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School Encourages Staff & Students To Avoid Saying “Mom” & “Dad” To Be More Inclusive

“Families are formed and structured in many ways.”

In an effort to use more inclusive language, a Manhattan private school has asked staff and students to avoid using phrases like “mom and dad” and instead use “family” or “folks.” In September, though it’s recently garnered headlines, the school issued a 12-page guide for parents featuring inclusive language choices in an effort to help “reflect diversity” in students’ homes.

Family, staff, and students at Grace Church School, a junior kindergarten to grade 12 private school with an annual tuition of around $46,000, were sent a 12-page guide on inclusivity, NBC News reported. “The goal of this guide is to provide the community with more inclusive language that is aligned with the mission of Grace Church School,” the school’s inclusive language guide reads. “... This guide addresses ways we can remove harmful assumptions from the way we interact with each other.”

In the guide, the school encourages its community to use words like “folks,” “grown-ups,” or just plain “family,” instead of gendered titles like “mom” and “dad.” As for kids referring to their “nanny/babysitter,” the school urges students to say “caregiver” or “guardian” instead.

“Families are formed and structured in many ways,” the guide explains. “At Grace Church School, we use inclusive language that reflects this diversity. It’s important to refrain from making assumptions about who kids live with, who cares for them, whether they sleep in the same place every night, whether they see their parents, etc.”

Grace Church School in Manhattan has an updated inclusive language guide.Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The comprehensive guide also included some tips on reframing questions students and staff might ask. For instance, instead of “What are you?” or “Where are you from?”, Grace Church School recommends asking instead, “What is your cultural/ethnic background? Where are your ancestors/is your family from?”

While there has been some criticism of the guide on social media, Assistant Head of Grace Church School Rev. Robert Pennoyer defended the more inclusive guide in a statement to The City Journal. “Grace is an Episcopal school,” Pennoyer said. “As part of our Episcopal identity, we recognize the dignity and worth common to humanity.”