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Residents vote against school funding after rightwingers protest “demonic” trans bathroom policy

Attendees of the April 28 Elida School Board meeting Photo: YouTube screenshot

A transphobic “parent’s rights” group in a small, predominantly white Ohio town convinced its locals to oppose a $300,000 school-rebuilding tax because the school board refuses to ban transgender students from restrooms. The group’s campaign called the school’s pro-trans policy “Luciferian” and spread rumors about kids acting like dogs and cats in schools.

The group, Elida Parents Against Bathroom Policy, established a private Facebook page on February 19. The group’s description accurately noted that the Elida School Board is following President Joe Biden’s federal guidelines requiring schools to let trans students use bathrooms matching their gender identities. Schools that don’t risk losing federal funding.

“By allowing [trans bathroom use] many bad situations could happen,” the group’s description reads. “Many schools and some states are not following this policy.”

The group circulated a flier around the rural village of Elida, Ohio — population 1,872, 91% white, about 91 miles northwest of Columbus — announcing an April 18th school board meeting.

“WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ELIDA SCHOOLS?” the flier asked in all caps. “Boys allowed in girls’ bathrooms/girls allowed in boys’ bathrooms… vaping in bathrooms, students able to access pornography on computers. Shouldn’t ALL children feel safe and protected at school?”

The flier said that parents and the community “have been shut out and kept in the dark about what goes on inside the walls of our schools.” The flier encouraged voters to oppose a $300,000 school improvement tax levy over the issue. It also urged people to visit “Elida Parents Against Bathroom Policy,” a private Facebook group with over 1,500 members as of May 10.

elida-school-board-meeting-flier, Elida Parents Against Bathroom Policy
Arienne Childrey A flier from Elida Parents Against Bathroom Policy

Within the private Facebook group, members accused the Elida school board of contradicting the Bible, called trans identity “a mental illness,” and repeatedly claimed that trans girls will sexually assault cis girls in school bathrooms. One commenter said trans students should be forced to wear diapers “if they want to feel different.” Another said they instructed their daughter to kick a trans student in the crotch if any “issues should arise.”

One commenter claimed, “Schools and hospitals have established a gender transition pipeline for children to transition, often without the consent or knowledge of parents.” As proof, they linked to, an anti-vaccination website that contains scaremongering articles about gender-affirming care.

Another commenter falsely claimed, “Elida schools are now removing the titles of ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ from the classroom placards outside various classrooms. Yet another wrote, “I am hoping this meeting will not only address transgender but also the kids who think they are dogs or cats,” repeating a common and widely debunked right-wing lie. Another parent said that they’d likely be “hauled away in cuffs” if they attended a school board meeting.

To prepare for the April 18th school board meeting, members of the group attended a presentation hosted at The Church at Allentown on March 28. Video of the March 28 meeting was posted onto YouTube by Arienne Childrey, a local trans woman who founded a new organization in response to the Elida parents’ group: Northwest Ohio Trans Advocacy.

Robert Neidich speaks to locals in opposition to trans-inclusive bathrooms
Robert Neidich speaks to locals in opposition to trans-inclusive bathrooms. Screenshot by Arienne Childrey

In the video, a local doctor named Robert Neidich told the audience, “We are living in a time of moral depravity, and clearly increasing spiritual battles between good and evil and ideologies… such as a boy can become a girl or girl can become a boy… [if] they cut off a body part…. dangerous ideologies.”

Neidich called Biden’s federal guidelines “nauseating” and “Luciferian,” adding, “It’s obviously written by bureaucrats that have a social engineering agenda to change what God made into something false.” Other speakers called trans bathroom access “anti-Christian” and “detrimental to children.”

The group said its primary aim was to “protect the safety of the children in the school by changing the current bathroom and locker room policies” so that trans students have to use a private non-gendered facility, something that not all schools have.

The group also pledged to file a formal complaint with the state and federal departments of education, to file lawsuits against the school district, and to push a no-confidence vote to replace the school board members and district superintendent.

LGBTQ Nation reached out to Neidich for comment. He had not responded by the time of publication.

Childrey attended the April 18th school board meeting with her husband. Around 100 adults showed up to oppose the policy, forcing the board to move its meeting from a high school conference room into the school’s auditorium.

At the meeting, the board handed out a frequently-asked-questions document stating that trans bathroom accommodations are made “on a case-by-case basis” considering “evidence regarding whether the student has ‘consistently, persistently and insistently’ expressed the gender identity,” reported. This helps ensure that all students have “equal access” to school facilities while providing for their safety, comfort, and privacy, the document said.

Despite the informational document, the meeting “was a raging disaster,” Childrey told LGBTQ Nation. Childrey said local news articles have “sanitized” and “grossly mischaracterized” what happened, “as if this was just some relaying of differing viewpoints.”

Childrey and Jesse Francis, a local gay man who attended the meeting, said that one male speaker who opposed the school’s policy literally threatened to expose his genitals to female school board members in the bathroom.

Francis said several speakers claimed that trans identity results from demonic possession and that trans kids would molest young girls in bathrooms. Many speakers also claimed that trans identity is a “social contagion” and that “kids are being coerced into delusions of gender dysphoria by their peers” and adults, Francis added — though at least two recent studies have debunked similar claims.

“We know that it is both an emotional and political topic for people,” Elida Local School District Superintendent Joel Mengerink told the group. “In this case, though, we are doing what case law requires of us.”

Mengerink said local schools are creating more private restrooms for trans students, but added that school officials couldn’t force trans students to use them. He also explained that the district’s legal insurance wouldn’t cover any lawsuits for defying federal policy and that schools that defy the policy risk losing federal funding.

Childrey said several meeting attendees said they’d prefer to lose federal funding and shut down some student and community programs at local schools rather than accommodate trans students.

The Elida Local School District has 2,117 students, and the federal government gives schools $1,193 on average per pupil, according to the Education Data Initiative. As such, Elida’s district could lose over $2.5 million in federal funds, and arguably more if the district got dragged into a costly lawsuit. It seems doubtful that the town’s estimated 1,500 adults could raise enough money to make up for the lost federal funds considering that the average income of an Elida resident is $34,960 a year, according to the Northwestern University’s Census Reporter.

Childrey said that the parents’ group is “a solution in search of a problem,” adding, “Please keep in mind, if all the trans people in this area decided to go back into the closet, then we could all share the same damn closet.”

She calls Elida “tornado country,” noting that the landscape is “one big flat countryside” of corn and soybean fields between her village and other nearby small towns. A lot of locals work at a chemical refinery that also produces military tanks. She said there are likely very few trans students in the district requesting bathroom use, and there have been no reported issues of any disturbances — though a commenter in the parents’ Facebook group said that one trans student (referred to as a “little Ahole”) regularly laughs about using the bathrooms for both genders.

Childrey believes the group is encouraging people outside of Elida to find out if their own schools have the same policy in order to stir up opposition to it. She says the Elida group is discussing recalling the current school board members or finding candidates to run against them in the upcoming election.

A "Elida Parents Against School Policy" Facebook post published after the April 28th school board meeting.
A “Elida Parents Against School Policy” Facebook post published after the April 28th school board meeting.

So-called “parents’ rights” organizations like Elida Parents Against Bathroom Policy have recently risen across the nation, attending school board meetings in large groups to protest trans bathroom access, LGBTQ+-inclusive curricula, and LGBTQ+-inclusive books in school libraries. These groups have used many of the same methods as the Elida group, but Elida’s students may soon experience consequences from their parents’ groups.

At the start of May, local voters rejected a five-year proposal to collect $300,000 in taxes to maintain and repair public school buildings. The Lima News suggested that the disagreement over the schools’ bathroom policies played a role. Elida Treasurer Joel Parker said the lack of funding may force the district to stop buying buses and stop improving school technology and safety measures.

“I want to support the school,” one local voter named Cheyenne Ridley told the aforementioned publication. “They need it to take care of supplies, electrical, and heating. If they don’t have that, the kids are going to suffer.”

For her part, Childrey said she plans on attending school board meetings to help shine a light on the parents’ group and its tactics. Francis also told LGBTQ Nation that he found it personally important to show up. At the April 28 meeting, only he and a few others spoke up for trans students. A few more supporters have said they’ll attend the next meeting, reassured by their small group’s growing size.

Growing up in a small town himself, Francis said he knows what it’s like to be young and gay without a network of supportive people. When he found out about the local controversy, he felt called to be present. He drives in from half an hour out of Elida to attend.

“If I don’t even speak or anything, I just show up to kind of make it clear that, ‘Hey, like there are real people who are being attacked here,'” he said. “For me growing up, I probably needed an adult from 30 or 40 minutes away, to stand beside me because I wasn’t getting that support from other people who were actually in my life, y’know?”

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