Saline Area Schools’ Weber-Blaess School provides “a living history experience for students” to learn what education was like in a one-room schoolhouse, but one historical practice is just too much.

“I am reaching out because I received feedback that the docents and or school masters are using binary/gendered language (‘boy’/’girl’) to orient students in Weber-Blaess activities,” Kara Davis, executive director of teaching and learning for Saline Area Schools, wrote in an email to staff. “I am confident that all volunteers want to create the best experience possible and would never intentionally exclude students.

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“I also recognize that there is historical accuracy to this practice, however I want to ensure we aren’t replicating harmful practices on students of today to model what happened historically.”

The May 16 email, posted to X by Libs of TikTok, advises “an adjustment that needs to be communicated to the docents/schoolmasters is that they should not use ‘boy’/’girl’ to refer to students,” Davis wrote. “They can use ‘students’, ‘children’, ‘visitors’ rather than specifying ‘boys’ and ‘girls’.”

Davis suggests that when students need to divided into groups, “examples of doing so without causing harm to transgender and nonbinary students” include using birthdays or numbering them then splitting groups using odd and even numbers.

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“Docents can explain that teachers historically may have organized their students by ‘boy’/’girl’ but should not actually employ it as a strategy,” she wrote.

Davis did not immediately return a message from The Midwesterner to discuss her directive, and what prompted it.

According to the Saline Area Historical Society, the Weber-Blaess School, built in 1867, was moved in 2002 to its current location on Woodland Drive, “where young people can have a one-room school experience between the years of 1890-1950.”

“The school had three sessions: summer, fall, and winter. The younger girls went to school during the months of May, June, and July because during the regular school sessions, the older boys were too rough,” according to the society’s website. “During these months, the boys were busy helping with the farm work.”

Historical accuracy is less critical in Saline than the district’s and city’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which have ramped up significantly since 2020, according to MLive.

“Listening sessions” with aggrieved students in 2022 that included feedback from LGBTQ+ students, as well as Black students and other minorities, combined with equity perception surveys, community meetings, have helped guide a reorganized curriculum and instruction department led by Davis and others.

As part of that work, Davis and her 12-member department “have worked with teachers upon request on practicing conversations around challenging topics,” she told MLive.

The email in Saline follows about a month after DeWitt’s Schavey Road Elementary was forced to cancel planned gender sensitivity instruction on proper pronoun use after fierce public backlash.

Principal Liz Crouch and DeWitt Superintendent Shanna Spickard announced the lessons using the book “They She He Me Free to Be!” on April 11, and by April 19 had abandoned the effort, blaming the decision on threats from the public.

“Since that announcement, several of our hard-working school staff members have received inappropriate, angry, and threatening phone calls, emails, and social media messages. Some staff members have had their personal information, including information regarding their families and children, placed online to harass and intimidate them, a cyberbullying practice called ‘doxing,’” the district posted to Facebook. “While the vast majority of these inappropriate communications have originated outside of our community, several staff members have expressed feeling anxious, stressed, and even afraid to go to school.”