Update, 2/28/2013: The Facebook page, “Prayers for South Panola School District” was taken down earlier today.
BATESVILLE, Miss. — Hundreds of angry parents and citizens have joined a Facebook “prayer” page after a high school student in northern Mississippi came out as transgender.
The Facebook page, “Prayers for South Panola School District” had more than 500 “likes” as of Wednesday evening, and was launched Tuesday after a student, identified only as “Leah,” began her transition by dressing according to her gender identity.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi said Wednesday it is working with the South Panola High School student to ensure a smooth transition for Leah, who is in the early stages of gender transformation.
“The first step in that is really to start dressing according to your gender and today was about going to school and being able to be the person that she is,” Mississippi ACLU Legal Director, Bear Atwood told WMC-TV.
Atwood said gender transformation is a long process that begins with a person dressing in accordance with the gender in which he or she identifies. The process later includes medications and surgery.
Teachers and staff have been supportive, and while several classmates showed support for Leah by wearing green and pink, many still referred to Leah as “he.”
“He’s like any other student at South Panola, he minds his business, he’s not hurting anyone,” classmate Jabrea Joiner said. “He’s only wanting to be himself.”
Mike Foster, interim superintendent of South Panola School District, said officials will “follow what the law says” in protecting students’ constitutional rights to dress in accordance with the gender in which they identify.
But many parents from the area disagreed and are planning to protest at an upcoming school board meeting; in the meantime, opponents have created the Facebook page, “Prayers for South Panola School District,” which was set up “to form a Christian based group to pray for our school’s administration, board members, principles, teachers and students,” according to the page’s mission.
“It’s time to STEP UP and put CHRIST back in our schools where he belongs!” the page declares.
According to Deep South Progressive, page admin Ryan Moss posted that the page “isn’t for bashing a single student. It’s for the people who have strong belief in the Lord and what he does for us that created this page. The incident that happened yesterday was just an example of not only the governments power but the power of Satan.”
When asked what the “incident” was, Moss responded that the incident was about “the cross dressing student who has not yet become a transgender person being in schools with other parents kids,” reported Deep South Progressive.
A separate Facebook page, “Mississippians Support Leah,” had more than 1,800 “likes” after being created Tuesday by Betsy Chapman, of Oxford.
“The outpouring of support from people around the world is incredibly moving, but it’s the support from Mississippians that means the most because it provides hope for those of us who want to see the state we love move forward,” Chapman said.
Atwood, the ACLU attorney, said “it’s a complex situation.”
“It’s an issue that people in Mississippi don’t understand very well. And so we’re working with the school and Leah to make sure her constitutional rights are upheld and she can go to school in a safe learning environment,” Atwood said.