Bartholomew Consolidated School Board members have approved a measure to include gender identity as a protected class in its official board policies, despite intense opposition from parents who said the protections will put female students at risk in school restrooms and locker rooms.

The six members of the board who attended Monday night’s meeting each approved a change to the district’s equal opportunity policies to include “gender identity” in a list of protected classes under “sex,” which is its own protected class. Board member Bob Abrams did not attend the meeting, but said through a message read by president Jill Shedd that he would have voted in favor of the change if he were present.

The vote came after an hour and a half of heated discussion among an audience of nearly 100 local parents and other residents who focused primarily on the risks they said will be incurred by female students if biological males who identify as females are allowed to use the girls’ restrooms.

The protections could allow some male students to choose to identify as girls only in an attempt to enter the female restrooms so that they could look at or sexually harass female students, members of the audience said.

The parents — who, at times, shouted over each other and board members and even shed some tears — accused the board of adding the protections based on gender identity out of fear of negative public scrutiny and repercussions from the federal government.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.