Local school district under pressure over trans student policy proposal

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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GARDNER, Kan. (KCTV) - A Johnson County school board heard an earful Monday night about a proposed policy on transgender students.

This summer, board member Jeff Miller proposed a policy to force staff to refer to students by their sex assigned at birth. It also required them to use the restrooms and locker rooms associated with their sex at birth or a unisex restroom if available.

The 60 seats in the board room were full. Additional people were moved to an overflow room to watch a video stream.

The revised policy proposal says staff should use a students preferred name and pronoun if requested, but it adds that the district must first be notified and a parent or guardian must be involved if the student is under the age of 18.

LGBTQ advocates praised the first part but expressed concern about the second part. They noted outing to an unsupportive parent can be dangerous.

“Nobody here is trying to turn your kids trans. They’re trying to make sure that trans kids don’t turn into dead kids,” said a Gardner high school senior.

Gardner High School’s speech and debate coach expressed concern about the notification portion that went beyond just the students

“This kind of policy would be an outing policy and could do more harm than good,” said Gardner High School’s speech and debate coach. “Students may not be ready to be out, especially if they have parents or guardians that are actively against transgender, and with an increasing teacher shortage, this could possibly be one more thing for teachers to be worried about termination if they did not disclose such information and keep a student from being outed. We have lost over 60 staff members of the high school alone over the past two years.”

High school junior Larissa Briscoe called the board out of touch.

“Some of you school board members haven’t been in school for over 20 years. Things have changed over 20 years. Society is changing. Everything is changing,” said Briscoe.

But two parents said that notification portion of the proposed policy is essential, because they abhor the idea of not involving them in what’s happening with their child at school.

“It is my expectation that no teacher or administration is to ever keep any information from me about my child,” said Gardner-Edgerton parent Melissa Hershey.

Some parents said the policy should remain the way Miller proposed.

Another, Tim Dryer, expressed frustration over what seemed like two factions at odds. He suggested a compromise like one policy for elementary schools and another for middle schools.

“We don’t want our children exposed to sexuality. We don’t want you guys being bullied as the bad trans person that’s not we want we want to find that middle ground,” said Dryer.

There was discussion about lawsuits on both sides, from a trans student suing over use of pronoun or bathroom access to a teacher suing with religious objections to acknowledging any gender identity that doesn’t fit sex assigned at birth.

One speaker read a statement from a teacher she said wanted to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation.

“Boys will be called boys and use the boys’ restroom. Girls will be called girls and use the girls’ restroom. That’s it. It defines 99% of the population. The fact that we must write policy for something so basic shows how crazy the world has become,” she read. “If a student misgenders someone, will that be considered bullying? Will there be discipline? Will teachers lose their jobs if they refuse?”

On the topic of restrooms, the revised proposal keeps the requirement that students use the one corresponding to their sex at birth or a unisex bathroom if one is available. It now adds a provision regarding locker rooms that would allow for an alternative changing area or time.

There was no vote Monday night.

Previous coverage:

Gardner-Edgerton school board to listen as community weighs in on gender identity proposal