Sex vs. gender: Are the two interchangeable?


In society the words “sex” and “gender” are found to be synonymous, but is that truly the case?

At a recent school board meeting, board member Joe Guthrie questioned “insertions of language” in the Virginia School Boards Association’s (VSBA) policy updates regarding equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination, the main one being the addition of the word “sex” when “gender” is already included.

With the recommended updates inserted, a portion of the policy states, “… Discrimination in employment against any person on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, political affiliation, sex, gender, age, marital status, genetic information or disability is prohibited.”

“I’m wondering who is covered by sex that isn’t covered by gender and why (the use of both words). I find (sex and gender) to be interchangeable,” said Guthrie.

Dr. Gregory Brown, assistant superintendent for leadership, policy and student services, said he participated in a conference call with Elizabeth Ewing, staff attorney and director of legal and policy services for the VSBA. According to Brown, Ewing explained updates to the policy haven’t been made since 2002. Over this span of time, the Office for Civil Rights  (OCR) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have become “very active to the point that the OCR has developed a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter format.”

In an interview, Brown explained the letters are shared correspondences regarding the interpretation of a law or policy.

Brown explained before the board that the letters guide the OCR in determining the way it “deals with various discrimination issues … brought to the OCR’s attention.” He said Ewing explained the legal council with VSBA has received these “Dear Colleague” letters over the past few years and believes it should incorporate these “Dear Colleague” letters into the school system’s policy.  “It’s proactive on (the VSBA’s) part,” Brown said.

“You said it hasn’t been changed since 2002, as far as I know there were two genders then and two genders now,” said Guthrie. “I’m just a little bit puzzled as to if there is something more beyond the (the term) ‘gender’ that we’re getting at by inserting (the term ‘sex’). If so, I would like to know what it is before we approve it.”

According to the American Psychological Association, “Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female or intersex. Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity.”

Guthrie also questioned the addition of the word “ancestry,” as well –  saying he didn’t “see where ancestry covers someone who is not already covered by race or national origin.”

Barbour responded saying, “A group of people can have the same national origin who also have different ancestries.”

Brown said he would get clarification for Guthrie on the addition of “sex” and “ancestry” in the policy update. Action is expected to be taken on updates to the policy at the next school board meeting to be held Thursday, Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m., at the Central Office in downtown Pulaski.






5 Responses to Sex vs. gender: Are the two interchangeable?

  1. Jenny

    January 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Excuse me for being uneducated, but why is this even being discussed? I would think the school board would have more important decisions and subjects such as the way Pulaski and Dublin Middle School are falling down on the pupils and teachers, how the Dublin Elementary needs upgrades to electric for air conditioning, helping our teachers with supplies they buy from their own pockets. The subject of letting our teachers return to teaching instead of controling them with SOLS which limits their teaching ability, providing for our special needs children, hiring more workers to help with the special needs. Sex vs. gender? WOW how important…

    • david

      February 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      Your excused!

  2. Joe Guthrie

    January 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    In response to Jenny’s comment above, she makes a good point that we need to consider updating the school buildings, and we are doing that. An architectural firm is putting plans together now and Jenny and all our county residents can share their thoughts about buildings with them at public meetings that will be held soon. We are capable of handling other issues at the same time, and we have a lot of them. One of them is whether we want to update our non-discrimination language as recommended by the Virginia School Boards Association. My concern about this particular wording was whether it would require us to do or provide any services or facilities in our buildings that we are not currently providing and whether the new wording would prevent us from enforicng regulations about the use of facilities in our buildings any differently than we are now. If that’s the case it could have budgetary implications and I’d like to know the extent, if any, of those implications beore we approve the change in the wording.

  3. #hereIam

    February 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    lol @david

  4. Leann

    February 12, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Why is the bully problem at Pul. Elem. being talked about. That school does nothing to them. They separate the kid that is getting bullied away from there friends an the bully gets to go on like nothing has happened. I know my daughter has been stabbed in the back with a fork, Her life threatened, An hit several times. I thought there was a No Bully Policy in place well its not. When my daughters life was threatened they didn’t take is serious. I guess they think it cant happen to them. I have went to school board an nothing gets done. They say they will look into it. I never hear anything back. My daughter is not the only one that has been bullied by this kid.

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