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Medford parents speak out against hiring of non-binary teacher

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Medford School Board meetings take place at the North Medford High School commons.

A handful of parents spoke out during the public comment period at the district school board meeting on Thursday.

The unnamed teacher has been hired to teach first grade at Griffin Creek Elementary School, according to the Mail Tribune.

"First graders are very early in their development, and I believe that exposure to the complexity of preferred pronouns and gender roles is not appropriate for this age group," parent Tanner Farrington said at the meeting. "It naturally raises questions and encourages conversations on the topic, and many parents want these conversations to be had at home and not at school."

He suggested that non-binary teachers should be moved to teaching only at higher grade levels.

Resident Kathy Hischar said she was concerned for her grandchildren in the district.

"I do not believe that introducing the term 'non-binary' to 6-year-olds is what learning is about," she said.

At the outset of the meeting, Board Chair Suzanne Messer said attendees could not comment on specific personal matters.

“I see that there are several people that have signed up to provide comment regarding a classroom teacher at Griffin Creek Elementary," she said. "The board is aware that there is an ongoing discussion of that matter with district administrators, parents and other community members. However, board policy BDDH prohibits the board from taking public comment on specific personal matters, including identifying details and names.”

A representative for the Medford School District said she could not discuss personnel matters but wrote that "We are not permitted to ask about nor comment on the gender identity of our staff. Regarding feedback from board meetings, our Board always listens to or reads all public comment carefully and depending on the topic, may refer the comment to District staff for further investigation and discussion as to any potential changes to policy or procedures."

A statement released by the Medford School District said that according to school board policy and state and federal law, “we do not discriminate for any reason, ever.”

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane recently earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.