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Manhattan School Criticized For New Guidelines, Asking Students And Parents To Use More Inclusive Language

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There are new guidelines at a Manhattan school to use more inclusive language.

The private school posted a 12-page guide for its students and their families. The head of school spoke with CBS2's Hazel Sanchez on Thursday.

Grace Church School, an independent school in the East Village, prides itself on welcoming students of all faiths or no faith at all.

But now, it finds itself facing criticism for encouraging words that promote an inclusive environment, like saying "people" instead of "boys and girls," and "grown-up" instead of "parent," since not all children are being raised by a mother and/or father.

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One person tweeted, "Grace Church School in New York should be ashamed of themselves saying that you can't use the words mom and dad and you're supposed to use folks or family ..."

George Davison is head of Grace Church School.

"We're not telling people not to call their parents mom and dad. That's the silliest thing anybody ever came up with. And its not even a word police. It is rather a guide to inclusive language, if you want to use it," Davison said.

Back in September, the school posted the inclusive language guide at the request of teachers and parents who wanted help in making sure their interactions were affirming and uniting.

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Parents that spoke to CBS2 said they are supportive of the guidelines, and proud the school is also describing best practices for discussing faith, learning differences, and physical disabilities, like choosing to use the phrase "physically disabled" instead of "handicapped."

"We can't lock people together and assume anything about people, and that's at the core of what this is about," Natalie Egan, the founder of Translator, which builds diversity, equity and inclusion analytic software for schools.

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Egan applauds Grace Church's pioneering spirit.

"As we look to the future, you know, it's really important that we start to shape our future leaders to be inclusive of all people regardless of anything," Egan said.

"Whoever they are ... that's what we're proud of," Davison added.

And Grace Church School hopes to inspire others to unify and not divide.

The head of the school emphasized there are guidelines, not rules. And the guide also suggests inclusive language for discussing sexual orientation, race and socioeconomics.

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