Natrona School Board Trustees Divided on Proposed ‘Transgender’ Policy
The Natrona County School District's board of trustees listened to, but took no further action on a proposed policy about honoring only the stated biological sex of students listed on birth certificates.
Proposal author trustee Mary Schmidt read it to a packed room at the District's Central Services, 970 Glenn Road, at the Board Policy Committee meeting.
Schmidt followed that with a plea why the district needs it including what happens a decade from now if children are encouraged to undergo the medication and surgical procedures, which she said are irreversible, and then regret it.
Children going through puberty can endure a lot physical and mental changes, and an interest in changing genders (the way someone identifies themselves, rather than just biological sex) can cause confusion especially if they consider transitioning from male to female or vice versa.
Issues in the proposed policy included use of bathroom and locker room facilities; athletic participation; overnight school trips; confidentiality; not providing liability protection for any District employee who counsels a student with these issues; dress code; school dances; and changes of official school records.
The policy also would require any District employee to notify the parent/guardian of a conversation about these issues to within 24 hours and a report must be filed with the school office.
For some trustees, it was all too much or all much ado about nothing.
Trustee Kevin Christopherson said he agreed with some of the points in the policy proposal, but didn't like what it tries to do.
"It's not a policy, it's more of a manifesto," Christopherson said. "The policy is way overbroad," he said, add this one proposal could be divided into 20 policies.
"We can't take a sledgehammer to come out with anything but a mess," Christopherson said.
Trustee Kyla Alvey, chairwoman of the Board Policy Committee, said it seemed like a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
Trustee Rita Walsh said the District doesn't need such a policy because any issues about transgender people can be handled on an individual basis.
"I hate to use this term -- this is a waste of time," Walsh said, adding the District has so many other issues to consider.
Trustee Dana Howie poked a hole in an urban/education myth about a student somewhere some time ago who identified as a "furry" and used a litter box. No one could seem to remember if this even happened.
When asked what Schmidt wanted to accomplish, she said it was needed to keep parents informed about their children and what happens in schools.
Schmidt cited a recent lawsuit by parents in Rock Springs who learned that this Sweetwater County School District was withholding information about discussions with
Currently, Rock Springs parents are suing the Sweetwater County School Board for allegedly helping their child transition.
The proposal, Schmidt said, is only a draft and much time will be needed for discussion and community suggestions. "It does need a lot of work; I threw it out there."
Trustee Dana Howie, who taught in the District for 28 years, said this was personal to her because a family is dealing with the issue, is now 19 and still confused. "She deserves an education like everybody else."
And in her experience, Howie said she would never tell a student what to do. She also recounted a discussion with a student about sexual orientation who said if he told his parents they would kick him out of their house. The proposed policy, if in effect then, would have required her to tell that student's parents about the discussion.
Trustee Michael Stedille said the discussion needed to stop because the Board Policy Committee had other matters on the agenda.
During the comment period at the end of the Policy Board Committee, Dirk Andrews said he was not speaking as the President at Natrona County Education Association but as an individual.
"I am offended," Andrew said. "We are calling out one group."
He also said that he's never seen a transgender student harm anyone.
Jeanette Ward, who represents House District 57 in the Legislature, said the whole point of the policy was to not discriminate against girls.
Most of the support and criticisms of the proposed policy during the committee meeting were firm but guarded.
They weren't during the public comment period during the regular board meeting an hour later.
"This is a violent attack on human rights," an 18-year-old Natrona County High School student said.
The student cite studies about the high frequencies of harassment and physical attacks on LGBTQ students, how those students had high suicide rates and were less likely to participate in school activities.
The student urged the trustees to come to the schools and see what it was like.
NCHS graduate and current Central Wyoming College student Soren Tempest asked the trustees if they've ever been called nasty names. He's 20 now and as a Wyomingite has a thick skin.
Tempest wasn't so tough when he was 15 when some teachers pulled him aside and asked how they could help them.
He echoed the previous student about suicide saying for some being dead would be a better alternative than the grief LBGTQ students experience.
Tempest also looked at the trustees and asked them to look at him and tell him that he wasn't worthwhile.
"Don't take it out on the kids," he said.
Another student told the trustees that she knew at age 11 she liked girls.
Her parents and grandmother chastised her when she came out and made her feel very much alone, she said.
There are resources for people like her now.
"This policy would take away these resources," she said. "It would make everyone isolated and alone."