News (USA)

School board meeting descends into chaos during debate about rights for LGBTQ+ students

Idaho State Senator Chris Trakel (R) Speaks out against a proposed policy protecting LGBTQ+ students
Idaho State Senator Chris Trakel (R) Speaks out against a proposed policy protecting LGBTQ+ students Photo: Screenshot

An Idaho school board meeting devolved into chaos on Monday night while a Republican state senator was virulently speaking out against a proposed policy to protect LGBTQ+ students in the district.

The proposed Caldwell School Board policy seeks to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ students by, among other things, allowing them to use the locker rooms and bathrooms that align with their lived gender, requiring teachers and other staff to use their preferred names and pronouns, and allowing same-sex couples to attend dances and other activities.

The room was reportedly filled to capacity that night, with several others standing up to speak about the policy before state Sen. Chris Trakel (R) took the podium.

According to KTVB, most speakers were there to advocate against implementing the policy, but three students spoke out in favor of it.

Before Trakel got up to speak, the meeting was almost recessed and adjourned several times as people continued to get rowdy during the public comment period.

Trakel’s speech is immediately hostile. Video of the meeting shows him lambasting the board for allegedly violating Idaho state law based on other proposed curriculum policies and for violating the meeting attendees’ First Amendment rights by not allowing them to criticize school district employees.

“Now, to get on to the exciting part,” he said before attacking the proposed LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination policy and saying he was there under his official position as a state senator.

“You, under Idaho law, are required to maintain the morals and health of all the students… You are going to put all of their moral health and safety at risk, and like I told you before you will face litigation. You call that a threat, I’m telling you that is what will happen. It has already happened in several states and there’s already been rulings on it.”

“Before you waste taxpayer money, before you put a kid in harm’s way, you better throw this policy out and not even consider it.”

At that point, the board chair, Marisela Pesina, turned to a fellow board member and whispered something. Trakel snapped, “I’ve got the floor. Ms. Pesina will you please listen to me.”

“Sir,” Pesina responded tersely. And that is when the chaos began.

Trakel started yelling, “You claim you want people to follow the rules, but you break the rules left and right.”

As his rant continued, Pesina called a recess, at which point more meeting attendees began yelling along with Trakel. The board then voted to adjourn the meeting early, which only caused more anger in the audience.

People began screaming “cowards” and “unethical.” Many could be heard threatening to recall board members.

“Boo on all of you! This is absurd!” one person shouts.

“It was disappointing that some attending refused to follow the rules, which prevented others from sharing their thoughts with the Board,” Caldwell School District communications director Jessica Watts told Idaho EdNews. “Caldwell School District welcomes and encourages feedback on its work. What we do not welcome are those who refuse to follow the steps necessary for a civil, courteous, and respectful environment for that feedback to occur.”

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