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Private All-Girls School Will Now Admit Biological Males Who Identify as Female

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

In 2016, Barnard College, an all-women’s liberal arts college affiliated with Columbia University, updated its admissions policy to consider biological males who identify as women. Wellesley College created a similar policy, admitting biological males who identify as women. Now, after 18 months of deliberation, a private elite all-girls high school announced that it will update its admissions policies to include biological male “transgender” women.

Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee implemented a new policy this week that any student, including biological males, who identify as female may apply. Harpeth Halls is a college preparatory school dating back to 1865 for girls grades 5 through 12 costing around $33,000 a year. Some of Harpeth’s alumnae include comedian Minnie Pearl, singer Amy Grant and actresses Willa Fitzgerald and Reese Witherspoon.

In an email sent to parents, the school announced it would be following a new “Gender Diversity Philosophy” going forward. The document sent to parents, which was obtained by OutKick, states that the schools’ Board of Trustees “consulted with other girls schools” and experts before unveiling the policy.

As the world evolves, so do our students. The concept of gender has expanded and deepened over time. The members of our school community have asked good and important questions about gender inclusion and have looked for greater clarity on the school’s practices. Harpeth Hall’s administration, faculty, and the DEI Committee of the Board of Trustees have come together to discuss and more deeply understand gender diversity. They have heard from experts on the topic, shared educational articles, and consulted with other girls schools.

The document sent to the parents continued, stating that “cultural dialogue around gender is evolving” and that Harpeth Hall must foster a “diverse, equitable and inclusive” environment for students to learn. It also notes that if a female student asks to be identified as male or adopt he/him pronouns, the school will help the family to determine their next steps.

With this objective in mind, we have adopted the following guidelines that outline how Harpeth Hall approaches gender diversity within the context of our girls school mission. 

– Harpeth Hall is a girls school. The school culture is unique and distinctly about girls, complete with the use of references to students as girls and young women and the collective use of female pronouns. Any student who identifies as a girl may apply to our school. Students who join and remain at Harpeth Hall do so because our mission as a school for girls resonates with them. 

– Harpeth Hall acknowledges the developmental journey of each student and recognizes that adolescence includes natural searching and questioning about many topics. For some students, this may include the question of gender identity and the desire to identify as nonbinary or use they/them pronouns. Harpeth Hall approaches gender identity with understanding and open communication, rather than with shame or othering, and will provide a safe environment to partner with each student and family to consider the needs and requests of the student on an individual basis. 

– If a student communicates a desire to be identified as male or adopt he/him pronouns, we recognize that our school, being a girls school, may no longer be a place that serves that student well. We see this acknowledgment as the ultimate form of respect: an understanding that we support the individual and the student’s gender identity. Harpeth Hall administration will work thoughtfully with the student and family to evaluate next steps.

Local outlet WKRN obtained a letter sent to Harpeth alumnae explaining the new policy. 

Conversations about gender identity are happening throughout Nashville and across the country – at school both public and private, from elementary up through college. For the last 18 months, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of Harpeth Hall’s Board of Trustees has worked – at the request of school leadership – to create a philosophy that provides greater clarity and transparency around gender identity at our school. We feel it is important for our alumnae to know about this philosophy, which we shared with faculty at their in-service meeting yesterday and with our parent community this morning. 

It is also important that you know, for more than 155 years, Harpeth Hall has been a school for girls. That is not changing.

The letter avoids mentioning that boys who “identify as females” will be admitted to the school going forward. 

This philosophy does not modify our longstanding admission practice requiring that each student’s family checks a box indicating that the student is female.

WKRN spoke to several alumnae about the school’s new policy. It generated “mixed reactions,” and some who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they believed it was “not beneficial to the school and will allow boys the chance to attend.”

Harpeth Hall’s Equity, Inclusion and Belonging webpage explains how the philosophy is carried out in the classroom. The curriculum, dubbed “DEI,” which stands for “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” is “not a code for Critical Race Theory,” the webpage reads. 

To be clear: DEIB is not code for Critical Race Theory. Nor is it an attempt to indoctrinate students. And it certainly isn’t aimed at depreciating any particular group. Rather, it’s quite the opposite. Harpeth Hall’s DEIB work is best characterized as data-informed initiatives and programming designed to honor the manifold social and cultural identifiers represented within our community and advance our community members’ cross-cultural understandings.

Townhall covered in June how the Biden administration is working on redefining “sex” in federal law to include “gender identity.” Women’s rights activist Kara Dansky, who authored the book "The Abolition of Sex: How the ‘Transgender’ Agenda Harms Women and Girls," and president of the U.S. chapter of Women's Declaration International, explained to me how she is a Democrat but is "extremely disappointed" in Biden administration.

"Speaking solely for myself, I'm a lifelong Democrat. And I'm extremely disappointed in the current administration's attack on women's rights by redefining sex to include gender identity throughout federal administrative law," Dansky said. "It would be a travesty to try to redefine the word 'sex' for Title IX purposes, to include the nebulous, vague, and incoherent concept of gender identity."

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