The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 transgender issue draws opposing views
By Seth Hancock
Do your kids belong to you, or do they belong to the state? Who instills the values and beliefs that your children hold?
Questions remained after an over four-hour long Board of Education meeting in School District U-46 on Monday, Sept. 12. By a nearly two-to-one margin, 37 total, the public came out to oppose the district’s change in practice regarding transgender bathroom and locker room access and a lack of transparency regarding the issue.
Ray Stalker said: “Children do not belong to the state. Children do not belong to the school. I’m concerned when I hear a school violating the rights of parents even to know or to be informed, much less to be consulted. The school and the school board answer to parents, not the other way around.”
“The dignity and the privacy, the modesty and the emotional well-being and safety of our children has been compromised and violated,” said Dave Rediger adding: “I would say how dare this school board ask me to put one more dime into this craziness.”
Wendell Cattron said: “I believe that parents have the responsibility to teach their children the difference between right and wrong.”
Pastor Mike Bestul said that “what concerns me the most is that the perception at least is that we just didn’t want to have the parents involved,” and Daniel McCarty said “I believe this U-46 policy goes against what many of us believe is correct.”
Fred Reiters said: “My children are not going to be subjected to some social experimentation. It’s not going to happen. You work for us, everybody. You don’t make the rules.”
“As a parent, I’m charged to raise up my children and train them in the way that they should go, and for millennia there has been male and female. It’s so inherent and it’s so distinct, and to teach these children that there isn’t distinction between the two is doing harm,” said Steve Johnson.
In contrast, several employees of the district came to support Sanders like Bartlett High School principal Mike Demovsky who said the problem comes from the parents holding traditional values.
“We have a problem, and that problem is not our students,” Demovsky said. “The problem is that we have adults… who are driving self-serving agendas.”
Another question highlighted by the meeting is who, if anyone, is bullying?
Carissa Means said: “If the school district chooses to tell students that it’s not okay to want privacy and that it’s old fashioned to be modest, it is the school district who is bullying.”
Board member Jeanette Ward was accused of bullying and putting a target on a student’s back for simply informing the public of the change. One of Ward’s opponents proved that no personal information was divulged after saying “private information was not to be shared” went on to say “whoever the student is, I send them my support.”
Bruce Boorman said: “The postings that (Ward) has done have been diplomatic, they have been respectful and even more importantly they have served a vital public function. The way this whole issue was handled was a mistake from the very beginning.”
John Kirkwood said: “The only bullying I’ve seen here tonight has been the bullying of Mrs. Ward and the people who stand for common sense accommodations. You can accommodate any child with needs without compromising the rights of every other child in the school…. There are two things that were wrong with this, the process and using a child as a human shield to force your agenda.”
“Jeanette Ward is not a bully,” said Sue Johnson. “Telling the truth is not hate speech. Telling the truth is needed and necessary to evaluate failed policies and decisions.”
Most of Ward’s supporters and those opposed to the change made statements such as “I love everyone in this room” and “it’s nothing to do with hate,” and that they have compassion “towards those we disagree.”
Casie Diehl, a member of a local church, said: “So someone comes to us with a gender identity problem we try to help them. We don’t just say ‘oh, that’s ok.’ They’re confused…. They’re struggling with this. It’s a process, and somebody has to direct them.”
However, those supporting Ward were subjected to being called hateful bigots, fear mongers and part of hate groups not only by other members of the public but by board members and Sanders as well.
Roxanne Vick told those with traditional values “I don’t want you to tolerate, I’d like acceptance. Toleration no, acceptance.” One student said “it is wrong to listen to anyone other than these transgender students.”
Although the majority of those supporting Ward, 22 of them, were from the district, some detractors took aim because some from outside the district also came. Tracy Kelly said to only listen to those who live in the district, and both she and failed board candidate Larry Bury both implied that the district is some kind of monolith where everyone holds the same opinions.
“I have every right to be here even though my children don’t go to school in this district because this is not just about U-46. This issue has statewide and national implications,” said Cedra Crenshaw.
Some accused the religious and Christians in the crowd of pushing their beliefs, but Christina Corle said that while she has no intention of trying to control a transgender person “I can, however, refuse to allow his imaginations to dictate my future and the futures of my children.”
Corle added: “You say that I do not have tolerance because I do not support the transgender restrooms, but what about tolerance for the beliefs of us who do not want ourselves or our children to be exposed to something that’s against our beliefs.”
U-46 teacher Nick Miklusak opened the comments to those who opposed the change by saying while he thinks they have “good intentions… please be very careful of the words you use.” He did not ask the same of those supporting the change despite some of those very same people calling those opposed a part of hate groups and ignorant.
Several employees told those with traditional values that the kids are more tolerant than adults, and one student said that “I think that our children should be telling us what our policies are and what they’re comfortable with.”
In contrast, Steve Szwarga said: “I thought the point of education was for us to teach them. We’re supposed to be teaching them. We tell them how math works. We tell them how English works, how science works.”
Szwarga added that the students’ viewpoints should be respected but we need to “teach them the truth, and that includes biology.”
What is best for the transgender students?
Many supporting the district claimed anyone calling gender dysphoria an illness as hateful and bigoted.
However, Jean McNamara said she was a master’s prepared nurse focusing on endocrine hormones and that “we do not know much” about the disease, and to cave in to their demands of acceptance rather than seeking treatment for them is “giving up on them.”
“Instead of us saying why, we give up on these people,” McNamara said. “As responsible adults, we are sending them down a road to having sex-change operations that will mean they will never father a child.”
Ward later noted that “the group of doctors who disagree on transgender issues are not fringe groups, they just disagree.” John Hopkins Hospital pioneered sex-change operations but no longer offers it, and John Hopkins’ doctors Paul R. McHugh and John Gearhart both say those with gender dysphoria should seek treatment.