As of January 1, 2023, Omaha, Nebraska, schools that are under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha will have a firm set of rules regarding gender. You can read the policy issued by the diocese on this page, but here is a summary:
- Schools cannot sponsor, accommodate or host an event that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church about sexuality or gender.
- Students will be treated as a member of their biological sex.
- Students will participate in sports as someone of their biological sex. This also applies to locker rooms and bathrooms.
- Students with gender dysphoria will be allowed to enroll so long as they abide by the policy and the policies of the individual school and enrollment at single-sex schools will be based on biological sex.
- Students (and parents) must respect the teachings of the Church on faith, morals, and sexuality. Refusing to adhere to the teachings of the Church, having the child undergo gender-affirming therapy or surgery, or cross-sex or puberty-blocking medications will disqualify a student from enrolling or this child will be dismissed from the school.
That is what is making its way around the web. What is being left out is the fact that if there is a problem, the school will work with the parents to resolve it. If it cannot be resolved, then the child can be withdrawn or dismissed. The policy also says that it is acceptable to question Catholic teaching, but hostility and defiance are not acceptable.
Basically, when it comes to dress and behavior, students are expected to confirm Catholic teaching. In other words, if you want your child to go to one of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Catholic schools, you have to follow Catholic rules.
KETV reports that the policy only applies to schools that fall under the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. But Catholic schools like Creighton Prep, Marian, Mercy, and the Duchesne Academy, which are under religious orders, will not be affected. The Duchesne Academy released the following statement to the TV station:
Our school year has just begun, and our policy handbook is established for the year. We will not adopt the recently published policy regarding gender issues and will continue to work closely with the archdiocese of Omaha.
According to the Omaha World-Herald, some people are fine with the new policy while others understand that, for lack of a better phrase, “it is what it is.” One person said that while they may not agree, they understand that the school policy reflects the stance of the church. The paper also quoted Candice Towey, who serves on the school board of St. Cecilia Cathedral Catholic School and has a child enrolled there:
“It seems very anti-Catholic, in my opinion, to say, ‘Oh, you people are OK, but you are not OK, and we don’t want anything to do with you… My daughter happens to like having short hair… How long before they say, ‘Well, your daughter is not feminine enough and she needs to wear her hair longer’?”
Towey also said mentioned attending a Pride parade and wondered if she would be barred from volunteering if she posted about it on social media.
The paper also quoted Abbi Swatsworth, executive director of OutNebraska, who said: “It is heartbreaking when young people reach out to us because their families and schools do not affirm who they are. It is even more heartbreaking to learn about young people who end their lives.”
Jessi Hitchins, who is the director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, told the Word-Herald: “Kids who don’t have their gender identity affirmed have a higher likelihood of dying by suicide, higher rate of not completing their high school degree and don’t have a good experience in school…Why would you want to go to college when you’ve only experienced spaces that were homophobic or transphobic?” She added “We know if students feel affirmed, they don’t feel like the world hates them for who they are…But if they can’t be who they are, the message is ‘I don’t deserve to be here.’ That is an incredible message that is being told to our youth.” The paper also quoted a parent who is not a practicing Catholic but has a child enrolled at one of the schools who said that the policies “fly in the face of the inclusive atmosphere that our grade school, in particular, has really worked hard to build.”
Opponents of the policies are planning their response.