Local News

Parent Doesn't Want Children to Learn of Teacher's Sex Change

Posted August 29, 2007

— A teacher at a Durham private school underwent a sex change over the summer, sparking a debate among school administrators and at least one parent over how to approach the issue in class.

Leslie Webster has taught music at Duke School for Children for 12 years as a woman but started the new school year Wednesday as a man.

The parents of all 460 students at the private elementary and middle school, which isn't affiliated with Duke University, received a letter this week notifying them of Webster's sex change and outlining plans to inform students on Sept. 4.

School headmaster Dave Michelman said in the letter that "children will be told that Leslie was born a female but felt like a male" and became a man with doctors' help.

But Jim Gossett, whose 9-year-old daughter is in the fourth grade at Duke School, said the issue isn't appropriate to bring up in class.

"This is not an issue for a child to have to undergo by any means," Gossett said. "I do not believe this has any bearing involved in the learning process, nor should it be in it."

Gossett said he doesn't object to Webster's sex change, only the school's plans to discuss it with students.

"That is her prerogative. I have no problem with her decision for herself. (But) now it infringes on my daughter. That is not right," he said.

Webster couldn't be reached for comment, and Duke School administrators declined to comment.

In his letter to parents, Michelman called Duke School "an open, accepting community that honors diversity in many aspects."

"Leslie's transition is making him more content," Michelman said in the letter. "Leslie's feeling of peace can only translate to the children having a better (classroom) experience with him."

Parents picking up their children from school Wednesday said they hadn't yet talked to their children about Webster.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • talking Aug 31, 2007

    I have had children at Duke School for an aggreagate of 16 years. I was forced last night to tell my 5th grader, who had had Leslie as a teacher for 5 years, about the situation--because the media attention precluded doing what the school wanted to do. While I was not thrilled with the situation or how it was presented to us, I knew the school would handle it well and the statemnts made in the letter from the headmaster were true. My son looked at me strangely, asked few questions, and then said it didn't matter and he wanted to sign up for band with Leslie.

  • baileysmom3 Aug 31, 2007

    I am so tired of a Duke and their issues. Really its fine to have a teacher that used to be a female and is now male. Why is this even a problem?

  • scal Aug 30, 2007

    Sex change! HA! You should try being a Southerner trapped in a Yankee's body!

  • wiseguy910internet Aug 30, 2007

    I don't know which is worse - the immoral decision of this woman to have a sex change, the outrageous siding of the administration with her in the matter and the plan to tell the children about it, or the apparent lack of moral compass in our culture today as evidenced by the majority of the posts to this article. [Parents with discernment, here is all the more reason to pull your kids out of schools like this and put them into much safer environments.] The main issue here is not whether or not the school should tell the children, but whether or not this woman should be allowed to be in a position of influence over small children. The answer is a definitive NO. I'm not concerned of the lambasting of those who preach tolerance (it is pretty ironic that they can't see the log in their own eyes). This world has absolute truths; and if you disagree, then you must say "there are no absolute truths," which is a self-defeating argument. There ARE absolutes which all agree this is wrong!

  • luv2learn Aug 30, 2007

    You can't hide reality from kids. For those who approve or disapprove, communication with your kid is the key. You are never going to be able to control what they see, hear, or for that matter - what others tell them.

    If you disapprove (some here have called it perverted), share that with your child. Tell them why you disapprove, why you feel it is wrong, and comment on why others don't see it as wrong.

    If you approve, also discuss that with your child. Tell them that they may hear others who disapprove and explain how you feel about that.

    Can't anyone simply be a parent anymore? Liberal or conservative. Why does everyone feel they get a right to control what others might say or show to their children?
    Your children know there is a world out there. They know people don't always agree with one another. Be there to weigh in on the "controversy of the day" and discuss any and all of it with your child at an age-appropriate level.

  • tobeone Aug 30, 2007

    Unfortunately, the school made a decision regarding the situation without consulting with the Duke School Community first. An email was sent less than 24 hours before school was to begin. The email was the first that the community heard of Leslie’s choice to become male, including the school’s support and final decision to discuss the situation with the children. That is a lot of information for one email. If the parents had been informed in a timely matter, as well as educated regarding the issues at hand, then perhaps the father of the student would not have felt he needed the media to be heard. No one should discuss sexuality or any other tender subject without parental consent or at the very least a heads up prior to the discussion, specifically in a school community. This situation should never have happened, for whatever Leslie's life choices were, are in fact hers/his alone and no one's business.

  • atozca Aug 30, 2007

    The lack of respect shown own this post is sad. This father is not attacking the teacher's choice at all. Even if he was intolerant, or ignorant as some claim, he has as much right as anyone else to either condone this teacher's choice or not. I don't know why some of you are so proud to tolerate anything and everything. However, as a parent, he has more right than anyone regarding his child. I don't believe that he is as concerned with his child learning of the teacher's sex change as he is concerned with how she learns. It is not the schools place to prepare a warm, feel good speach on Mrs. Webster's sex change. The parent can explain however, he or she feels it needs to be explained. Furthermore, the school didn't inform the parents until contracts, that state the parents are responsible for tuition even if their children don't attend, were signed. Seems like the school is more concerned about money than students.

  • wralfan Aug 30, 2007

    "Your body... your right to change it, just some common curtousy and intelligence could go a long way.
    At least if I were the teacher, I would have ask for a transfer due to my decision
    August 30, 2007 7:23 a.m.
    Report abuse"

    Some common compassion would be nice too.

  • laneym Aug 30, 2007

    Your insults toward this person are digusting. What if you were in Leslie's position? How can you be so insesntitive to make jokes out of such a personal issue. Grow up.

    And as for the self-centered jerk who exposed Leslie to the news, he's done anything BUT protect the children from learning about it by GETTIING IT ON THE INTERNET. GOOD JOB. I feel sorry for his kid who's going to be frowned upon by the whole school because of his descision. Maybe he deserves the guilt.

    The school is partially to blame, though. They should have sent out a notice way earlier to notify the parents so they could determine whether or not they wanted their kids to learn about the sex change. Regardless, putting it on the news? Didin't solve anything, it just made it worse.

    Oh, and if you have any insulting replies to this post, thanks for once again proving my point.

  • wralfan Aug 30, 2007

    "If one of my kids' teachers couldn't adjust to or figure out their own identity, I don't think they're equipped, emotionally or psychologically, to be educating my child.
    August 29, 2007 7:55 p.m.
    Report abuse"

    It sounds like this teacher did figure it out and made steps appropriate for his situation.

    Sorry you're not equipped, emotionally or psychologically, to deal with it.