Local parents concerned with Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s decision to extend anti-discrimination protections to transgender students say they will keep their children home on the first day of school if the school board does not reverse its policy.
The parents have organized through a Facebook group, “Take Back Our Schools — BCSC,” a page that has 26 likes. The parents have announced plans to make a final appeal to the BCSC school board to reverse its decision to add gender identity to the list of protected classes in the official board policies.
Board members voted May 23 to extend protections to transgender students, although they maintained the policy change was in language only.
Board policies were previously amended in 2013 to include protections based on transgender status, and former superintendent John Quick said in May that changing the wording to gender identity was meant to keep up with the current language used to discuss LGBT rights.
When asked directly at the May board meeting if the policy update would mean that students of one biological gender could be allowed to use the restroom designated for the opposite gender, Quick said yes, but stressed that each situation would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
However, the former superintendent’s answer sparked outrage among some parents, who said the policy would endanger students by allowing predators to pretend to identify as the opposite gender in an effort to enter restrooms to look at or sexually harass students, particularly female students.
In the weeks following the May 23 meeting, small groups of parents have continued to attend BCSC board meetings and express their concerns for student safety. At each meeting, school board President Jill Shedd has said that the board always seeks to act in the best interest of all students and reaffirmed the board’s commitment to dealing with situations individually as they arise.
But as part of a plan to have a larger presence at Monday’s meeting, parents said they will ask board members one more time to reverse the policy in the interest of student safety. If the board refuses, then the parents will keep their students out on the first day of school.
“They (board members) have to listen to what’s repeated over and over and over across the country,” said Ron Allen, a member of the parent group. “Nothing’s going to happen until the kids walk out of school.”
Although the Facebook group’s online invitation to attend the board meeting shows that three people are interested in joining Monday’s conversation, Allen said he has heard from other conversations that a large group of concerned parents — himself included — plan to be at the BCSC administration building for the board meeting Monday night.
Allen, who has an 11-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, said he was among the nearly 100 parents who attended the May 23 board meeting in opposition of the policy change, although he didn’t speak to the board.
Allen said he is opposed to the policy change because he views it as an unnecessary hindrance to student safety.
“I don’t see any reason for it,” he said. “I don’t see why they think they need … boys and men in the girls restroom, and girls in the boys restroom.”
Based on what he heard at the May 23 meeting, Allen said he thinks board members made up their minds on the issue of transgender protections when the initial policy change happened in 2013.
Jim Roberts, BCSC’s new superintendent who took over Columbus schools on July 1, said he thinks most school districts across the country are moving toward policies that advocate for protections for all students, including transgender students.
Before he came to Columbus, Roberts was superintendent of Batesville schools, where he said he never faced the kind of public backlash BCSC’s gender identity policy is facing.
However, Roberts said he did encounter transgender students while working in Batesville, and those situations — as in Columbus — were dealt with on an individual level.
The new superintendent said he thinks that’s the best course of action.
But Allen said he feels like the policy jeopardizes the safety of other students by letting transgender students use restrooms that don’t align with their biological gender. Because of his safety concerns, Allen said he has pulled his children out of BCSC schools and plans to enroll them elsewhere.
Based on the conversations he has had with his neighbors, Allen said he thinks many private and parochial schools in the area will likely see an uptick in enrollment this fall that is directly related to the gender identity policy.
For those parents who are choosing to keep their children enrolled in Columbus public schools, the Facebook group has also organized a first day of school walkout in protest of the policy change if the board does not agree to reverse the policy at Monday’s meetings.
Allen said the idea of the walkout is to make a dent in the district’s state funding. He said the group is operating under the assumption that if fewer students show up to school each day, then the state could lower the district’s funding for 2017.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. policy on protected classes reads as follows:
“… the Board of School Trustees does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including transgender status, sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, age, religion, military status, ancestry, or genetic information, which are classes protected by Federal and/or State law (collectively, “Protected Classes”) occurring in the Corporation’s educational opportunities, programs, and/or activities, or … affecting the Corporation environment.”
All school board policies are available by visiting bcsc.k12.in.us under “About Us – District School Board Policies.”
Monday’s agenda for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Board meeting does not designate a time to specifically discuss the gender identity policy. However, during the public dialogue/comments of individuals and delegations portions of the meeting, local parents plan to voice their concerns about the policy to board members.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday in the M. Sue Pifer Terrace Room of the district administration building, 1200 Central Ave., Columbus.
“Nothing’s going to happen until the kids walk out of school.”
— BCSC parent Ron Allen, opponent of gender identity policy