The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 policy change fuels emotional dissent
By Seth Hancock
School District U-46 has finally responded to some questions from a dissenter to the new transgender bathroom/locker room practice, and the semantic games and lack of answers shows the administration’s as well as board majority’s elitism and arrogance according to John Kirkwood who posed the questions.
Kirkwood asked the questions at the Board of Education meeting on Monday, Oct. 3 and it took 10 days to receive a response. Miguel Rodriguez, chief legal officer, authored the response.
Regarding if staff and students will be required “to use opposite sex pronouns when referring to gender dysphoric students and/or colleagues” and if they will be punished if they use the factual biological pronoun, Rodriguez said they will be “expected to use the appropriate gender pronoun” based on feelings rather than facts but did not answer if there will be any punishment assessed.
For the middle school student that the change in practice was made for, there is a privacy stall and supervision but what about when a transgender student says a privacy stall and supervision is “unjustly discriminatory?” Rodriguez did not answer other than saying the administration will “work with students and families … to reach an agreement.”
The decision was made with no public input, or knowledge, and no possibility of seeking a compromise that would alleviate concerns of the majority opposed to the change, and Kirkwood asked if there is any possibility of reconsideration. Rodriguez said there wasn’t because “the majority of the Board has spoken in favor of the District’s decision.”
Asked by Kirkwood if it’s “not the better part of wisdom to take a neutral, not celebratory, approach” considering the high rates of suicide among the transgender population as well as why a “neutral option that could have been more widely accepted” was not sought, Rodriguez said he didn’t understand what “neutral” or “celebratory” meant so he couldn’t answer.
During one of the three lengthy board meetings where the vast majority of public comments were made in opposition to this change, Brian Kenny noted a 2014 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention study done by UCLA’s Williams Institute which showed “capitulating to the transgender idea actually increases the risk for suicide for transgender people.”
Regarding a false claim by U-46 CEO Tony Sanders in a weekly message that sex is “assigned” at birth, Kirkwood asked who “assigns a person’s biological sex,” will biology textbooks be replaced and what qualifications does Sanders have to make such claims? Rodriguez did not answer those questions and instead simply supported the district’s decision.
Asked if U-46 will “create guidelines for the treatment of Judeo-Christian staff, faculty and students, or are they not to be accommodated,” Rodriguez told Kirkwood to review the board’s policies 5.011 (Non-Discrimination), 5.020 (Work Place Anti-Harassment), 7.010 (Equal Educational Opportunities) and 7.020 (Anti-Harassment Policy – Students).
The Examiner reached out to Kirkwood to get his response to the district’s lack of response, and he said: “I was thoroughly disappointed with Miguel’s response though, based on the whole treatment of this issue out of the starting gate, I was not surprised. There is an elitist arrogance emanating from the board on this, and a number of other issues, and if you look at Miguel’s letter you find responses in lieu of answers. And that’s a shame, and it’s not helpful to anyone involved. If I took the board’s position as honest and just, I would yet be embarrassed by the way they continue to mishandle this issue, and along the way insult everyone involved. This is a lesson on how not to lead and the very reason that so many are cynical and distrustful of the U-46 board.”
Insults have come not only from proponents of the change but also from Sanders, board members and teachers. When the new practice was made public Sanders called those with concerns fear mongers and board members Traci Ellis and Veronica Noland have called them hateful and bigoted while joining Sue Kerr and Donna Smith in changing the board’s practice in hearing public comments, a change that could be interpreted as an attempt to suppress dissent.
The board majority’s ignoring of concerns may have indeed suppressed dissent as the meeting following the public comments change on Monday, Oct. 17 had just five speakers who all supported the transgender practice change.
Phil Benshoof called board member Jeanette Ward a liar for calling it a change in practice, but the facts are this is a change in practice as Sanders has even admitted as such. Despite the Oct. 3 meeting including five U-46 students saying they were uncomfortable with the change, four students claimed to speak for “all” students on Oct. 17 and called opponents hateful and that “language such as yours has a body count.”
Those students, who were also involved in a petition earlier this year asking to have Ward removed from office because she has a different opinion, claimed you have no “right to privacy” in the bathroom and one Bartlett High School student disrespectfully tied in Ward’s “own two daughters,” something she may have learned from teacher Gary Lorber who at a previous board meeting also brought up Ward’s children and questioned her parenting.
For simply making this change in practice public, Ward has been called a bully, “a disease” and “I want to vomit. Jeannette Ward makes me sick,” all by supporters of Sanders on his own Facebook page. Steve Szwarga, an 18-year Elgin resident who runs an addiction program, spoke at a board meeting to say he’s got compassion for those suffering from gender dysphoria and offered help, and for that he was attacked by a district supporter on a post Sanders allowed to be made on his social media page.
Sanders has not apologized for his divisive rhetoric and has not asked his supporters to watch their language, but he did tell opponents of the change to “monitor their words and mannerisms” in a weekly message. While opponents of the change have used the authority of the Bible for their dissent, a U-46 teacher who supports this change used the authority of Harry Potter to say words are “magic” and said “I am really getting frustrated with people who continually deny the humanity of my students.”
Opponents of the change have spoken at meetings to say they have compassion and care for those who are “confused,” but they disagree with pandering to the confusion. Many have simply asked that the district seek a compromise that would be more widely acceptable, but Sanders has refused.
While Sanders and the administration, the board’s majority and proponents have refused to listen to concerns of dissenters, those dissenters have been the ones appealing to common sense and respecting all values and beliefs.
Rozzie Decker said: “The inability of the proponents of this decision to show respect for the office, much less the right of Mrs. Ward to have a differing opinion, is disconcerting. The vitriol and demeaning stance that has been taken speaks volumes to me about the real agenda here.”
Louie Bowers said: “I applaud Mrs. Ward to disapprove … of secrecy and her support of transparency. I’m not aware of any vile language directed by her at her fellow board members or the transgender student. I see no indication of hatred, just disapproval.”
Nathan Hancock appealed to folks to “tone it down a little. We can’t hear each other through the shouting,” and he said “I for myself and my family love every person in this room …. A little bit of that will go a long way in convincing others that your position may be the correct one, and perhaps therein you find common ground.”
“In a democracy, things are done in the open,” Hancock said. “Usually when things are done in secret it’s because there’s something to hide or the person doing it knows it’s wrong. I’m not accusing you of that this evening, but I am saying that perhaps because of the difficult position you’re in maybe it made sense to try to do something in secret.”