After hearing public comment from more than 15 people at its meeting on Monday, the Vermillion School Board concluded that it still had some work to do when it came to developing a gender policy in schools. toilets for the school district.
Towards the end of the meeting, School Board President Doug Peterson summarized what the board needs to do in the coming weeks regarding the development of a policy outlining the use of the washroom for students and people of all identities. gender.
“What the board is going to do now is have tasked the policy committee to draft a text for review so that the board, in its discussion, can determine what the draft changes might look like.” policy in relation to proposed changes in practice or, alias, changes in procedure. , “he said.” I don’t want anyone to think this is the first reading of the policy. The focus of our discussion is on any policy change, we would make sure to make it known to the public so that he could see it in one meeting and as with all policy changes there would be two meetings.
“What we hope is that the policy committee can come back and at this meeting on September 13, we will have this draft text to begin consideration and discussion,” he said. “I think the goal is to have this language probably on the previous Thursday so that it can be released to the public through the (school district) website.”
The Federal Ministry of Education and the Civil Rights Bureau were expected to provide guidelines on gender policy in the washroom during August. So far that information has not been received, but if it arrives soon, Peterson said, it could provide guidance to the policy committee. Whatever happens, he said, the public will be notified so they can make their contribution again.
The issue became the center of attention when, in a special meeting last week, Superintendent Damon Alvey told council members that from time to time requests are received for students to use an opposite toilet. to their birth sex.
The school district has used standard practice to deal with gender issues regarding toilets, but it does not have a policy in place. This has raised concerns among some board members that the school district is unintentionally violating the civil rights of individuals due to its lack of policy.
With the notice that gender issues in the washroom would be discussed at Monday’s meeting, the town hall meeting room where the school board met had an audience of around 30 and the majority of people. gave their opinion.
Opinions heard by the school board were almost evenly divided, with some voicing concerns about the safety of their children if a student who identified as a person opposed to their biological sex – a student who identified as a female and wanted to use the girls’ bathroom, for example – was allowed to do so.
Others who spoke to the board spoke of the importance of ensuring that all students attending public schools in the district were not afraid to do so and were not required to adopt toilet practices. who would reveal to their peers the gender issues they wished to be kept secret.
Lindsey Jorgensen, the mother-of-one who attends the district school, told council members that she supports a change in practice and the implementation of consistent policies across the district.
“I strongly support that children can use the bathroom that matches their gender identity,” she said. “As the parent of a child whose sex matches the sex he was identified at birth, it would be impractical to ask him to use a separate bathroom.”
Jorgensen said his son also has a strong sense of empathy and would ask him why a classmate should use a special bathroom.
“It is not acceptable or good for their mental health to single out these children,” she said. “To support mental health, safety in our schools and ensure that everyone receives the same education, a change in practice and the implementation of policies are needed. I fully support the rights of all children. I just want to teach her (her son) not to look under the cubicle at someone else going to the bathroom.
Jakob Skelton, a father of three, two of whom are of school age, expressed concern about the discussion at the previous school board meeting “regarding the authorization of biological men in organic women’s toilets. This scenario, in our mind, should not be allowed.
“We currently have two daughters in the school system and therefore safety is our main concern for them,” he said, “above any feeling of injury or discomfort. Certainly we want everyone to feel safe. comfortable in school, but that should not take precedence over the physical safety of our daughters. ”
Skelton noted that current school district practices allow students who wish to use a toilet that is not their biological sex to use a single-cabin, unisex toilet. He added that he does not understand why this is not a viable solution.
“As a pastor, I am held and accountable to God to take care of our congregation and certainly all of our families and people of all ages,” said Harvey Opp, “and certainly as adults we have to teach and counsel the children. “
He added that children are not expected to make life decisions at their age, such as “changing” decisions that are irreversible.
“I have to keep the word of God and I think we are all responsible for doing it, really,” Opp said. “The word of God is the truth, and our government, even, has been founded on the basic principles of the scriptures, the truth.
In today’s culture, he said, the truth is denied and distorted.
“It’s kind of weird because you’re a school board teaching and counseling kids and now we’re wondering about something as simple as the biological truth a child is born with,” Opp said.
He said loving care and counseling is needed instead of a policy that can endanger and lead to serious consequences for people who have a problem “of getting transgender people into a bathroom that isn’t. not theirs. Loving advice is really what you need, not accommodation, so to speak, which is really detrimental. “
Mark Daniels, whose children include a transgender man who just graduated from the University of South Dakota and now works as a nurse in Sioux Falls, read a letter to the board at the request of a parent, like him, of a transgender person who attends a school in the Vermillion School District.
The author of the letter noted that “our daughter did not choose to be transgender or choose to be a girl any more than you or I explicitly choose not to be transgender or choose to be a boy” .
The author of the letter said that in virtually every way “our daughter is just like every other girl in her class.”
When going to the bathroom, the parent wrote, “Our daughter has been told that she has to do this thing differently from all the other children in her class and of course the other children want to know why.
“Her only choices seem to be to accept these subtle reprimands and accusations, ignoring questions from her classmates, or revealing one of the most intimate and personal things about her body to people she barely knows. “the parent wrote. “It’s not good.”
The parent wrote in the letter to the board: “We would like the change in gender affirming toilet rules in all schools to happen as quickly as possible and a consistent affirmative statement in all school buildings that transgender students. can use toilets corresponding to their consistently stated sex. identity.”