EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s all about the pronouns. Easthampton High School students are being asked to no longer use the word “freshmen.” The school is asking students to use the term “first year students,” instead.    Easthampton High School freshmen are now being referred to as “first year students” as the school aims to be more gender inclusive.“Changing the way we use pronouns has been a challenge for me,” said Eileen Corbeil of Easthampton. “I want people to feel comfortable and if it means that I have to change the way I use my language, I’m ok with that.”

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The change comes after students from the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Group made recommendations to the handbook committee, on how the school’s handbook language could be made more gender neutral.A draft of the handbook was first shared with the Student and School Councils before being presented to the school committee for approval.

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“Currently High School students would have the right of free speech to use the term “freshman,” James Winston, Esq., told 22News. The school would have a very high bar to show that there was some type of harm that would happen with that term being used.Easthampton Superintendent Nancy Follansbee issued a statement to make clear that students can use the term freshman if they choose to.  In May, the Attorney General’s office launched an investigation into racial incidents at the school.   

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The AG’s four month investigation resulted in the school undergoing diversity and inclusion training, which required the appointment of a diversity officer, to ensure compliance with civil rights laws.Students were informed of the handbook language change during an assembly last Wednesday.