University lifts suspension of student refusing to use ‘preferred’ pronouns
GENESEO, New York, April 7, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A student who was suspended from a State University of New York school of education for publicly insisting he will only recognize people’s biological gender, even if they “identify as” another gender, has had prior conditions for his reinstatement lifted by the school.
After fellow students complained about his Instagram posts, The School of Education at the State University of New York at Geneseo had suspended Stevens from his field teaching programs and demanded that he complete a “remediation plan” before resuming them. They demanded that he complete “SafeZone” training and change his “social media footprint,” which the letter said “should show respect for diverse personal and cultural values.”
In a letter to Stevens explaining the school’s decision, its Interim Director, Dennis Showers, rebuked Stevens for insisting on keeping public an Instagram video in which he stated, “If I’m a man that thinks I’m a woman, I’m still a man.”
Showers wrote to Stevens in reference to this video: “You continue to maintain, ‘I do not recognize the gender that they claim to be if they are not biologically that gender.’ This public position is in conflict with the Dignity for All Students Act requiring teachers to maintain a classroom environment protecting the mental and emotional well-being of all students.”
The letter continued, “We cannot be confident you will support such an environment given your ongoing social media presence and continued defense of the judgment that sexual identities other than cis-gender are aberrant.”
Stevens refused to complete the “remediation plan,” and sent an appeal letter to the school, in which he argued, “While I do respect diverse personal and cultural values, I also have my own personal and cultural values. Respect doesn’t mean agreement. Tolerance doesn’t mean agreement. If we all agreed there would be nothing to respect or tolerate. That’s the point of intellectual diversity.”
“But apparently not under the School of Education’s policies,” Stevens continued. “It is antithetical to the marketplace of ideas and the principles of the First Amendment to 1) censor me from expressing those values, 2) punish me for expressing my opinion, and 3) require me to submit my communications for review and approval by a committee or government administrator.”
In response to Stevens’ appeal, the School of Education’s Associate Provost for Academic Success, Joseph Cope, wrote to Showers explaining the decision to lighten the conditions for his reinstatement to in-school field experiences.
Stevens is no longer required to complete SafeZone training, or meet with the Dispositions Committee at the end of each semester “regarding professional standards.”
The prior demand that he “modify or reduce” his social media “footprint” has also been lifted, and replaced with the condition that Stevens “self-monitor” his social media posts to “ensure that he presents himself in a professional manner.”
However, as part of Stevens’ reinstatement, the university said he “must review the state’s ‘Guidance to School Districts for Creating a Safe and Supportive School Environment For Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students’ documents.”
The New York State documents that Stevens has been asked to review state that The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) “defines gender as ‘a person’s actual or perceived sex and includes a person’s gender identity or expression.’”
With regard to gender pronouns, the document “recommends,” but does not specifically require, “that school staff and educators inquire which terms students prefer.” It furthermore states, “A good general guideline is to employ those terms which the students use to describe themselves.”
In his Instagram videos, Stevens makes it clear that he believes forcing people to refer to others with terms incongruent with their biology is an “infringement upon freedom of speech.”
He explained in one video on “Transphobia and speech”: “In my college, my first day of school we were told we have to use language like this and we have to declare our pronouns when we’re meeting somebody. I would say, ‘Hey, my name is Owen, and my pronouns are he, him, his. And he would respond, ‘Hey Owen, I’m Matt, and my pronouns are he, him, his.’ That’s absolute ridiculous nonsense.”
“It is not at all wrong or violent to call somebody by a pronoun because you perceive them to be a man or a woman. They are calling it an act of violence to ‘mis-gender’ somebody. This is very scary territory,” Stevens continued.
He also explained in this video, “We used to call this gender dysphoria. If you thought you were born in the wrong body, it was considered a disorder.”
It is apparent from Stevens’ Instagram page that he has received much backlash from other students about his posts. He said that he has even “received threats” from other students who were angered by his videos.
In his “Transphobia and speech” video, Stevens made clear his insistence on treating “transgender” people with love and “decency.”
“Now I don’t want any transgender person to experience any kind of bullying or any kind of transphobic actions towards them. I think that’s horrible. I think that they’re struggling with something that’s incredibly difficult, because they’re struggling with the very nature of their identity themselves,” he said.
“So if you’re a person out there that thinks it’s funny to make fun of them, stop. Don’t do it. Be their friend and tell them you love them. Tell them Jesus loves them.” He continued, “That’s the number one most important thing, is to make sure we’re treating people with decency, and being decent human beings to other people.”
In a statement to The College Fix, Stevens explained that even amid the lifting of requirements for his reinstatement, he “will be taking every action necessary to get these policies changed legally.”
Stevens told the Daily Wire, “This is a huge victory for us … but we need to push back so that destructive policies leave our universities,” Stevens said. “We are still planning legal action … The much larger issue is that the university will almost always back down in the face of negative media attention. Going the legal route will provide legal precedent in order to challenge their policies in court.”