OMSI decides it will not ‘proactively’ ask Nyssa students for gender pronouns

NYSSA—The Nyssa School District has announced that the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which is hosting and paying for a fifth-grade field trip in April, would forgo its policy of inviting students to use their gender pronouns when museum staff introduces themselves to the fifth graders. 

The district’s announcement is a sudden about-face after a contentious Monday, March 13, Nyssa School Board meeting. Parents then demanded the board pull out of the three-day trip to the science museum’s Hancock Field Outdoor School located in the John Day Fossil Beds after the district notified the parents of the science museum’s equity statement.

That statement says: “OMSI outdoor school uses and supports inclusive pronouns. OMSI staff will introduce themselves using their pronouns, they, she, he, etc…. We’ll invite students, chaperones and teachers to do the same.” 

Board members told parents at the March meeting that the district had LGBTQ students at each of its schools and that it would not “marginalize” those students.  

Additionally, a fifth-grade teacher with a student using different pronouns who will be attending the outdoor school said she spoke to the student privately. According to the teacher, the student told her they were still “exploring things,” and on the trip, this student would be in a cabin with their gender that was assigned at birth. 

Nonetheless, Emily Olson, Nyssa Elementary School teacher, said in a Saturday, March 25 Facebook comment that the science museum reached out to the district after the March 13 board meeting. According to Olson, the organization would not invite or encourage students to share pronouns during the field trip. 

“This was in response to a request to do so from the district,” Olson said. 

Darren Johnson, Nyssa school superintendent, said in a Monday, March 27, email that the district asked OMSI to refrain from asking its students to use pronouns. 

“We communicated with OMSI and they said they would respect our request to not ask our students to share their pronouns,” Johnson said. 

Johnson declined to share the correspondence between the district and the science museum. 

Heather Wadia, OMSI’s senior director of brand marketing, said in an email to the Enterprise on Monday, March 27, that OMSI staff would not ask students coming from Nyssa School District to share pronouns. 

Wadia’s comments counter the organization’s equity statement on its website, which states that staff would “invite all participants” to share gender pronouns.

In a later email, Steve Tritz, OMSI’s senior director of statewide and community engagement, said OMSI responded to letters from the Nyssa School District that it would not “proactively” ask students to share their gender pronouns but nonetheless told the district that its students and staff would be “invited and welcome” to share them.

“It’s our hope,” Tritz said, “that all participants feel welcome to share and use the pronouns with which they are most comfortable.”

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