Public Schools and Transgender Policyby Chris Corlett
This past summer I sat down to lunch with two retired teacher colleagues. After reminiscing about what one friend described as the “Golden Years of Public Education” our conversation turned to our kids and their grandchildren. When I was asked by one of my friends, “Who will be your daughter’s next teacher?” I responded, “Her mother. We are homeschooling her.” After a brief pause they asked the question every homeschooling parent has heard, “Why?” My answer was short and said everything I needed it to say without really saying anything at all. “Public education is not what it used to be.” This article serves as an opportunity to provide to you, my gracious reader, a more thorough insight into my response while addressing one facet of today’s evolving public education system. Today’s public schools are not yesterday’s public schools.
Both the velocity and the ferocity with which the LGBT agenda has infiltrated our public schools are remarkable. When I left the public classroom in 2006, this issue was barely on the radar screen. Within a decade, the topic is among the top few issues facing administrators and education professionals today. The ever-changing statutory and regulatory environment caused by evolving definitions and competing political parties creates an uncertain foundation upon which to develop policy. School districts are generally averse to litigation and prefer policies that avoid costly legal entanglements. This often appeals to community members and taxpayers interested in the best education for the children and the community for the lowest cost. What follows is a review of some of the pressures influencing public policy in our public schools today.
Title IX refers to a Federal law enacted by the 92nd United State Congress amending inter alia The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and it states in part:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
This opened doors in the 1970’s to new opportunities for woman including participation in interscholastic sports. What followed is decades of interpretation and regulation regarding the implementation of this law by several government agencies. In a “Dear Colleague Letter” dated May 13, 2016 issued jointly be the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education the following guidance appears:
“As a condition of receiving Federal funds, a school agrees that it will not exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities unless expressly authorized to do so under Title IX or its implementing regulations. The Departments treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations. (bold-faced added) This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity. The Departments’ interpretation is consistent with courts’ and other agencies’ interpretations of Federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination.”
The Trump administration on February 22, 2017 rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance.
Put yourself in the shoes of the Board of Education member required to vote on a resolution or policy regarding transgender issues. Consider the law firms retained by school districts which advise on how best to comply with statutes and regulations. The language in this government letter is neither ambiguous nor ambivalent. Many school districts characterized the letter as requiring schools to be as open minded as possible on the issue of transgender student rights. A conservative approach fiscally has a progressive consequence socially. And a more fundamental issue is raised by the boldface sentence. Any resistance to the accommodation of gender identity priorities is tantamount to gender discrimination from which our current heated rhetoric hurls accusations of phobia and hate.
The New York State legistature passed the Dignity of All Students Act (“DASA”) which took effect on July 1, 2013. Applicants for any New York State education certification are required to complete six hours of training. This law “seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.” The guidance found in the aforementioned “Dear Colleague Letter” confirmed and complemented this legislation. When the Trump administration rescinded this letter and its guidance, the New York State Education Department on March 27, 2017 issued its own guidance. Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said, “We must reaffirm our commitment to providing educational sanctuaries, where students are free to learn regardless of their race, ethnicity, language spoken at home, immigration status, sexual orientation or any other basis. We must embrace all children as our own, with warmth and compassion.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “Our message is clear: school districts have a duty to protect the rights of their students — no matter the draconian policies coming out of Washington. I’m proud to continue to partner with Commissioner Elia and SED to ensure this message is heard loud and clear around the state.”
New York State Senator Daniel Squadron sponsored bill S61A (known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act or “GENDA”) which “prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression and includes offenses regarding gender identity or expression under the hate crimes statute.” This bill merges any resistance to the LGBT agenda with the dreaded label of hate crime. This bill has lost some momentum perhaps due to the many other developments in both our national and state capitols. California Governor Jerry Brown in 2013 signed the first state legislation of this kind which “gives students the right to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender.”
A Board of Education of a New York State school district faces protest and petition to remove from its “Wall of Fame” a Tennessee senator who received in 2008 this recognition from his school. “He has trivialized LGBT youth suicide, labeled homosexuals as a ‘dangerous and deadly’ community because he ignorantly claims only they can transmit HIV/AIDS, and has attempted to pass the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill which would prevent any type of non-heterosexual discussions in schools. His beliefs are unacceptable for modern day society and certainly don’t set a good example for future generations.”
According to Planned Parenthood, the narrative about “the birds and the bees” is inadequate in today’s complex conversation about sexuality. “When it comes to gender, ideas about what it means to be a girl or a boy are everywhere, and these ideas have a big influence on your preschooler. Learn how to teach your kid that their gender doesn’t limit them, how to talk about different kinds of families, how to know if your kid is transgender, and more.” The link contains information on a new narrative which relies on themes including properly naming body parts and avoiding gender stereotypical patterns. And the advice recommends starting this conversation at the earliest of ages.
The Minnesota Department of Education released on July 24, 2017 its Toolkit for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students. The Department website describes it as a “(t)oolkit to help school districts and charter schools create school environments where transgender and gender nonconforming students are safe, supported and fully included, and have equal access to the educational opportunities provided to all students.” About the toolkit NBC news reports:
“The 11-page ‘toolkit’ includes guidelines for the use of proper pronouns and preferred names — suggesting that teachers stop using the term ‘boys and girls,’ and instead use ‘students’ and ‘scholars’ — and tackles the hot-button issue of access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with a student’s gender identity. Authors propose single-user restrooms be available for any students who do not want to share a restroom with transgender and gender-nonconforming students.”
Information on the Gender Unicorn — along with other trans-student resources — is available at http://www.transstudent.org/gender. I prefer to leave an investigation into this to you gracious reader. This purple puppet created quite a stir within the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system and this author lacks sufficient direct knowledge or reliable reporting to confidentially summarize what is taking place there. Suffice it to say that the Gender Unicorn appears to be influencing professional development programs and public policy decisions albeit on a small scale for now.
This author has long supported parental choice regarding the education of children. Choices include public schools, private schools, parochial schools and parental (home) schools and often combinations thereof. As fall brings about a new school year, I urge all parents to make deliberate, prayerful and informed decisions regarding their children’s education. I hope this article contributes to the information on which that decision is based.
The Parental Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution has been reintroduced in the United States Senate. This amendment proposes to add parental rights specifically and explicitly to the text of the United States Constitution, thereby protecting parental liberty “to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children.” Educate yourself about this Parental Rights Amendment and engage your representatives in your priorities.
Get involved in your local politics by running for a school board position. The Teaching and Learning Institute states its mission is “(t)o increase the number of candidates who are willing to run for their local school board. These candidates should be committed to family values based on a traditional Judeo-Christian belief system.”
And be in prayer for your family, your community, and your government.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
— 2 Corinthians 10:3–5
I look forward to hearing from you and I can be reached at email@example.com.
My Gracious Readers will see a parallel between this and the Trump administration’s withholding of Federal monies from so-called sanctuary cities. For news breaking on the day that I write this article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/chicago-sues-trump-administration-sanctuary-cities-rahm-emanuel-jeff-sessions-a7880061.html ↩
For the record, I have never received this talk, gave this talk or even claim to understand the analogy. ↩
The author endorses as a public policy the availability of single-user restrooms for any student who prefers this. ↩