Transgender rights came under fire Wednesday as the Warren County School Board rejected updated anti-discrimination policies.
Vice Chairwoman Catherine R. Bower and board members Kristen J. Pence, Ralph A. Rinaldi and James S. Wells voted against approving updates to the division’s manual as recommended by the Virginia School Boards Association. Members of the audience clapped and gave the board a standing ovation after the vote.
Board members made no comments about the policies before or after the vote to explain their positions.
How the action would affect school system policies or funding in the future remained uncertain.
During the public participation portion of the meeting several people spoke about the proposed changes to the division’s non-discrimination policies. For almost an hour, the board heard some speakers claim that the policy changes came down from the state government as part of a “corrupt” Democratic Party agenda. Some speakers voiced concerns about the safety of their children if students could choose which bathrooms or locker rooms to use.
The Virginia School Boards Association submitted 45 policies to the Warren County board in May for consideration. The board had the first reading of the proposed changes at its June 2 meeting. The board had an opportunity at its June 16 work session to discuss the proposed policy changes. Division staff members recommended that the board approve the updates.
Resident Mark Egger spoke against the proposed policy changes.
“Human beings do not have a gender,” Egger said, reading from a written statement. “Human beings have a sex — either male or female. To pretend otherwise is anti-biology and anti-science, and yet you all are going to vote here tonight to pretend that a boy can be a girl and vice versa. You all who are supposed to be in charge of educating our children are going to deny science and biology.”
Egger went on to say: “To allow a boy to pretend he is a girl, then use the girls’ bathroom and locker room and play on girls’ sports teams is insanity, and not only is it insane it’s also evil. A boy who thinks he is a girl is mentally ill and needs treatment for his mental illness.”
Front Royal Town Council member Gary Gillispie said he opposed the proposed policies.
“In my belief, this is not good for our children,” Gillispie said, reading from a written statement. “Why turn the whole cart over for just a few?”
Gillispie went on to say that he expects the board could see repercussions for its vote, including a loss in funding. Gillispie then suggested the school system create separate bathrooms rather than making all children conform to the proposed policies.
Amber Morris, a mother of children enrolled in the county public schools, said in a written statement that she came to “enlighten” the board. Morris also is running for a seat on Front Royal Town Council in November.
“So, elections have consequences and, as we see here and we are now aware, the public school system feels the need, and worse, the right to instill values in our children, and/or socially engineer our children versus educating them unbiasedly,” Morris stated. “Indoctrination began heavily during my public schooling experience and now we’re faced with issues such as exposing our children to sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination for their morals and beliefs that don’t even belong in the public education system.”
Morris, citing the Communist Manifesto, went on to say that part of the proposed changes is a ploy to pit children against their parents. She said the existing non-discrimination policies already address gender and transgender.
“You’ve already adopted sufficient practices in Warren County that protect these misguided and confused children and which restroom or changing room they desire to use and I’m sick of the conservative county that we live in here, Warren County, going above and beyond our socialist so-called leaders’ or, as I see them, dictators’, orders and mandates,” Morris said. “So I ask that you guys stop the madness, stop the fearmongering and I’ve heard by several people that they are afraid that our funding will be cut, and I just say this loud and clear — our children are not for sale.”