Letters to School—Alternatives to PE

This post is the next in my series of letters parents have written to schools on behalf of their gender-nonconforming and transgender children (the first, second, and third appear here). The following letter was written by Jenna Murase* to her son’s middle school principal. Jenna sought permission for her son to fulfill his PE requirement outside of school, because the school’s gender-divided PE curriculum would be detrimental to her gender-nonconforming son Nobu. For the letter, Jenna quoted extensively from the school’s own policies to reinforce her position—a strategy which worked very well.

Dear Mr. Jeffries,

We are writing to you in regards to Nobu Murase and his PE class starting in the 6th grade. As we understand, you are fully prepared to accommodate Nobu in the mainstream program at Pine Lakes Middle School. However, given the sensitive nature surrounding Nobu’s gender identity issues, if the idea is to achieve his optimal emotional development we need to provide Nobu with an alternative experience at school. We feel that forcing participation in gym will be emotionally detrimental to Nobu and will cause his academic performance to go down.

Although Nobu has no physical disabilities which prevent him from participating, he does have emotional and social disabilities surrounding his gender identity that consistently cause behavioral issues during this class. Given that PE is mostly divided by gender, Nobu experiences a high level of anxiety, fear, and stress when attending this class for a myriad of gender-related reasons. His report cards from his last school clearly reflect the ongoing struggles he has had in the class socially. 

We would like Nobu to participate in the classes that are not divided by gender. When classes are divided by gender we would like him to have the option to do a research project on anything to do with health, sports, or physical fitness, or to write a current event essay of some sort.

I can assure you that we can provide Nobu the physical activity, or active participation, that is required by law though figure skating lessons after school. To obtain his optimal physical development, Nobu will be at skating, or a skating-related activity, a minimum of five hours per week. Every time he participates in skating he will be dressed in the proper skating attire and using the proper skating equipment. One of Nobu’s weekly skating activities is an ice performance group. During this time he will learn how to work as part of a skating team that will foster a sense of sportsmanship, cooperation, and leadership. The group will be performing and competing at a number of venues throughout the school year. 

Ultimately, as Nobu matures and “figures himself out,” our goal is to build his confidence with full mainstream participation.

Thank you for considering this option for Nobu.  We look forward to working closely with you.

Sincerely,

The Murase Family

Thank you to Jenna and all the parents who have shared their letters! You are an amazing resource!

*All of the names and places are pseudonyms

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Comments

  1. Jen says

    Sarah,
    This is fascinating – it’s the kind of stuff that hadn’t even occurred to me yet, which is why it’s so important to share this information with others. I really loathe and dread the separating of the sexes at school; they started doing that at lunch time in the cafeteria in my son’s first grade class in public school, which I can’t figure out. Anyway, thank you again! A very thoughtfully written letter, as well.

  2. says

    Thanks so much for sharing these thoughtful and careful communications with schools. I’d love a follow-up series on how things turned out regarding some of these requests. I definitely wonder (and worry, I think) how my pink boy would fare in something like sex-segregated classes on “health” and sexuality…..

    • shoffman says

      Excellent idea! I’d love to hear, too, how things work out for my readers as they ask their schools to make such ground-breaking changes in policies and procedures. I’ll update soon on how it’s going at our school.

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