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Private school says phrases like 'mom and dad' should be avoided

An inclusive language guide from Grace Church School in New York City states that "mom and dad" should be replaced with words like "grown-ups, folks, or family."
Grace Church High School, New York City.
Grace Church School, New York City.GHI/Education Images/Universal / Getty Images

A New York City private school has issued guidance suggesting that phrases like "mom and dad" and "boys and girls" should be avoided in a push to make the campus more inclusive.

Grace Church School said its 12-page "Grace Inclusive Language Guide" was designed to provide staff with language that fits the school's mission.

"While we recognize hateful language that promotes racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination are already addressed in our school handbooks, we also recognize that we can do more than ban hateful language; we can use language to create welcoming and inclusive spaces," it reads.

"This guide addresses ways we can remove harmful assumptions from the way we interact with each other."

The school says that phrases such as "boys and girls" or "ladies and gentlemen," should be replaced with words like people, folks or friends. It says that students should be asked how they identify instead of assuming their gender based on appearance or clothing.

The document also states that "mom and dad" should be replaced with words like "grown-ups, folks, or family."

George Davison, head of the school, said via email Thursday that the guide was posted in September. He said they are not banning certain words or phrases, but want to avoid assumptions being made.

"We have been trying to help families find the right words for years and this was designed as an aid to that process," he said.

"Families come in many shapes and sizes and always have," Davison continued. "The recommendation to use the formal of 'your grown-ups' or 'adults' when you don't know is a way of ensuring that you do not needlessly hurt or alienate before you do. This is a sign of politeness and respect that we have subscribed to for decades."

In a lengthy message posted Thursday on the school's homepage, Davison said that the school has always encouraged students to use "honorifics such as Mr., Ms., or Dr. when talking with an adult in this community."

The inclusive language guide will "give us all words to use that will bring people together," he wrote.

The guide also has suggestions on dealing with diversity and religious holidays. It states that words like "minority" should be replaced with "person of color" if that's how the student identifies, and "Merry Christmas" should be replaced with phrases like "Have a good break."

The school also says that assumptions about a person's sexual orientation should be avoided.

"People get to love who they want to love. Avoid making assumptions about how adults identify themselves in the present or how children might identify themselves in the future. Sexuality can be fluid along the course of a person’s life," the guide says.

Davison said in his email that parents and students have been receptive to the new guidance.

Grace Church School has two campuses in downtown Manhattan, one for junior kindergarten to eighth grade and the other for high school. The tuition for the 2021-2022 school year is $57,330, according to the school's website.