By Rob Wheary, Staff Writer • firstname.lastname@example.org
LOYALTON — The Upper Dauphin School Board were visited by about 20 parents concerned about their children being forced to deal with transgendered students within the district.
The discussion started innocently enough during the public comment period when parent Brian McAllister, of Elizabethville, questioned superintendent Evan Williams about different policies the district has in place, such as why there is an admission charge for students at athletic events, and if staff members excluded from the random drug test policy.
“I wonder about the policy as well, since it seems that 88 to 92 percent of the students tested are males,” McAllister said.
“It is random with the students being picked by the computer,” Williams replied.
When McAllister asked if they could have a discussion on transgendered students, Williams cautioned him about bringing up specific names, citing privacy issues. The superintendent then released a four-page handout about the issue, first citing a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about the first school district in Pennsylvania to be sued for discriminating against transgendered students.
Three students in the Pine-Richland School District filed the lawsuit after the district implemented a “sex-specific” policy requiring students to use restrooms that match the sex they were assigned at birth.
Williams told those in attendance that he has been in contact with their solicitor and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association for a policy. In an October PSBA policy update, the association stated, “Currently, the law is not settled in this area and PSBA cannot issue a policy guide for the state of Pennsylvania representing what our members are legally required to do.”
The PSBA urges individuals and school entities to put the safety and well-being of students first, to consult with their local solicitor and work with the individuals and their families.
“That is what we have done,” Williams told the gallery. “We have had conversations with those individuals and gone from there. we will continue to manage the situation so it doesn’t get out of hand.
“It’s out of hand already,” McAllister said. “You are doing so much to protect these students, but what are you doing to protect my child from seeing something they shouldn’t.”
One problem that many of the parents had was the fact that students were being disciplined for calling a transgendered student by their birth name, not the name they have picked to be called.
“How can a student be punished for that?” one parent asked.
“If the student is doing it in an antagonistic way, yes he can,” Williams replied.
“We are trying to teach every student in the least restrictive environment around,” board president David Barder said. “We are in uncharted waters.”
“Our children should not be forced to buy into someone’s delusion,” parent Randy Shutt, of Berrysburg, said. “So we will be dealing with transgendered teachers and the district will not want to address that either.”
“This is a very real situation,” said parent Barry Erdman, “What is stopping a student from changing their mind three times a week, when their gender becomes a feeling, not a reality. We aren’t talking about wanting pizza or salad.”
After the 30-minute period for public comment was over, Williams said that any parent that wants to discuss the matter further is welcome to call the high school principal or him to arrange a private meeting.
Barder thanked the parents for their input and said that it continues to be a work in progress.
In other business:
— The board approved a contract for Mandy Carl and Magnolia Realty to list the building trades home constructed by students. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the construction of the next building trades home. The home, located on Church Street, has a listing price of $235,000.
On a 7-2 vote, the board voted to spend $1,638.99 to purchase kitchen appliances for the home. Jack Laudenslager and Steven Barder were the dissenting votes on the matter saying that the person that purchases the home might have their own preferences in picking appliances.
Carl answered that the purchase will help the home be more “move-in ready” for a potential buyer.
Voting yes on the measure were David Barder, Kathryn Talheim, Angela Matter, Roni Mace, Kirk Wenrich, Mills Eure, and the Rev. Nathan Minnich.
— The board approved unanimously the lists of program volunteers, the agriculture opportunity, diversified occupational, and carpentry construction trades occupational advisory committees, as well as policies on conflict of interest, food services, hazing, travel reimbursement for federal programs, federal fiscal compliance, investment of district funds, transportation and public participation in public meetings.
— Approval was also given for Upper Dauphin to participate in the CSIU Joint Purchasing Council for supplies for the 2017-2018 school year, to enter into a rental agreement in certain transportation situations with Hertz, and use the MSDS online customer order form to help track all chemicals in the district.