MILWAUKEE – Deidri Hernandez’s seven-year-old son won’t be in school today, after officials at Tippecanoe School for the Arts and Humanities confirmed they’re still holding “Switch It Up Day” – a time for students to come dressed as members of the opposite sex.
Hernandez tells EAGnews the day was originally billed as “Gender Bender Day,” but Tippecanoe officials made the name change after she called Principal Jeffrey Krupar to complain.
The Milwaukee mother was not impressed.
“I didn’t have a problem with the title. I had a problem with the activity taking place,” Hernandez says.
She says it’s “ridiculous” and “creepy” to ask elementary boys to come to school dressed as girls, and vice versa, and predicts that having students dress as “transvestites” will distract from the learning process.
Hernandez knows of at least one other parent who shares her concerns and plans to hold her child out of class, too.
But it’s the motivation behind “Switch It Up Day” that has Hernandez most concerned.
She wonders if it is being done to promote the acceptance of homosexuality to students in school, which runs from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Hernandez thinks it’s inappropriate to expose young children to these issues, even in a light-hearted manner.
“They might as well call it ‘Transgender Day,’” she says.
According to Hernandez, when she called Krupar with her concerns, she was told the day was chosen by the school’s student council and is only meant to be fun.
Hernandez also complained to the superintendent’s office, but was told “by someone in the office” that the school wasn’t breaking any rules.
Hernandez says she’s “never stepped out like this” to challenge school policy, but decided somebody had to.
“Every time something’s bothering a liberal or an atheist, they come forward to complain. And somebody always has a problem with Easter or Christmas,” she explains.
Hernandez says her son won’t mind the day off from school, but she regrets that he’s going to miss a day of learning because of the controversy.
Tony Tagliavia, a spokesman for Milwaukee Public Schools, told EAGnews that “this is an idea created by students as one in a series of school spirit days” and participation is not mandatory.
We don’t believe the school meant any harm in approving the cross-dressing day. And we don’t believe the children who came up with the idea are trying to promote alternative lifestyles.
But we are concerned about student comfort. There are undoubtedly children at the school who felt like they had two bad choices today – either dress up as the opposite sex, which might make them feel uncomfortable, or dress normally and be out of place with the rest of the school, which might also make them feel uncomfortable.
The third alternative – skipping a day of school – means they are missing a day of important instruction.
School officials should have thought this one through before giving it the green light.
Ben Velderman contributed to this report