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Lancaster School Board tables issue of transgender students and restrooms

A controversial policy before the Lancaster School Board that would allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms of their expressed gender identity drew a crowd of 200 residents Monday night.

Public comment on the topic was so strong and dominated a good part of the board meeting that the board ended up tabling action on it.

Resident Patrick Cerminara questioned the policy and how it could impact a majority of children. “Why now? How would it reconcile my children’s comfort and safety if somebody lied about being part of transgender (group) to get into the other bathroom?” he said.

Dr. Marie Perini, assistant superintendent for curriculum, outlined the policy guided by federal and state initiatives that address discrimination and ensuring safety and a nonbullying environment within educational settings.

“This is not something Lancaster made up. Every district in the area is dealing with it inside the state and outside the state. We’re not the first, but again, we’re charged with safety and nonbullying for all students,” Perini said.”

The district will keep trying to meet the needs of all students, Perini said. “The district will endeavor to agree on a plan to accommodate the student’s individual needs of the school. The district has engaged stakeholders, teachers, counselors and parents working together. We have been down this road already.”

Challenges are expected. Currently, there is no case law in New York State, she said, but noted that there have been federal challenges. “Our interest is in all students, all students,” she said.

High school junior Tyler Kowalewski said students need to be consulted. “Shouldn’t the students have voices in their own well-being?” he asked. “It would be very hard to enforce this policy. You really can’t enforce this to be sure no one would take advantage of this in a perverted way.”

Kowalewski said it would be uncomfortable to have someone of the opposite sex even though they identify with “our gender,” to be in a locker room. “I can only imagine what it would feel like to change in front of a female or females in front of males.”

Nelson McCall, pastor of Hillview Baptist Church, said the values “of our majority are being displaced possibly by a minority. … We do not wish to put our children and youth at risk with a request of some of these folks.

“We are concerned about the well-being, safety of biological girls and boys with the possibility of predators that could take advantage (of them).”

McCall and others asked the board to place the policy issue on the May ballot for the public to decide rather than the seven-member board. The audience erupted in applause.

Others asked how the policy would be monitored if adopted, how sports teams’ travel arrangements would be handled and who would supervise the enforcement of such a change in the schools and during travel.

“Why is this policy being considered? Call their bluff. What consequences would there be for this district if you didn’t adopt this policy?” said Mary Kless, a former board member. “Why not be like Donald Trump and do what you want to do with it? Find out why something like this was forced on the people?”