Gilford School Board delays transgender policy
By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — The School Board walked back its attempt to pass a transgendered student policy after hearing from several parents who oppose it.
Isaac Brake led the anti-policy discussion by saying his daughter is terrified about it and what terrifies her terrifies him.
"I'm distraught about boys sharing facilities with her," he said, adding that he and Superintendent Kirk Beitler had spoken at length about it and that none of his concerns were assuaged.
Brake said he was disappointed the school district didn't see fit to notify parents that it was considering the policy and that the policy was disingenuous because it leads people who read it to think that it is mandated by state and federal law.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case on the bill in March and is expected to determine if it is consistent with Title IX, which is a 1972 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex for any publicly funded school.
The policy as written would have allowed a transgender student or one who identifies as a different gender than they were "assigned" at birth to use the same bathroom facilities in school as that gender with which they identify. The policy would have taken locker room access on a case-by-case basis and made private facilities available to students in certain cases. Brake said Beitler told him that there may be five students in the district who have gender identity issues.
"We're taking about biology, not bigotry," Brake said, adding that he is well aware that by speaking out people are going to label him a bigot or worse.
"Maybe five students are now dictating to the rest so now (they) can invade the privacy of the other 1,160 students," he said.
Ryan Fogg was a little more blunt.
"You absolutely cannot jeopardize the safety of our students," he said, saying he was angry that he had to take time off from work just to come to the meeting and speak.
"How can you do this to my children? I will take on a third job to give them an opportunity to be safe," he said before storming out.
One woman said she wanted the board to know that she has a transgender young person in her family and that being transgender is not a choice, but a struggle.
While not speaking for or against enacting the policy, she urged the board members and the others at the meeting to try to understand what transgender students go through and to be very cautious about how they are treated.
Others, including two members of the Budget Committee, both said they thought that passing the policy would add fuel to fire of the people who are advocating for school choice and for parents to use public money to educate their children at private schools.
"I urge you to pass it," said Norman Silber. "I like school choice and this will help."
After public comment closed, the board voted unanimously to send the policy back to the Policy Committee for further review and a decision as to whether it will be brought back to the board.
The policy passed unanimously for its first reading in January.