A religious school in Florida says it will only refer to students by their sex assigned at birth, while pupils who are gay, transgender or gender nonconforming "will be asked to leave the school immediately."
NBC News is reporting that it obtained an email from Grace Christian School in Valrico, about 20 miles east of Tampa, sent before the beginning of the school year by Administrator Barry McKeen.
The subject line of the email reads: "Important School Policy Point of Emphasis ... Please Read."
The June 6 correspondence to parents cited scripture and said that students will be referred to by the "gender on their birth certificates" during the school year beginning this month. While the email refers to "biological gender," in the United States, the National Institute of Health defines gender as a social construct, as opposed to ‘sex’, which is the biological difference between females and males.
“We believe that God created mankind in His image: male (man) and female (woman), sexually different but with equal dignity," the email stated.
"Therefore, one's biological sex must be affirmed and no attempts should be made to physically change, alter, or disagree with one's biological gender — including, but not limited to, elective sex reassignment, transvestite, transgender, or non-binary gender fluid acts of conduct (Genesis 1:26-28). Students in school will be referred to by the gender on their birth certificate and be referenced in name in the same fashion."
It continued: "We believe that any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgender identity/lifestyle, self-identification, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography are sinful in the sight of God and the church (Genesis 2:24; Leviticus 18:1-30; Romans 1:26-29; I Corinthians 5:1; I Corinthians 6:9; I Thessalonians 4:2-7)."
"Students who are found participating in these lifestyles will be asked to leave the school immediately," the email said.
It added that “While the policy is not new, it must be understood and accepted completely”.
It said parents would "have to agree to all policies and procedures before your student may start school in August."
In a video statement, McKeen confirmed that the school policy does not allow students to be homosexual or transgender and that an email was sent to parents on June 6 reminding them of the policy.
"It is true that a student cannot come to our school ... and be transgender or homosexual. This is rooted in scriptures," he said. "God has spoken on those issues, explicitly, aggressively, and we have had these policies in our school since day number one in the early 1970s. This is not new."
McKeen said the policy will remain.
"We are not a hateful group of people. We don't hate students who are of a particular persuasion," he added.
The email reportedly was a factor in prompting the family of a 16-year-old girl, who is gay and was a student at the school, to transfer her to another religious school that is more accepting.
"It's not like my daughter goes around wearing rainbow flags or anything like that," the teenager’s mother said. "But I'm not going to have her feel ashamed of herself for any reason."
The woman and her daughter asked that their identities be withheld out of fear of harassment.
The teen said she felt like a "social outcast" at Grace Christian, but that her new school allows her to “just be myself."
"At the new school, I feel normal," she said.