AURORA, Ill. — An Illinois school board is considering rescinding a transgender rights policy it adopted Monday after after receiving emails and letters from outraged residents and anti-gay organizations across the state.
In a unanimous decision, the East Aurora, Il., school board voted Monday to implement a policy that supports transgender and gender nonconforming staff, faculty, and students.
The policy states that transgender and gender nonconforming students have the right to be addressed by the name and gender pronoun with which they identify, and that a court-granted name or gender change is not required.
Under the new policy, students also have the right to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to their gender identity
The decision came under immediate fire Tuesday from the Illinois Family Institute, an anti-gay hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called the school board’s decision “biased, radical, and offensive” to taxpayers, warning that it could very well “embolden activists all over the state and country.”
“Apparently, all that’s needed for school personnel to be compelled to participate in a fiction is for a student to pretend ‘consistently’ at school that he or she is the opposite sex. The school board is now imposing non-objective, ‘progressive’ moral, philosophical, and political beliefs—not facts—about gender confusion on the entire school.
“This feckless school board has made a decision to accommodate, not the needs of gender-confused teens, but their disordered desires and the desires of gender/sexuality anarchists who exploit public education for their perverse ends.”
A spokesperson for the IFI also claimed that transgender individuals “suffer” from a “mental and moral disorder.”
“The Illinois Family Institute and its affiliates spew venomous lies about efforts to ensure safe school environments for our children,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. “This is not how we talk about school children or the responsible school authorities who are looking out for the students’ interests.”
But late Wednesday, the school board issued an announcement that it would meet Friday to potentially rescind the policy.
“The board never at any time came up with this (policy) on their own,” School Board President Annette Johnson said Wednesday. “We usually follow (the Illinois Sate Board of Education), and their recommendations.”
Johnson said she was surprised by the positive and negative attention surrounding the board’s decision, reported the Beacon News. “This was just a policy the board felt they needed to keep up-to-date with,” she said.
Johnson said that she has received e-mails from both supporters and opponents of the policy — but that most of the messages originated from outside the district.
In a statement Wednesday to LGBTQ Nation, Harper Jean Tobin, the Director of Policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality said that “while we have not seen the full text of the policy, what has been reported is in line with best practices being followed by many school districts throughout the country, from major metropolitan districts to suburban and small-town schools.”
“Education, child development and medical experts agree that for transgender students, being able to live true to their identity is essential to their well-being and educational success. It’s also critical to bullying prevention and ensuring compliance with nondiscrimination laws,” said Tobin.
“It’s unfortunate that fringe groups are trying to stir up hostility toward these young people and educators who want them to have the same opportunities as other students.
While the Illinois Family Institute refers to these youth as “disordered,” the American Psychiatric Association recently recognized that there is nothing inherently unhealthy about being transgender, and that the appropriate treatment for youth with gender dysphoria is to support them in expressing their gender identity – which is just what this policy helps parents and teachers do.”
Johnson said the board never meant to cause controversy, and “will wait on the ISBE to come up with any policy (regarding transgender students).”
While many districts work with the Illinois Association of School Boards to help draft their policies, according to James Russell of the IASB, there are no policies that pertain specifically to non-conforming students.