Earlier this week Alaska Watchman reported that all teachers who are certified by the Alaska Department of Education are now forced to abide by a new gender identity policy with regards to students. This is thanks to a revision to the “Code of Ethics” put in place by Alaska’s Professional Teaching Practices Commission last year.
The revised “Code of Ethics” states that, “In fulfilling obligations to students, an educator may not harass, discriminate against, or grant a discriminatory advantage to a student on the grounds of … gender identification.”
We had a chance to follow up via email with Melody Mann, the executive director of the Professional Teaching Practices Commission, to further clarify exactly how this new policy is being enforced and what some of the terms actually mean.
When asked to give an example of “harassment or discrimination” based on gender identity, Mann said it comes down to a question of whether the student is being “treated equitably and given the same opportunities as any other student.”
Mann did note that the updated non-discrimination policy applies to all educators who are certified by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, there are no religious exemptions.
According to Mann, one example of harassment would be if the student was “being ridiculed or disparaged solely on the basis of their gender identity” or if there were “derogatory comments being said to the student or about the student in regard to gender identity.”
It is unclear, however, whether a classroom discussion about the merits of identifying as a gender at odds with one’s biology would be considered harassment.
When asked whether certified Alaska teachers must now refer to students by their preferred gender pronouns, Mann was unclear, stating that the commission’s policy did not address “this level of specificity.”
Since the policy went into effect, Mann said there have been no “formal complaints” brought to the commission regarding discrimination based on gender identity.
Mann did note that the updated non-discrimination policy applies to all educators who are certified by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. There are no religious exemptions.
“If a teacher (or any educator) in a private or religious school holds a current and valid certificate in the State of Alaska (i.e. is licensed), he or she can be sanctioned by the Commission,” Mann stated. “The Commission did not make any religious exemptions to the nondiscrimination section of the Code of Ethics regarding gender identity.”
The Professional Teaching Practices Commission deals with matters of professional conduct and certification. According to the commission’s website, it has “the power to discipline members of the teaching profession and may issue reprimands, suspensions, and/or revocations of educators’ certificates.”
Professional Teaching Practices Commissioner Executive Director Melody Mann: firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 269-6579
AK Dept. of Education Deputy Commissioner Karen Melin: email@example.com or (907) 465-2800
Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop: (907) 742-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kodiak School District Superintendent Larry LeDoux: (907) 486-7550 or Larry.Ledoux@kibsd.org