rewrite of a KOB-TV report on the controversy got picked up by media outlets across the country, including Education Week, Breitbart, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and San Francisco Chronicle.
APS administrators adopted the transgender directive in June after months of heated debate from the Board of Education. Board members did not vote on the new rules, but they received hundreds of comments from parents, students and community members on both sides.
Essentially, the change allows students to live in accordance with their gender identity, rather than their sex at birth. A child who was born male and who appears male but identifies as female can choose a new name and clothing style, be addressed as “she,” and, most controversially, play on girls sports teams and access the girls facilities.
Some critics have said sexual predators could masquerade as transgender and abuse children in school restrooms and locker rooms.
But APS administrators stress that people can’t just walk into whatever facilities they like. Transgender students will register with their schools and receive specific accommodations.