School omitting the word ‘freshmen’ from handbook in the name of gender neutrality


Societal norms are falling away in the name of social inclusivity, ranging from what bathroom to use to what pronouns are allowed.

At Easthampton High School in Easthampton, Mass., students have been asked not to use the word “freshmen.” Instead, the class will be referred to as “first-year students,” omitting “men” to make the term for the incoming class gender neutral.

The change came after a four-month investigation was launched by the attorney general’s office. With the investigation prompted by racial incidents at the school in May, the school began a training program to address diversity and inclusion.

That program required the appointment of a diversity officer who would ensure the site was complying with civil rights laws. The term “first-year students”- which seems to lack the ease and ring of “freshmen”- is preferable, as the school addresses how to make all students feel comfortable and welcome.

The student handbook committee made the change at the suggestion of students from the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Group, who thought the school’s handbook could have more gender-neutral language.

While the students are encouraged to use the new terminology, it is not required. Easthampton Superintendent Nancy Follansbee said in a statement that students can still use the term freshmen, if they choose.

One Easthampton resident, Eileen Corbel, approved of the update. “Changing the way we use pronouns has been a challenge for me,” she said. “I want people to feel comfortable and if it means that I have to change the way I use my language, I’m ok with that.”

Students learned about the recommended change in terminology, and the update to the student handbook, during an assembly last Wednesday.

President Donald J. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., had his own suggestion for terminology they could use, if “first year students” doesn’t work out. Trump Jr. recommended in a tweet that they swap just the pronoun “men” to a more gender-neutral word. He wrote: “How about freshit???”

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