Naming Rights, Wrongs, Multiple Choices and “Malicious Misgendering” in Fairfax County Schools

By James C. Sherlock

A recent meeting of the Fairfax County School Board

I believe that we can agree by acclamation that Ms. is the greatest English-language honorific devised since Agincourt.

The fact that it has its origins in its co-honorific “mistress” is beside the point.

“Ms.” has mitigated millions of social discomforts by letting people address a woman without knowledge of her marital status.

The pronouns “he” and “she” are more fraught of late.

The case of the combative epistemologist.  “She” has three useful definitions in Webster.

1- that female one who is neither speaker nor hearer  
2- used to refer to one regarded as feminine (as by personification) she was a fine ship
3used as an alternative to he to refer to a person of unspecified gender to allow anyone to do whatever she wants

The third definition was a cause célèbre in the 60’s, and rightly so.  Women objected to powerful people whose gender was unspecified automatically being rendered as “he”.

They were right.  Men and women raised in school when “he” was the default alternative changed their personal style guides.

So we were two for two, the use of Ms. and the elimination of “he” as the default choice in our writings.  We are better for the options.

But debates in epistemology are deadly serious, to channel Samuel Johnson, because the stakes are so small.

Occasionally a pronoun epistemologist (demonstrably there are such citizens) looking for a fight will complain loud and long about the use of “she” applied under definition three.  Such outbursts are considered by nearly all to represent the strange compulsions of the chronically bored, but they happen.

As an example, I posted an article on the subject of improving the health outcomes for Black mothers and children.  I hoped, fruitlessly as it turned out, that the comments would be generally on topic.

One commenter, a regular, attacked at great length my use of the word “she” in the context of Webster’s definition #3.  It called me sexist for deploying that option in one sentence in an 800-word article.  Seemed at least unusual, or perhaps not considering the source, but c’est la vie.

“Malicious misgendering” and “deadnaming” by Fairfax County 4th graders.    In a pitched regional pronoun battle, the Fairfax County School Board has moved heavy artillery into place.

An endless array of pronouns that are complex, confusing, ever-shifting, personally defined, and kept secret by schools from parents under Virginia Department of Education guidelines are now mandatory for proper use by fourth graders in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).  By formal vote of the school board.  Failure to follow the mandatory guidelines will warrant suspension.

No, seriously.  That is what it has done.

It voted 8-4 to compel fourth graders to both understand and use correctly a nearly endless array of pronouns under penalty of suspension.

FALLS CHURCH, VA – The Fairfax County School Board in Virginia approved changes to expand punishment for students for “malicious misgendering” at Luther Jackson Middle School Thursday.

The changes in the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook, approved by a vote of 8-4, make it possible for students as young as fourth grade to be suspended for “malicious misgendering” or “deadnaming” their peers. “Deadnaming” is a word used to describe the act of referring to someone by a name they used prior to transitioning.

From that handbook, this response to such actions can be assumed to be an enumerated exception to:

…a leveled system of responses to many discipline incidents that uses instructional, restorative and age-appropriate interventions before resorting to removing students from class or from school.

Kids should not be bullied.  If “malicious misgendering” is bullying, call it bullying and put a stop to it.  Perhaps flex FCPS’ famous “restorative justice” process.  The one used to manage gang-related assaults in schools.

And there is the “school-to-prison” pipeline to be plugged.  Distributing wrong pronouns in fourth grade can inexorably lead to drug dealing.

But this is “malicious misgendering” and “deadnaming” by 10-year olds.  Zero tolerance.  Throw them out.

So we have two facts to consider if our brains don’t explode in the effort:

  1. Suspension is considered inappropriate for gang assaults in schools under the Virginia Board of Education’s  Model Guidance for Positive, Preventive Code of Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension; but
  2.  “malicious misgendering” will get a kid bounced from school in Fairfax County.

There cannot be in America a more illustrative example of the priorities of the woke.

But then, children learn something new every day.  And they will learn this.

That is what schools are for.