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NEW YORK – Walking back a controversial six-page gender policy it planned to add to the archdiocesan school’s handbook on January 1, 2023, the Archdiocese of Omaha has replaced it with a narrower single-page policy that will be implemented for the 2023-2024 school year.
The move comes after the former policy, which the archdiocese said was “prematurely shared” in August, generated pushback. Unlike the former, the revised policy doesn’t mention possible dismissal or disciplinary action for transgender students, and drops the portion that applied to school employees and volunteers.
Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha said in a statement that the revised policy “balances the pastoral needs and obligations of parents, guardians, students, and school leaders within the mission of the Church,” and “acknowledges our responsibility to uphold Catholic teaching in our schools.”
The revised policy, which was approved on Dec. 9 and obtained by Crux, states:
- In the Archdiocese of Omaha, all Catholic schools shall respect the biological sex of each student and shall apply all policies and procedures in relation to that student according to each student’s God-given biological sex.
- All students shall conduct themselves in accord with their God-given biological sex as it relates to the use of personal pronouns, dress code, use of public bathrooms, and participation in school-sponsored activities. All official school documents shall likewise reflect the student’s biological sex.
- Admission or retention will not be denied based solely on a student’s experience of gender dysphoria. If a student experiences gender dysphoria and/or incongruence, school leaders and pastors shall partner with parents to establish an accompaniment plan. This plan must follow the teachings of the Catholic faith.
- If at any time, parents, guardians or students desire accommodations or accompaniment that do not follow this policy, it may be necessary to begin the school transfer process for the good of the student and the school community. At every stage of this process, parents and guardians will be invited to their parish for pastoral support.
The revised policy was formulated with the help of more than 150 people, including school leaders, priests, deacons, mental health professionals, professors, pediatricians, community leaders, parish leaders, and individuals with first-hand experience of gender dysphoria, according to the archdiocese.
There are 70 Archdiocese of Omaha schools to which the new policy will apply.
In announcing the revisions, the archdiocese said that the “reality of creation, sex and gender is sometimes misunderstood and ignored” in modern society. The revised policy, “rooted in the Catholic understanding of gender,” is intended, it said, “to guide the accompaniment offered to those experiencing gender dysphoria and/or incongruence in our school communities.”
The biggest difference between the revised policy and original policy is the absence of a section for school employees and volunteers. The original policy stated that they must publicly be in accord with their biological sex at all times, including with dress, bathroom usage and names and titles.
For students and parents, the essence of the revised policy is largely the same as that of its predecessor, though it’s more straightforward and doesn’t go nearly as deep into specific scenarios.
For example, the original policy stipulated that behaviors that cause disruption or confusion regarding the church’s teaching on sexuality is prohibited, and that social media conduct by students must not endorse a view contrary to the church’s teachings. It also stated that a student showing hostility or defiance towards church teaching in the classroom could face dismissal.
Further, the original draft policy stated that a child whose parent(s) permit gender-affirming care and medications, or authorizes sex procedures or surgery, cannot be enrolled in an archdiocesan school, and that every current and prospective student and his or her parents must respect Catholic teaching.
The revised policy expresses more of a desire to work with parents, and only goes as far as to say that a possible transfer should be explored if a situation becomes untenable for both sides. While a number of dioceses have released similar gender policies in recent years, it appears the Archdiocese of Omaha is the first to revisit and eventually revise its original plan.
In announcing the policy, Lucas said he is proud of the archdiocesan schools.
“Our dedicated teachers and administrators see it as a privilege to partner with parents to teach and form their children according to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Lucas said. “We are committed to ongoing formation for this important task and to teaching the truth in love as Jesus does.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg