Last week, C.J. wrote a letter to the three PE teachers who rotate working at the elementary schools in his school district. In the letter, he explained that he doesn’t think they should segregate students by sex/gender during PE class. He sent a copy of the letter to his principal and teacher.
His letter did not go unnoticed.
One of his PE teachers replied saying that they group kids by gender so that “the girls will get a chance to play.” She said that “if you put 5 boys and 5 girls on a field together the boys will never throw the ball to the girls.” I cringed while reading her email. She did end it by saying that C.J. could join whatever group he wanted to when the class was divided by sex/gender during PE. He’d not previously been given that option; no kid had, as far as he could remember.
C.J.’s amazing teacher sent him an email that he has read over and over.
“I am so proud of you! You are one of the bravest kids I know, and I am so happy that you are in my class. No matter what happens, you spoke up and communicated your feelings, and that is a HUGE deal! I hope they make changes so all kids will feel comfortable,” she wrote.
We need more teachers like C.J.’s teacher.
C.J.’s principal replied letting him know that his letter was outstanding and conveyed a great message. She told C.J. that she forwarded it to her boss (our district’s director of Elementary Education) in hopes that it would spark a conversation for all schools – not just C.J.’s.
“Thanks for being brave and for taking the time to write such a poignant letter. I think that there are many adults who need to hear your message about equality and including everyone. I am proud of you!,” his principal wrote.
The next day, the principal sent an email letting C.J. know that the district’s director of Elementary Education said that C.J. is “absolutely correct, and that she is going to be working on getting all PE teachers to understand.”
How many kids have taken a stand, written a letter, had the encouragement of their teacher and principal AND had the principal’s boss tell them that they are right?
“I am so proud of myself and happy! From now on, I’m going to stick up for myself and other kids even more. I think it was more important for my teachers to hear stuff from me instead of you,” C.J. told me.
Like I said in my last post, I’m so used to handling things like this for C.J. I’m used to advocating for and protecting him. I’m used to traveling a few steps ahead and trying to make things as right as possible for him. But, he’s older now. He’s stronger now. I need to get out of his way. I can’t clear his trail, he needs to blaze his own. Because his voice is more powerful than mine.
A few days ago, I let C.J. read all of the social media and blog comments in response to his letter. He was beyond happy to hear that some people were going to read the letter to their gender creative kids and share it with their schools to spark consideration, conversation and, hopefully, some action.
Here are some of his other favorite comments:
“This letter is amazing. I wish I had written it 30 years ago. Maybe that would have gotten me out of gymnastics and into wrestling like I’d wanted to do.” — K. on Facebook
“Hey CJ- I’m 35 now but fifth grade me wants to say THANK YOU. I was the girl who wanted this same thing but lacked the confidence you have to write this letter. Thank you, thank you for helping make the world better for the next generation. You are one of my heroes.” — B. on Facebook
“Great job, CJ! I raised a child who felt the same way, all through middle school, and I’m certain that he wasn’t alone. Thank you for speaking up, for yourself, and for everyone else. You ARE making our world better!” — C. on my blog
“Every time in school I was in an all-boys group for anything I was always scared and anxious because it meant possible humiliation or getting hit. When girls are mixed in with boys there is a civilizing vibe. I was never as anxious when the group was mixed and I could focus on the work at hand.” — S. on my blog
And, finally, some teachers let us now how they split up students without relying on sex/gender. Here are our favorite tips:
“What a great letter. Tell CJ that a great way of splitting people evenly is to have them clasp their hands together naturally. Split by who has their left thumb on top and who has their right. It’s about a 50/50 split of people.” — A. on Facebook
I can’t find our other favorite tip that was posted, but it basically said that if your school/class uses the Class Dojo app (which ours does), the teachers can use it to split up classes in all sorts of ways. That sounds like a great, easy feature.
This week, during PE the classes were not segregated by sex/gender. The physical activity of the day was dance. All the kids danced together and laughed together. As it should be.
I had never heard of PE segregation by gender before (I went to school in France and Italy), I think it’s great that CJ was able to have his voice heard.
Great response by the school folks. Segregating children and people based on gender might be illegal under state or federal laws against discrimination. Does the ACLU of Southern California have a committee on gender issues? What about the county or state commission on Civil Rights? It used to be that the US Department of Education considered segregating by gender a no-no.
Way to go, CJ.
I am so proud of you CJ …you are someone who started something great…I wish more schools see this and follow it…I see no harm in boys and girls together and I am sure when they are put together they will learn how to interact with each other…one should spread this and let awareness seep in…good going CJ 🙂
I am very happy and also a bit of sad at the same time after reading this post..
I feel really glad and full of hope when this post states that a students’ view about gender equality got noticed and prioritized to taking in consideration and further decisions has been modified depending on it by the elders and decision makers of the society and authority like teachers or the head of the department..
Wheather in most cases in my area there are still schools available only based on gender discrimination like boys school or girls school.. And in our locality our society considered that it is perfectly all right to start gender discrimination like that from the childhood of a kid.. That’s why I feel sad for ourselves..
I don’t know when the grown ups of my society will learn to understand the logic which was understood by a student like CJ already!
CJ is a remarkable thinker I love that
People fail to realize that every person changes the world in ways we are not even aware of sometimes. i.e. I bought a used postage stamp online for my collection. It was 250 years old! The seller in Germany got to be a friend. We went there, they came here and we became family. Do you think the person that mailed that letter 250 years ago thought it would join 3 generations of two families for life?
CJ what you did has changed the world! Every person that changed their thoughts affects others who affect others and it never ends. Well done CJ. And thank you for changing the world to be a MUCH better place. Huz!
I LOVE THIS!!!!!!! It also brought up such an interesting point of “if you put 5 boys and 5 girls on a field together the boys will never throw the ball to the girls.” …. so the answer has always been to just separate them. BUT NOT NOW! #TimesUp Let’s teach boys that they MUST throw to the girls and include them. Why would we let them think anything differently!?
Way to go CJ. Please be our president!
CJ is my hero! I am 40 years old, and only wish I would have been as brave as that wonderful child is when I was that age. CJ is truly changing the world, and you guys as his parents are doing an amazing job!!!! Thank you all!!
It is better to believe than to disbelieve; in so doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility ~ Albert Einstein
It’s incredible. Things have changed so much. I work with a Transgender male and he tells me how isolating it was for him to not identify with gender ‘norms’ and how he wished he had been able to mix more at school in things like sport (when teenage and pre-op). I know that here (UK) there is much talk about Unisex toilets in schools, development in sex ed., to embrace diversity within the LGBTQ+… we shall see how society negotiates the next steps!
CJ is amazing! He is changing the world! Way to go! It gives me hope for the future when young people feel empowered to act on their own behalf and on other’s behalves. I am also encouraged that CJ’s request was met with such positive responses from the school and the district. They are all lucky to have him and your family as part of their school community!
Lori I commend you for seeing CJ’s power and letting him blaze his own trail!
I think as a parent that is the hardest part to balance!!
CJ is a change maker and looking forward to all the good you are doing!
First as other have said and you know CJ is a great person. Maybe it is because I am from a smaller school but none of my PE classes were ever split by gender and I don’t recall very many times the boys left out the females ( unless the female didn’t want to). We were taught to treat every one equally.
Your son is making the world a better place. Both for himself and for other children who do not have the fantastic support he does and those who have not yet found their voice. Please thank him for us..
Great news, CJ for president in 30 years!
Yay! I was hoping that CJ would get a great response and also that it would spark debate.
I wish CJ could spend a day in the White House with our leaders and show them how to effect change through positive dialogue. Way to go, CJ! You are a wonderful role model for young people AND adults.
I love it! I think that is GREAT that CJ wrote the letter and that the conversation is happening in a respectful manner and is getting everyone to actually THINK.
That said, my 5th grade girl would prefer to be with all girls because the boys exclude the girls every chance they get and make negative comments toward the girls about their abilities. They even have to separate at recess for 4Square or else the girls will never get to play. However, I know my girl wouldn’t mind playing with another boy who is respectful of girls and knows how to share and be inclusive – she does play 4square with her brother and his friends in non-school situations.
Wow. What an impressive young person you have raised. Thank you C.J. for being so strong and speaking out And writing letters. You rock.
My son is trans and realized it as a freshman in high school. He came home one day and said “Mom – I found out what I am – it’s called transgender”. Yes, it has changed quite a bit since then. But clearly work is still needed. Thank you Lori and C.J. for making this world understand and change even more.
I am going to be honest, I was the girl who didn’t have an athletic bone in my body. I would have wanted to be in the all girls group, so I didn’t have to be ignored and humiliated by the athletic boys. However, on the few very rare occasions I was encouraged by someone, be it a teacher or an older student, I always did better and my confidence soared. It takes so little to make PE an inclusive place for all, and I commend CJ for trying to make it even more so. Because of him, many more kids will have a positive experience in PE. (By the way, this was in the dark ages, about 50 years ago!)
Wow! So cool! Go CJ! We live in the Netherlands where all PE classes are mixed, and have been since I was in school 20-30 years ago. I have a transgender daughter and would love for her to be as outspoken as CJ can be when she is older 🙂
This is awesome – speaking up can be hard and scary. The bravest thing we do is stand up for ourselves and blaze a path for others. Great going CJ, and wonderful job mom and dad for showing CJ how it’s done. We can change the world and make better, more accepting place for everyone, one small victory at a time.
I love your spirit CJ! And I love your parents’ support! When I was in junior high, I was the first girl to ever take wood/metal shop, instead of home-ec. And it was because I asked, and my Mom went to the school board. That was 7th grade, and it took 2 years to completely change — so that girls could take shop – AND boys could take home-ec.
Keep speaking your mind/heart, CJ. You are beautiful!
Way to go CJ! I’m so glad they listened to you, for the most part, and that your letter is getting forwarded on.
Yay! Bravo! Standing O! Grrrreat story! Let me edit the movie! 😉
absolutely loved this example of positive action generating positive discussion. We need more of this, and I’m glad to see how proactively the school system administrators responded!
The Cato’s love you guys! Keep on blazing that trail!
While I don’t want to defend the PE teacher with the cringe-y response, I do sort of see her point. Back in the Dark Ages of my grade school years, I remember three distinct groups of girls in PE class… the few true athletes skilled enough to force their way into play, the gossip-gaggle who pretended to participate by jogging up and down the fringes of the game while chatting, and the ones who tried to play but the boys and the athletes never sent the ball our way. (Soccer, basketball, flag football, etc.) I was part of that last group. However, when I was in 4th grade, we got a new PE teacher, whose motto was, “Everyone plays.” He didn’t just ref the games, he’d jump in and send the ball towards those of us who were so often excluded due to gender, lack of skill, or both. Maybe C.J.’s PE teacher could try doing something like that to get all the kids involved in the game?
I remember that too. While I think that teacher’s heart was in the right place, working with the more competitive students to include the rest of the class would definitely be a better, if more difficult, option.
I live in the Netherlands and all PE classes there have been mixed for decades. It works just fine. Sure there are groups one times and not everyone always participates on the same level, but that can be remedied by addressing that issue and not by dividing the kids.
What a proud mom you must be! You’re raising a very brave and strong fighter there! Although CJ will probably be facing obstacles in his life, victories like these will give him the strength to keep moving! My child is nearly 25 and gender fluid- I know how huge this would have been for them if something as simple as not splitting by sex or gender had been followed in school.
This is exactly how the world should work: identifying an issue or problem, thinking about it, finding a solution, and convincing others to either embrace it or build upon it. If Washington, DC takes a lesson from CJ’s elementary school district, the world will be a far better place.
Awesome. Just a good old fashioned dialog, no rants and screaming, and look at how fast people respond. Nice going CJ. Well done.
What a wonderful thing! Way to go, CJ! I truly believe that sometimes the kids have the loudest voices when advocacy and awareness is involved. You keep doing you, CJ!