SELINSGROVE — Passions ran high at Monday night’s Selinsgrove School District board meeting, as more than 50 parents crowded into the Middle School’s multi-purpose room to express their displeasure at the Oct. 17 announcement that transgender students would be allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms that matches their gender identity.
Parents were also irked at how the decision was announced, said Boyd Martin, addressing the board. “It was rolled out incognito over cover of the election and because of that you lost our trust. We had no say in this, even though it involves the emotional and physical safety of our kids.”
Martin asked the board “not to give us some legal mumbo jumbo tonight about why you made the decision and announced it without first talking to parents.”
Martin was preceded by two parents, both of whom were very emotional in their arguments.
“I have a daughter in the district,” said Polly Welch, “and she’s fearful about going to the girl’s bathroom now. By making the decision you did, you took my parenting rights away from me.”
Welch explained that when a girl hits 12, 13 years old their body goes through changes. To then allow transgender people, males, to go into a girl’s bathroom at that age can be very disturbing.
Omolara Grover came armed with some facts about transgender people, or what the American College of Pediatricians call “gender dysphoria.” About 97 percent of transgender people grow out of dysphoria. “But that’s not the point of this,” she said. “What we are talking about tonight is not hate or prejudice of fostering fear. It’s about love. We’re not against who these students are. But we do reserve the right to teach our own children about sexuality when we deem it appropriate. You’ve taken that right away from us with this unilateral decision.”
Board president Larry Augustine admitted that the they might have handled the announcement better. “And I don’t necessarily disagree with some of what you are saying.”
Vice president Roger Sheesley said that the board did not change anything and that they felt they had to go with the direction spelled out by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education. “There was a re-interpretation of Title IX by the federal government, which protects the rights of transgender students. We face the loss of federal funding if the district prohibited a student from accessing the restaurant or locker rooms that matches their gender identity. The re-interpretation was what sex meant.”
Sheesley also said there was the threat of lawsuits by outside groups seeking to protect the rights of transgender people.
“That was our logic,” Sheesley said. “We did not change policy. But we did go along with the reinterpretation of what is within Title IX. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily disagree with anything anyone has said tonight.”
“My biggest concern,” he added, “is that students don’t become pawns in all this.”
Calls by parents to at least suspend the decision, until there was a further discussion of facts, were discounted.
So Boyd called for a forum to bring together all elements and both sides of the argument. “And I want to know if the safety of our kids was discussed before you made your announcement.”
The board agreed to hold a public forum at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Middle School auditorium.
“We’ll let everyone speak as long as they want,” Augustine said. “This will be nothing formal. We want people to express their points of view.”
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