Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler responded Friday to a report about an online handbook found on the school system's website. The documents instructed school counselors to use students' preferred gender pronouns and teach them how to navigate counseling situations confidentially. The guidelines were from the American School Counselor Association.
The handbook touches on multiple topics for counselors in engaging with students, such as gender, sexual orientation, race, suspected abuse and self-harm.
The handbook says counselors should "respect students' and families' values, beliefs and cultural background, as well as students' sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and exercise great care to avoid imposing personal biases, beliefs or values rooted in one's religion, culture or ethnicity."
Tyler said in a statement to 1819 News that the purpose of the documents should have been clarified and that the policy stated is not the policy of the school system.
"The Baldwin County Public School System does not have a gender identity nor a gender affirmation policy," Tyler said. "We are not and we will not be mandating any acceptance of gender identity beyond what is published on a birth certificate in compliance with state law. We have not and we will not be adopting the national counseling association's standards for gender identity or gender affirmation. Not only would this action be in conflict with Alabama law, but it is also in conflict with the system's policies and philosophies."
"I am disappointed that a reference to the national standards from the National Counseling Association was included in one of our system documents without an appropriate disclaimer. There should have been a notice that this was not an adopted policy of our system. While we included this citation from the national association for transparency purposes, we did a very poor job of clarifying our own system's position. Any future reference to the national association standards will very clearly indicate this is not the policy of, nor will it be acceptable in the Baldwin County Public School System."
"We are in challenging times," Tyler continued. "Every day our employees must review materials being pushed down from national groups to make sure we identify any outside agendas and remove any information that we do not agree with in Baldwin County. New library books, textbooks and even audio-visual material from what use to be trusted sources of information must now be reviewed word by word to make sure our children are not being inappropriately influenced. It is an overwhelming challenge that we must continue to improve upon."
"Our policy for counseling has been and will remain that each child's issue needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis in compliance with state law. We will not tolerate bullying and will work to protect and defend all of our students. As long as I am superintendent, these policies will never change regardless of what national or state associations might recommend."
Craig Monger contributed to this report.
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