Local News

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

Posted August 29, 2007 4:52 p.m. EDT
Updated August 29, 2007 6:33 p.m. EDT

— 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.