School Board Hears Comment on Transgender Student Policy Drafts
Members of the public voiced their opinions on two policy drafts regarding transgender and gender-nonconforming students at a packed Albany County School Board hearing in the School Administration Building Wednesday night.
Emotions ran high at times, but School Board Chair Janice Marshall commended those in attendance for keeping the hearing respectful.
“What a wonderful community we have that we can have this civil time together, so thank you for that,” said Marshall.
The two drafts discussed are similar in many ways, but they differ in a few key places. One important difference is that Draft A would allow for transgender and gender-nonconforming students to use whichever restroom or locker room they feel comfortable with, while Draft B would restrict the use of those facilities based on biological sex.
Roughly 25 people spoke in favor of Draft A, and about 14 supported Draft B. Several people found flaws with both drafts.
Cynthia Duncan says she has had three boys in the district and that she had “a real problem” with the topic being discussed at all.
“I am disturbed that this School Board is trying to fix something that is not broken,” said Duncan.
“A person’s true gender… is provable by DNA testing. How a person feels about their gender is just a personal preference,” said Duncan. “The issue should be dropped.”
Bern Haggerty cautioned the school board against Draft B, citing problems with a potential binary sex test as the basis for locker room and restroom use.
“You’re going to have to have a sex-checker on your staff, and it’s not going to be pleasant,” said Haggerty.
Chandra Inouye spoke in favor of Draft A and was one of many who acknowledged the concerns of parents with differing opinions.
“We’re all here because we love and care about our children,” said Inouye. “Every child in our schools has a right to feel safe and supported.”
A parent who identified himself as Derek brought up “one glaring deficiency… that neither draft does well in addressing.”
“How does allowing males transitioning to female to participate in female athletics provide an avenue for females to fairly compete? Does that adhere to Title IX legislation passed in 1972? CrossFit doesn’t think so,” Derek said.
Sam Martin, a parent, said that Draft B was more than sufficient to address the use of bathrooms.
“Concerning privacy – I have a daughter, and if a boy walks into the bathroom with my daughter, we’re going to have words,” said Martin. He also addressed religious concerns.
“Scripture is clear that a man wearing a woman’s clothing or a woman wearing a man’s clothing is an abomination, and there are people that take that seriously,” said Martin.
“We seem to be disregarding the privacy, safety and comfort of the heterosexual students,” said David Graeff. “There are many implications from beginning to base our decisions on feelings.”
“I think that the whole thing is really confusing,” said Laramie High School senior Colin Rucinski, speaking in favor of Draft B. “I don’t think that everything should be tolerated. I think the line should be drawn somewhere.”
Dr. Susan Williams, a mental health therapist at the University of Wyoming’s Counseling Center, said she has both a personal and professional interest in the topic. She said that Draft A is a wonderful start.
“I would say that the harm of not accepting where people are – where they know they are in terms of their gender identity – does so much more damage,” said Williams.
Carrie Guy, a parent and board-certified genetic counselor, said the issue of gender is very complex.
“It’s not as simple as a DNA test,” said Guy.
“As a parent, I’m actually very concerned about policy B, because I am concerned about my daughter learning from our school district that intolerance is OK,” said Guy. “I don’t have those values; I don’t think Laramie has those values. I think we are a loving, caring community and I want my daughter to learn that.”
“I actually would feel very comfortable with her sharing a bathroom with a transgender female because I hope that she would learn tolerance and I hope that she would learn acceptance and she would have a new friend,” said Guy.
Amendments to each draft were proposed by members of the public as well as board Trustee Lawrence Perea, who discussed in an email to the School Board on Sunday the adoption of a model policy calling for separate gender-neutral facilities suggested by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
District Superintendent Dr. Jubal Yennie said the School Board might briefly discuss Perea’s proposal on Feb. 3 and Feb. 10. He said a motion to withdraw the old policy is possible at a School Board Meeting next month, and that the School Board would probably set a special meeting on the issue sometime in the not-too-distant future.
“Good discussion tonight,” said Dr. Yennie.