An Insider’s View of What Happened at the East Aurora School Board’s Meeting Rescinding Support for Transgender Students

Yesterday evening, the East Aurora Board of Education (in Illinois) voted to rescind a policy that would have benefitted transgender and gender-non-conforming students in the district.

The East Aurora Board of Education

Even though the policy had been adopted unanimously earlier this week, it was unanimously struck down due to pressure from Christian hate groups like the Illinois Family Institute.

Rick Einhorn attended yesterday’s school board meeting and offers this guest post of what he saw and heard:

I first heard about the situation with the East Aurora School Board last night when a friend directed me to Hemant’s blog post about it. Both the Human Rights Commission and Planned Parenthood sent out emails urging people to contact the school board or show up if it was possible. I live within walking distance of the the building where the school board meets and have this crazy view that protecting kids and helping create a safe environment to learn is very important for the education of all students.

It seemed like a good opportunity to go show my support.

What follows is my take on the meeting. I’ve written things down as accurately as I remember them, but I apologize in advance for any unintentional misquotes.

Before heading over to the school board meeting, we were told that the sizable police presence around the meeting was due to death threats that had been directed at some board members. It was not specifically stated who the threats were from. At 4:45p they began letting people into the chamber where the meetings are held. Judging by the red and purple shirts, and the general tone of conversation, the crowd seemed heavily in favor of keeping the new policy in place. There had been rumors of people opposing the policy being bussed in but that never materialized.

The audience at the East Aurora School Board meeting (via WGN-TV)

Of the 20 speakers at the meeting, 15 of them spoke in favor of keeping the new policy in place.

I thought every single speaker did a great job, regardless of the position they took (really!) — Below are some of the highlights from the speakers themselves. Most will be paraphrased, but I will quote directly where I can.

I missed the first speaker’s affiliation, but he spoke on behalf of a group that advocated for LGBT students. He applauded the board for the actions they took on Monday, calling them courageous for taking very important steps toward equality. He stated that 90% of transgendered youth felt unsafe in school while 63% have experienced harassment. “I call on you to consider what is happening today. You have been bullied into having this meeting by those who are against LGBT individuals. And I want you to think about the message you send to the students in your district. If you rescind this policy, you will have bowed [down] to the bullies.”

He reiterated that this policy is in place to ensure that transgender and gender-non-conforming students feel safe and are able to enjoy the school environment. He then stated that, should the policy be rescinded, his group would take further action to have it reinstated, including legal action if necessary. His point of view was that the board was opening themselves up to a liability by implementing a policy and then rescinding it.

The next speaker was an Aurora resident and social worker. She brought up a policy that states the Board takes full responsibility for itself, its actions, and the work it does. This is important in light of a quote from the board regarding the policy: “It’s something we (the board members) would not have questioned in light of the attorney and the administrators bringing it forward.” She said she had read the policy and had questions, even as simple as wondering if this policy was comparable to what other districts have put in place. She pointed out that everyone in the room was here because the board voted on the policy without even asking the most basic of questions. Based on her experience with the administrators who brought the policy forward, she felt that if questions had been asked, they would have listened, discussed, and given careful consideration to a more moderate policy that still met the needs of transgendered and all other students. “That you did not read the policy or think about it, or research or ask questions like, ‘is this comparable to what other districts are doing?’… Board of Education I ask you to set an example by accepting responsibility, apologizing, and promising to do better next time instead of only blaming people like [Assistant Superintendents] Christie Aird and Joan Glotzbach.”

Some of the speakers tended toward a more emotional appeal. A mother of four was upset to the point of tears that they’d consider rescinding the policy because of bullies taking hope and support away from transgender kids. She said, “Kids just want to know they’re good and not evil.”

Another mother brought her daughter who tended to identify as a boy from a young age. “She is no less of a person because of the way that she was born. This is an issue for districts everywhere, and this issue is not going away. If you decide to repeal this, who will be there to protect my child? Because she is still going to be here.

Also speaking were students who were directly affected by the policy.

A member of the Gay-Straight Alliance at East Aurora High school spoke on behalf of herself and others who would be impacted by the deletion of the policy. “We don’t want to cause problems, but we want to feel accepted. We want to be a part of something, to be ourselves, and to be able to feel comfortable. All my life I’ve been bullied, pushed [around], spoken over, and I think today is my day to speak out. To say something for myself and for other homosexuals out there. Right here is a petition from my school that everyone has signed… well, most people…” In her hand was a petition filled with multiple pages of signatures in support of the policy.

Two transgendered women also spoke. The first discussed some of the realities faced by transgendered people, referring to a former workplace of hers that had adopted a policy allowing her to use women’s room. “No one was inconvenienced, hurt, or embarrassed.” She felt it would have been unsafe to require her to use the men’s room. “Rest assured that those on the outside who are agitating this situation are on the wrong side of history. The way we look back on the struggle for LGBT equality will be similar to the way we look at the struggle for African American equality today.”

The second discussed some of the difficulties transgendered youth often faced. There are many cases where kids have been kicked out of their homes because of who they are. They often face the possibility of homelessness, depression, and a risk of suicide eight times greater than those without gender identity issues.

Two residents spoke up in support of rescinding the policy… but, to their credit, both seemed generally supportive of LGBT students. They were mostly unhappy with the way the policy was rushed through. One, a teacher, said: “I protect all kinds of students and I want the best policy in place for all students. I do not think this policy is the best for all students. Reform it and make it safer and better for all students.” The other commended the board for the policies that they had already put into place and did not feel that rescinding the policy was an indication that the board was not accepting of any certain population. He simply felt it was necessary to put more work into a new policy.

Some other key quotes from speakers:

“Our children need our help. They speak out to us in silence. It is our responsibility to notice that and act on it to protect our children…”

“Whether it makes a statement in the state or nationally, it’s needed in our district. We need to keep it in in place for our kids.”

“The school boards that first enacted policies to protect women and minorities are described as leaders, innovators, progressive, and forward thinking. A board enacting-then-rescinding such a policy due to pressure from groups outside the community brings a different set of adjectives to mind: weak, afraid, cowardly, flip-flopper.”

“Doing the right thing is not always easy, but at least, at the end of the day, doing the right thing is still doing the right thing.”

Once everyone had their say, East Aurora School Board 131 President Annette Johnson spoke on the situation, trying to explain how we got to this point. I think what she said is important, so I will just quote her entire 20-minute statement as closely as I possibly can. Again, I apologize if there are any misquotes.

At this time, I would like to explain to the audience how this came about. Everyone has the right to understand… the philosophy behind public education. I would like to read a statement for the board, and make some comments. First of all, the East Aurora School District has many fine programs for our many fine students. I really do feel that the East Aurora School Board and the district has a lot of different, diverse clubs and we encourage all students to be diverse. We’ve definitely done that. I will tell you, I believe, and so do my fellow board members, that we have more diverse programs than any school district around. We’re always constantly looking for different clubs, different ideas from the students, and different ideas from the parents. We’re always doing that.

So it disappoints me and my fellow board members that we’re in the middle of this discussion this evening. A couple points: Last year the board spent $50,000 to put a bullying program in place. That program was rolled out last year in our middle schools, and this year it’s getting rolled out in our elementary schools. It addresses many, many forms of bullying, including sensitivity training for students, and also training on what students are perceived as different by their classmates, [and] how the classmates should treat the students right. Again, the board has been very sensitive to bullying. Again, we put our money where our mouth was, the program was $50,000 — that was just in supplies — that’s not the hours and time that was spent training our staff. So I think that shows our commitment to working and continuing to work with bullying.

Yes, every school district in the nation has transgendered students, just like the East Aurora School District. And I can assure you not at any one time has any parent or any student come forward to say that they were not being treated right. At least those comments have never ever gotten to the board of education. That is the case.

Now, there’s the other side of the story. As far as the board is concerned, we always try to get parents to come forward, we always try to get students to come forward. There is certainly a chain of command in place, where they can go to the Principal, then they go to the Assistant Superintendent of the programs, they can go to the Superintendent, they can go to the Board. Again, the last couple of days, we’ve put some of our building principals… our building principals have assured us that when a transgendered child comes forward and says they need to be treated fairly, or they’ve got issues or whatever, those issues are being addressed at our schools right now. So, that is the case.

Again, not necessarily, and I want to repeat that: Never has a complaint come to this board, that there was a problem for a transgendered student. We would take that very seriously. And believe me, we would work very hard to fix that. That is the current situation.

The board also believes in a philosophy of following the guidelines of the Illinois state school board. Public education is an issue that unfortunately, there are going to be both sides of an issue. I can guarantee you tonight, if the news media would have printed that we weren’t looking at repealing it, then the other side would have been here. I think one of the speakers said, “You’re not going to make everyone happy.” That’s true. That’s why we have the state board of education. That’s why we have the Illinois association of school boards. To guide us on those types of issues. So again, the board has always looked to them for guidance.

So how did we end up here where we ended up? Now, I’m not making excuses, not pointing fingers. I just want everybody to understand, in the audience, where we ended up. It’s very important and everybody needs to know. On July 16th, we had three policies brought forward to our personnel committee, personnel on our finance committee got condensed. So if anybody wants to go out and visit on the district website, they can look under… they will find that. It is true, our assistant superintendent of elementary education brought those policies forward. At that time, she told us the board was… that she was working with legal counsel to make sure we were in legal compliance with all of our codes. A lot of our district’s codes have been old and out of date. This board has had to fix a lot of things. For the residents who probably don’t get out to school board meetings, there’ve probably been 30 years of different things we’ve had to to fix. And we’ve addressed every one of those issues as they’ve come forth. Our board policies are old, that’s the fact. Currently today, we are working with the Illinois association of school boards to come in and fix all of those policies.

So when she came to us and said she was working with legal counsel, we didn’t really question that one way or the other because, oftentimes, what happens is the state of Illinois changes things — they change, say, a high school graduation requirement. They’ll go and do that. The board is not educators. One of our board members is but the rest of us are not. We have to rely on advice of our administrators when it comes to the school code. And we continue to keep updating the code as the state requires. And that’s what we do. That’s what we were told, that we were updating the program. It also was not necessarily unusual for the board to think that we were doing this, because we’d been… in the middle of this bullying training, and bullying programs, and looking at our bullying policies… that, again, that would not be out of the realm, that we were working on that, and that our administrators were working on that. And at the time, the training was going to go into the elementary schools, and I know she was working quite hard to do that. So, anyway, that’s where we ended up with that.

Now, what had happened, that a lot of people aren’t aware of, at the time, I’d referenced three policies. The policy that’s in question this evening, there is a policy 715.11 that’s on the agenda from the 16th of July. This policy is a policy that is… and I’m not going to sit here and read the whole policy tonight, because it’s very long and very lengthy. But I just want to point out a couple of things in that policy. There’s a… this policy is about harassment, intimidation, and bullying of students. We added the words “gender-related identity or expression” to that policy. That is actually red-lined in that policy. Red-lining means that’s something that we were gonna change. So again, we were looking out for gender-related identity issues and expression. And that is added to that policy. There are a lot of other things that are added to that policy, but I can guarantee you it addresses all of the normal social norms of, you know, student’s race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, physical and mental handicap, disabilities, all of those things. So, that’s in the policy. I suggest everyone go out and read it.

There was another policy that was brought forth on July 16th. This was 500.08. This policy dealt with the general personnel, equal employment, and minority recruitment. And this policy needed to be updated because we were not in compliance with the Human Rights Act. But, again, what did we add to that policy? Well, we added… we red-lined… and I don’t want to bore you with all those details tonight. But, what did we add to the policy? Well, we added sexual orientation, transgender, gender-related identity and expression. Transgender. That was added to that policy. So, again, two policies, two great policies. Two policies that are traditional policies for other school districts to have and I could go on to look at a lot of other school districts, and they recognize those policies.

So, back to how we ended up where we ended up. Well, August went by, September went by, our assistant superintendent of human resources, who ordinarily takes care of the policies, Joan Glotzbach. For the people out here that are our employees, I think everybody knows Joan Glotzbach to be a very, very detail-oriented person, questions a lot of things… she was not involved in this policy. Only our assistant superintendent of elementary was. So, unfortunately, probably some of the good questions that were asked, and Joan was a principal for 12 years, she understands school code. She understands what the state board is doing. She certainly has been on the state board website… Joan would have asked those great questions for us. Again, not making excuses.

Ok, so again, not making excuses. We usually follow a format here in District 131, when any new policies are reviewed, when the policies are changed, we have a cabinet that consists of of all of our directors and our superintendents. Not at any one time was this policy discussed. The only thing that was discussed was that we were updating the policy. So, again, a lot of those that are superintendents and the directors… and, again, if you don’t want to believe me, ask them, because they did not have that discussed with them. I encourage the staff to seek them out and ask them. Because I can guarantee you, again, that would have been another check, that we could have gone in and we would have known about it. It always takes place any other time. Then there was training for our building principals on policy, and there would be input and discussion from our building principals, and the assistant principals and things like that. Again, not necessarily something that happened. Not an excuse.

Now let’s talk about our legal counsel. The board employs a lawyer. She’s right here this evening. A couple lawyers actually. And they are supposed to keep us updated with policy and the way things evolve, and they know that the board’s policy has always been to follow the state board of education. So, we assumed… probably assumed wrong, that was vetted out. That it was normal policy in the state of Illinois.

I will just announce real quickly, that Mr. [Raymond] Hull unfortunately needs to leave because his daughter is having senior night tonight, and that’s a very special activity for him, so he is unable to stay.

However, let’s get back to our lawyers. So, anyhow, as far as the lawyer was concerned, again, not an excuse, but our lawyers suggests that that was ok. But the lawyer, I think, was more or less under the impression 715.11 and 500.08 was also going to be implemented, which for whatever reason, that did not happen. Now, this is the board’s responsibility.

I sincerely apologize, and so do all the board members that we didn’t watch closer. I am very, very sorry. This has been a very tough week for all of us. And I know it’s been a tough week for all of the board members. I know two of our board members are out of town on vacation, out of the country. I’ve been texting and keeping in contact, and they are also expressing that they are very, very sorry. Unfortunately, this one slipped by us. There is no excuse for that. Public education is public education, and it has to make everybody happy and has to address the needs of everybody. And unfortunately, there’s always going to be two sides to the story. But this board is here to protect these kids. If there is anything that ever occurs with these kids, we want to know. Talk to us. Come tell us.

This is very tough for me tonight. This is very tough for me tonight. I guess, maybe I was thinking of how it’d affect me personally. I was that tomboy in school and the boys picked on me. That happened. I know how it goes. I really do. I will tell you. I am sorry, from the bottom of my heart that this ever happened. This, again, there is no win in this. You’ve got one side, you’ve got the other side. You’ve got a board that’s been trying to work on 30 years of issues. And you’ve got a board that’s worked on getting art programs back in. The real news story was supposed to be our Magnet Academy. The board has worked very hard on that Magnet Academy. Every child in that Magnet Academy, 500 kids will have a computer. And they’ll be able to take that computer home to their parents. And that will be able to change the lives of their parents and themselves. Very unique program. That should have been the story of the East Aurora School District. And from that we were going to use that to jump start having a computer for every kid in the district. That’s what we were really working on.

I am sorry. I don’t know what to do to fix this. But I can tell you, we need to be… we need to recognize diversity. We need to recognize policy 715 and policy 500. And I will tell you these are going to be on our board agenda. With our next board meeting, and the board is going to vote on them, and they are going to get these policies in place. And it does recognize gender-related identity, and it does recognize transgenders working in our district. I don’t know. It’s a tough deal. I thought the one speaker did have a great idea, that we come together as community, that we set up a committee, work on this, come up with ideas. Being that we kind of jumped out there, I think probably we should focus on talking to the state. I will be more than happy to do that. I can tell you… we need to go after the state. The state needs to recognize transgenders, not just one district. The state school board needs to address the issue.
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So, as far as I’m concerned, that’s where we’re at, and again I’m sorry for all the problems that this has caused. I’m sorry that everyone had to come out on a rainy, cold night. But, you know what? This does make the community stronger. To all the people in this room… I want to hear from you now. I want to hear that you’ve come forward, that you’ve set up that committee, and we all put our money where our mouth is. Anyway, without further ado, call the roll.

The motion to approve deletion of school board policy 715.13 — the one at the center of this controversy — was then voted on, and the policy in question was unanimously approved for deletion. All four school board members present at the meeting voted against it. Board members Stella Gonzalez and Mary Anne Turza were not in the country and thus didn’t vote. Raymond Hull, as discussed, left the meeting early.

I think it is clear that, for various reasons, the board implemented this policy far too quickly without taking the time to understand what they were even voting on. A unanimous vote suggests a board that is very supportive of a policy and this was not the case here. It is equally clear from Johnson’s statement, and the outcome of the vote, that the outcome tonight was never in question.

I am not familiar with the contents of the other two anti-bullying policies that were discussed, and how far they go toward making transgender and gender-non-conforming students feel safe, comfortable, and welcome, but it seems that the board is very concerned with bullying and how students and staff, including transgender and gender-non-conforming students, are treated. Why these were not actually put into place yet is not immediately apparent to me. I would reserve some judgment until these policies are voted on and put into place, since I do believe they are generally trying to do the right things.

However, I am very disappointed that something like this could be allowed to happen in the first place.

I am furious to see a board member, Mr. Hull, state that he “does not support the LGBT,” and then have the audacity to walk out five minutes before the vote was to take place. Board members should be supportive of all students, regardless of their personal beliefs. I am also frustrated at their unwillingness to take a stand. It appeared that the board had taken a very courageous stance on Monday, one that should be applauded. Maybe their courage was an accident, but once the action is done, claim responsibility for it and make it your own. While it may be a general policy to defer to the state board’s guidelines, there is no real reason you cannot take a stand on an issue like this that is clearly so important to so many.

Giving people hope by implementing a policy, and then taking it away for any reason, simply sends the wrong message. You’re telling those affected that they were not important enough to have your full support and not worth taking a risk for. And whether it’s true or not, you’re sending a message that you will cave in to bullies. As one mother said: “They’ll see that there is no hope, that it won’t get better if their school won’t even protect them.”

I do think this is a setback for everyone involved, and that a disturbing message has been sent. It was, however, wonderful to see the community come out in support of transgender and gender-non-conforming students. Even though the vote didn’t reflect it, I felt that the board has made some efforts already and was willing to go further on this issue. I am willing to give the board as whole some benefit of the doubt depending on the actions they’ll take going forward. These actions will need to be very clear, supportive, and will need to be comparable in scope to the policy that was unfortunately rescinded tonight.

Anything short of that would be considered a failure of leadership in my book.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • TheG

    Boy, for someone that isn’t trying to offer any excuses, Johnson sure offers a bunch of excuses.

    Also, IANAL, but isn’t the school district leaving themselves open to a lawsuit if any LGBT student is harassed from this point forward?  It is one thing to say, “The Board is saddened by the treatment [student X] experienced, however, we do not have a policy in place to address this type of event.”  It is another to say, “The treatment of [student X] could have been prevented by The Board, since we are aware that this type of event occurs, but we decided to rescind a policy that would have protected this student.  Our bad.”

  • http://twitter.com/Catch10110 Rick Einhorn

    According to the Chicago Tribune article, the first speaker that I didn’t catch was Anthony Martinez, executive director of Chicago-based nonprofit The Civil Rights Agenda. 

    I also initially felt like a whole lot of excuses were being offered despite the claims that they were not excuses…But at the same time, I will say that I thought Ms. Johnson was very sincere and apologetic. I don’t know how much weight that really carries in light of what the board did, so take it for what you will. I am trying to accept what she said simply as an explanation of something that happened; a policy that managed to get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. That doesn’t make it right, and she said as much. 

    “I sincerely apologize, and so do all the board members that we didn’t watch closer. I am very, very sorry… Unfortunately, this one slipped by us. There is no excuse for that.”

    I truly think they want to do the right thing for these students, even though it appears (at least to me) that they had an opportunity to do just that and passed it up. I would like to see what they do to replace this policy going forward, as it sounded like they were interested in working on such a policy. 

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      That was a great report; it’s always good when someone is in a position to be able to go to these things and see them first hand.

      It does sound like the school board are mostly on the right side of this argument but put themselves into an awkward position by accidentally doing the right thing when it sounds like they didn’t mean to be doing much at all. With all the local support that turned up at the meeting I wonder if there’s the posibility to get the board to go through the process of considering this policy properly and maybe re-approving it. Their rescinding it does seem to have been mostly a matter of process, rather than necessarily any problem with the policy itself.

      • http://twitter.com/Catch10110 Rick Einhorn

        I believe it was Christie Aird, the assistant superintendent of elementary. There was a lot of discussion that they were also going to vote on her being fired, and rumors that she already had been fired. A few of the speakers spoke directly in her defense, and everything said about her made her sound like exactly the kind of person you would want in that position.

      • http://twitter.com/Catch10110 Rick Einhorn

        Oops..replied to the wrong person. 

        It did sound like they were interested in putting in more work on a similar policy, and actually listening to what the community has to say on it. I hope they follow through with that. 

  • Jon Peterson

    I may completely misunderstand the policy, so consider my stance null if that’s the case (I would read it in full before casting a vote, but from where I stand I have little effect, so I only know the synopsis from this blog).

    I did not support this policy because I think it misunderstands the issue, and creates an even larger issue. I personally would feel quite uncomfortable sharing a restroom with a member of another physical gender. In my case, it’s not a matter of intolerance against the other person’s sexual orientation or gender identity… it’s that I simply have no way of knowing that the physical female who walks behind me while I’m at the urinal or uses the same row in the locker room (a situation I was uncomfortable enough with as it was with merely the presence of other physical males) is in fact a transgender student. There is no way to truly enforce such a policy without effectively allowing all the restrooms and locker rooms to become co-ed.

    I do not believe such a policy is an effective tool for fighting anti-transgender bullying. Indeed, I believe it creates far more problems than it solves. A more appropriate solution would be in creating restrooms that consist entirely of floor-to-ceiling stalls, so that gender (physical or identity) is unimportant when considering which restroom to use because the person’s privacy is assured regardless. Likewise with locker rooms, the lockers might  remain in the open (for space concerns) but a reasonable number of changing stalls should be made available so that nobody’s privacy is unwillingly diminished by the presence of others.

    The secondary portion of the policy (regarding allowing students to use names of their choice, which would let transgender students choose a name befitting their own identity) however, I do support. I do not want my disapproval of the restroom/locker issues to be misconstrued as disapproval of all the things the policy covered. If there are any other items I haven’t mentioned, consider my stance neutral due to ignorance of their existence.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

      what an amusing name for someone making that comment /juvvie

      rude humor aside, get over it already. genitals are just another body part, like hair, eyes, fingers… and you know that any of those body parts, and more, can be used in the process of rape and abuse. americans are so puritanical and backwards. “oooh, it’s a pee pee! my eyes are bleeding! think of the chillllllddddreeeen!!!1!”

      here’s an idea: let’s all accept that at the end of a long session of doing push ups or running around in a circle or whatever they do in gym class these days, most kids only want to wash off, get dressed, and get to their next class. very few kids are actually seeking out partners and dark corners in the locker room in which the other 100 students won’t see them sneaking in some “kinky” sex or raping the unwilling or whatever it is you puritans imagine is going to happen. 

      unisex facilities have been around for DECADES. men have baby changing stations in men’s bathrooms. adults of either gender have taken young children into the ‘wrong’ bathroom since, duh, forever. and if you’ve ever been to a gay bar, grrl. plz. gender/genitals/gender identity/conformity has NOTHING to do with one’s ability to open a stall door, close it, take a piss, pull your clothes back on, wash your hands, and leave. i’ve pissed near/with/next to people of every possibly identity, and it’s never hurt me one bit. you know where i enjoyed the least privacy? the military. they don’t even use stalls and door, in boot. but for some reason, that makes our soldiers “tough” and “battle ready” where subjecting our children to the same somehow is a bad thing?

      again, get over your fear of the human body. your ears, toes and belly button are as “obscene” as your genitals. which is to say: not at all. it really doesn’t matter if the person in the stall next to you has similar or different ones, while both of you shower/piss/shit. rape is rape, and it’s a question of power and hatred and psychopathy, not orientation. frankly, i’d be more worried about my nephew taking a shower at a catholic church, than at a school with a pro-trans locker room policy. 

      • mobathome

        Don’t feed the troll.

        • Jon Peterson

          Oh, I’m not trolling. That’s my view. I don’t think “chicago dyke, Blonde” understood me properly though, because that response goes off in a completely different direction from what I said, and throws in some libelous accusations for good measure… a level of aggression I feel is unwarranted by my post.

          • brianmacker

            You have a different opinion or just think theirs is full of contradictions and issues, ergo in their minds you are a troll.

      • Jon Peterson

        First, I really have no idea you mean about my name.

        Second, you seem to have decided that I find genitals gross because I am uncomfortable being in a position where mine can be seen by others. That is quite far from the case. I have very little self-confidence (for various reasons, including certain types of bullying I was the target of throughout K-12 public education) and part of the manifestation of that is a general feeling of inadequacy with my own body. In gym classes, I always either had to wait for my row to clear out (and be late to class) or wrap myself in a towel so I could change under it. This has nothing to do with anyone else’s body, and everything to do with not wanting anyone else to see my own body. Do not confuse the two.

        Third, yes I absolutely feel that subjecting our children to behaviors designed to make them “tough” and “battle ready” is a bad thing. Children aren’t soldiers, and they do not need that kind of psychological influence.

        Fourth, I don’t know where all these rape references are coming from. Are you trying to insinuate that I’m pro-rape because I expressed that I am uncomfortable with others seeing my body? I legitimately have no idea where you’re coming from with this, and it’s a very ugly piece of libel. I hope it’s as transparent to other commenters as it is to me.

        • amycas

           I understand your concern about having others see your own body. I was the same way when I had to take gym class (it doesn’t bother me now though). To me, the solution should be that kids should have a different option. There should be stalls and private showers available. I think it’s weird that children are ever forced to take a group shower.

          • Jon Peterson

            That is what I suggested in the third paragraph of my original comment.

            • amycas

               I was basically agreeing with you and saying I understand.

    • Ibis3

       

      I personally would feel quite uncomfortable sharing a restroom with a member of another physical gender.

      Then you should be fully behind this policy, since you’d empathise with the trans boy who without this policy will have to share a washroom with a bunch of girls, right?

      • Jon Peterson

        Read my whole comment. Paragraph 3 proposes a solution that allows for gender neutral facilities while still providing proper privacy to avoid that discomfort.

        • Ibis3

          So, instead of being reasonable and saying that if you’re a boy you get to use the boys’ room and if you’re a girl you use the girls’ room, which would accommodate the few trans kids that are affected, you instead propose to retrofit all the public schools in the country, using money that could obviously be better spent buying educational supplies or paying teachers?

          And how exactly would that solve the issue anyway?

          • Jon Peterson

            It would allow the restrooms to be gender neutral because individuals would only be exposed within the privacy of their stall. At that point, there need be no distinction between boy or girl, trans or not.

            Also, are you really making the assertion that you’d cut corners on spending to be inclusive to trans students rather than reduce spending on “supplies”? Admittedly this is anecdotal, but every school I have ever visited (the count is over 50; I mentor for FIRST teams) could easily manage skipping a computer lab upgrade (or some other un-necessity) for a couple years to accommodate the expense.

      • brianmacker

        Huh? Why on earth would a trans boy be uncomfortable with a bunch of girls? He’s got a vagina, right? Why would he be more comfortable with boys, when they are going to say, “What the he’ll happened to your penis?” Some real boys are uncomfortable in the boys locker rooms and restroom regardless of sharing true gender. What are we supposed to do about that? This is about pretending to be something you in reality are not. What about the normal, and yes they are normal, boys and girls who are uncomfortable sharing a washroom with a transgender. How come only the transgendered comforts are being considered? I’m pretty sure the girls are not going to be comfortable with penises walking around the locker room or is this rule only post op, and since when do minors have the ability to consent to having their sexual organs lopped off?

        • Deven Kale

           I don’t know for sure about East Aurora High School, but many High Schools these days have private shower stalls and private changing rooms. If that’s the case here, then nobody will be walking around naked anyway. Since nobody will be seeing the genitals of anybody else at all, I don’t think it matters if they have a penis or a vulva, and nobody’s rights are being infringed. But it matters quite a lot to the student who’s transitioning to be able to use the facilities most in tune with their desired gender. So important that I’d bet all of them would be better behaved than the rest of the students in there.

    • Deven Kale

      I did not support this policy because I think it misunderstands the issue, and creates an even larger issue. I personally would feel quite uncomfortable sharing a restroom with a member of another physical gender. [...] I simply have no way of knowing that the physical female who walks behind me while I’m at the urinal or uses the same row in the locker room is in fact a transgender student.

      I think you’re misunderstanding the policy. It’s not the fault of the policy though, but the fault of confusing transgender terminology. When someone talks about a trans female, they’re talking about a male that’s transitioned/transitioning to a female. So when someone says to allow transgender males into the boys bathroom, they’re talking about allowing the girl who is transitioning into a boy to use the the boys room, in which case you would likely never know.

      Your complaint is that you don’t want to have to share a bathroom with someone who looks like a female because you don’t know if they’re actually female. Under the current policies of most schools, this is actually the official standing: the restroom a student uses is mandated by their genitals and not how they consistently express themselves, which means a boy that presents as a girl must use the boys room.

      Allowing a policy where a trans student may use the restroom of their chosen gender, rather than their birth gender, would actually clear up this same confusion that would have caused you such distress. It would allow those who consistently present as males to use the boys room, and those presenting as female to use the girls room. To me it really sounds like you would be in support of such a policy.

      • Jon Peterson

        That would only bet true given the assumption that I am aware of the individual. How can I be comfortably assured that the person is properly someone who consistently presents as my gender, when class sizes are over 500? I barely knew of half of my graduating class, and at the time my high school’s population was still under 2500. Today it’s much higher than that. How would I, as a random student, be assured that this policy would not be abused by the very sort of individuals that drove me to attempted suicide by my Junior year?

        • Deven Kale

           Alright, now I’m confused. First, you say that you don’t like this policy because you wouldn’t know if the girl who walks in while you’re at the urinal is a actually a girl or a boy. Now, after explaining to you that a policy such as this would actually allow anybody who presents as female to use the girls room and actually solve the problem you seem concerned about, you now say it still wouldn’t work because you might not know for sure if the boy who walks in behind you is actually a boy.

          Am I getting this right? Because if neither of these options will please you, it sounds like the only option you would be happy with is not just private stalls, but a private bathroom all to yourself. Which really isn’t a workable option in a building with 2500+ people, where up to 5 percent (a rough guess) of which are all trying to use the bathroom within a space of 2-5 minutes. The chance that you’d be able to get into the private bathroom first is very low.

          There is a small chance that a student with such sensitivities would be allowed access to the teachers bathroom, which is private, but that chance is very small. Otherwise I think the school will have to do it’s best to accommodate everyone, and people who absolutely cannot be pleased either way such as yourself will have to be ignored. After all, if a person cannot be accommodated in a reasonable way, why bother trying at all?

          • Jon Peterson

            I don’t believe you understand what transgender means. A transgender student may be an individual who identifies as a female but possesses the body of a male, or vice versa.

            “you now say it still wouldn’t work because you might not know for sure if the boy who walks in behind you is actually a boy.” I have no idea what you’re talking about. Maybe I have to spell it out for you. I was bullied heavily in school. A large part of that bullying included rumors and derogatory remarks by female students about my male body. HOW would I be protected by this policy, from the very sort of bullying I received, if it allows individuals of opposite APPARENT genders (in the vast majority of cases, physical gender is all an individual will ever perceive of another, because people don’t generally communicate personal details with random passerby)  to use the same space in which individuals are exposed.

            I use a urinal as an example because of the stereotypical connection with the idea of “guys looking at other guys at urinals” which makes it easy to see where the privacy issues relate… but stalls are not much better in most cases. Looking under or over is not difficult, and there have been countless incidents over the years of people of all ages being victimized in that way.

            This is why I suggest including floor-to-ceiling stalls as a more reasonable solution than simply making every restroom effectively co-ed without alteration. Retrofitting most bathrooms to have stalls that reach from floor to ceiling, and replacing urinals with such stalls would be a pitifully cheap matter compared to school budgets, and as a one-time expense, it would not even have a lasting impact on spending. It does not matter if the entire “restroom” is co-ed if each toilet is enclosed so that students may have privacy.

            • Deven Kale

               No, I’m honestly trying to understand the problem here, while at the same time trying to explain what this policy is actually about. In your original comment you state that you have a problem with this policy because you don’t want anybody who presents as female to be able to use them boys room because you wouldn’t know if they really were female. What I’m trying to explain is that this is actually what the policy is trying to resolve.

              The current policies of most schools imply that whether a person consistently presents as male or female makes no difference. If they have male genitals, they use the boys room, period. This policy will allow those who consistently present as male to use the boys room,  and those who present as female to use the girls room. It seems to me that would solve your problem in your original post, which was having someone presenting as female walking in behind you.

              Then you say that you still wouldn’t like this policy because you wouldn’t be able to tell if the person presenting as a boy is actually a boy. This is why I’m confused: You seem to be making contradictory statements. First you say you don’t want a physical female in the bathroom, then you say you don’t care if they look female or not, because you still wouldn’t know even if they all look like boys. The only conclusion I can come to from these contradictions is that your real problem is that anybody is sharing the bathroom with you, regardless of their genitals or gender presentation.

              And BTW, you’re not the only one who was bullied about their penis size. I myself was often laughed at by bullies saying I had a small one. It’s just what bullies do, try in whatever way they can to make somebody feel smaller than them. Those things they say aren’t even always true, and mostly it’s just them trying to make others feel as small as they feel. They’ll use any tactic that works, regardless of it’s truth value.

              • brianmacker

                What, girls can’t wear pants? Do girls that look butch now have to use the boys room? Does a boy have to wear lipstick to get in the girls room?

                • Deven Kale

                  “Consistent gender presentation” brianmacker, not “felt like dressing like a guy/girl today to mess with people.” There is a vast difference between the two.

                • brianmacker

                  The butch girls I knew didn’t do it on a whim. Some were quite consistent. What about gays who are not transgender but wish to consistently dress like the opposite sex? Seems like there are all sorts of possible combinations.

              • Jon Peterson

                I continue to be unable to see where in my posts you get the impression that I’m making the second (contradictory) statement. Or, in fact, where you got your idea of the first statement.

                My problem is that there is no way to enforce that only physical females who identify as males (I’ll be crass and incorrect for the sake of clarity: humans with vaginas that believe they are male, despite having been born not male) will be allowed to use the males’ room while barring females who identify as females (humans with a vagina who are pleased with the way nature configured them) from using the males’ room.

                Also vice versa with males going into the females’ room.

                Do you understand now? I do not have any idea how I could be more clear.

                • Deven Kale

                   Yup, I understand now. You don’t like that somebody who comes in looking like a boy may in fact be a girl. It’s where you kept saying “physical female” where I got confused, I thought you meant “looks female” by that. In the future, call them what they are, trans females: It’ll help ease the confusion.

                  The problem I have with your assertion is that, even in a school with 2500 people, somebody is bound to notice someone who consistently presents as one gender dressing up as the other for a day. Most likely because they’d do it badly, but also because there’s going to be at least one person who will recognize them.

                  I can tell you I knew every single person in my class by eye, and if one of them had done something like dress as a girl one day, I would have noticed. I may not have known most of them personally, and even fewer of them by name, but I knew whether they presented as male or female on a daily basis.

                  I think your biggest problem is the bullying, to which this policy wouldn’t have made any difference. You see it as a way for a bully to take it into the bathrooms, but I don’t think that’s likely. For a bully to try and play themselves as the other gender for one day just to mess with a few people in the bathroom? I find it highly unlikely.

                • Deven Kale

                  Dammit, I hate typos. All the “female” I’d written got me confused. I meant “trans male” when I wrote “trans female”. My bad.

                • Jon Peterson

                  Transgender females (who believe they are male) still look like females in a majority of cases (more so in elementary school because of fear of rejection/bullying/etc).

                  So no, I do not worry about someone coming in looking like a boy and not knowing whether they actually have those parts. It’s the ones who look like girls, and I can’t tell whether they’re there because they are transgender or because they’re abusing a policy that didn’t consider other forms of bullying.

                  (By the way, I’m not just worried about what happens in the boys’ room. Same goes for the girls’ room, just vice-versa with which gender is targeted and which is the abuser.)

                  You also claim that it would be obvious when “a girl dresses up like a boy for one day”. I don’t know what school you went to, but clothing at my school was generally pretty gender-neutral. People wore pants and tees. A lot of girls wore boy-cut tees, and a lot of guys wore fitted tees. A lot of girls wore loose-fit pants, and a lot of guys wore “girlpants” that they had to spend multiple minutes cramming themselves into.

                  Transgender people are simply not visually apparent. You cannot know for sure unless you are familiar with the individual. THAT is why I believe that the policy is ill-conceived.

                  A student who consistently presents as a gender different from their physical one may be obvious to classmates and teachers who actually  interact with the individual on a regular basis… but not necessarily to everyone (or even a majority) on the campus.

                • Deven Kale

                   I don’t think you actually realize what it means to be a transgender. It’s a lot more than just cross-dressing: It’s a person who honestly believes they are the opposite of their birth sex, and are willing to go to nearly any lengths to become indistinguishable from any other member of that sex (there are a few exceptions, but I’m speaking generally).

                  “Consistent gender presentation” means that person looks and acts like a member of that sex on a regular basis. Transgender
                  males tend to hide their breasts with things such as breast-binders or
                  training bras that are many sizes too small. Transgender females tend to
                  wear stuffed bras, or even bras with false breasts in them. They do
                  this so they actually fit in with their chosen gender.

                  If your problem really is somebody walking into the boys room that looks like a girl (or vice versa), I still believe that a policy such as this is more likely to relieve that problem than cause it.

                • Jon Peterson

                  “and are willing to go to nearly any lengths to become indistinguishable from any other member of that sex ”

                  That  is commonly true among adults who have found confidence in the way they are. It is much less so among elementary school youth, who often face extreme bullying and rejection if they “come out”.

                • Deven Kale

                   If they’re that afraid of coming out, then why would they risk going into the other bathroom?

  • Browndoubled

    Tweet them @EA131

  • Michael Appleman

    This whole situation is just unfortunate :

  • JohnnieCanuck

    In all that ‘explanation’ you transcribed, I kept waiting for the part where we would be told who authored the policy that they trusted so much that they just rubber stamped it. 

    I infer it wasn’t the State Board of Education because apparently it put the School Board out of step with the rest of the State and no number was referenced. If not, who was it and in any case, could we hear their side of the story? What were the initial considerations that made someone write it in the first place. Are other school boards looking at this document? Is it not binding on anyone?

    Who has the answers?

    • http://twitter.com/Catch10110 Rick Einhorn

      I accidentally replied above, but I believe it was Christine Aird.

      As far as those other details, I don’t know unfortunately. 

  • Randy

    “…  it seems that the board is very concerned …”

    In what way?  They told everyone what they wanted to hear, but then made it all about their poor tormented selves, and eliminated the rule, replacing it with nothing.

    Their only stated intent is to do what everyone else in the state already does, whatever that may be.

    As for the 20-minute-long dismissal of the people who actually attended, these are the people who cared enough to attend.  By accident, the board did the right thing.  The community responded positively in person.   Nobody (other than the board) could have predicted the outcome.  It’s clear that the board does not intend to listen to the community. 

    They need to be replaced, every one of them.

    • http://twitter.com/Catch10110 Rick Einhorn

      Because they have allocated $50,000 towards anti-bullying programs. Because there are other policies that they said they intend to pass which protect transgender and non-conforming gender identity students and staff. 

      Because my personal feeling was that the board president was sincere in what she said, and I believe they honestly intend to do something to address this issue. 

      I am not giving them a pass, but it is enough for me to give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s see what they do to fix this. 

      I would, however,  vote to replace Raymond Hull immediately. He has done absolutely nothing to show me he gives a shit about the issue. 

      • Anunymoose

        Do not confuse activity with accomplishment.  Just because I invest money somewhere doesn’t mean it will pay dividends.  That being said, the teacher’s union elected NOT to roll out the policy for anti-bullying.  So all of that money that was spent is essentially just sitting on a shelf or in a drawer waiting for the approval to move forward. 

        Also, what exactly do the other policies say to address the issue that was rescinded?  Do they successfully state the same thing just in different terms?  And if similar policies were already in place, why didn’t anyone oppose those as we heard these were so heavily embattled?

        • http://twitter.com/Catch10110 Rick Einhorn

          I honestly don’t know much about what the school board has or has not done. I don’t even have any kids. I just heard about this situation literally the day before the meeting occurred and thought I might be able to go and show some support.

          All I can really comment on is my impressions of what happened at the meeting. It may be that their actions don’t match their words…I can really only comment on what I heard and saw at that meeting. 

  • Kaoru Negisa

    I very much appreciate the report from the meeting, and while I don’t doubt that being there may have made them seem more sincere to you, I cannot take this as anything other than a slap in the face to the trans* community. Ms. Johnson’s apologies are empty. I don’t much care how very, very sorry she is. Her regret is not going to make a trans* student more comfortable. And whether the board has good intentions or not, their intentions are worth exactly nothing. Only their actions have any value, and these actions are cowardly and callous. Ms. Johnson’s personal torment is a drop in the bucket to the torment faced by trans* students every day, and while the other actions they’ve taken are appreciated, they are not some sort of excuse to not take another vital step. It gives the impression that the board feels they’ve done enough, that there’s no reason to take that extra step for students who need it, and that is not the appropriate approach to dealing with problems faced by children trying to learn.

    • http://twitter.com/Catch10110 Rick Einhorn

      I do agree. I am not giving them a pass on this just because they are sorry, I just would be willing to see what they do to fix this. I think they missed a chance to do the right thing, and I hope they can actually do something to make up for that.


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