In a conference room filled with people, the Madison-Grant School Board on Monday discussed the interpretation of Titles IX and VII relating to a recent announcement that a transgender student will use the restroom of their choosing at Madison-Grant High School.
The board brought in Johnathan Mayes of Bose McKinney & Evans LLP with a presentation entitled “The Status of Law” to inform and educate the board and the public on the legal history of transgender students’ and employees’ use of restrooms and locker rooms.
Mayes admitted there is not much legal history on this topic before 2015, and he referenced Titles IX and VII, as well as the “Dear Colleague Letter” from May 12, 2016. Mayes said this letter changed the interpretation of Title IX, saying transgender students and employees must be able to choose.
“Again, this is not the law,” Mayes said.
He also used cases such as a lawsuit against North Carolina and Whitaker v. Kenosha. The ruling for the Whitaker v. Kenosha case is set to happen in June, according to Mayes. As it stands, a three-judge panel of the Federal Appellate Court affirmed that the school district must allow Ashton Whitaker, a transgender boy in Wisconsin, to use the boys’ restroom.
“Whitaker remains the law, at least here in Indiana,” Mayes said.
After the presentation and a few clarifying questions from the board, the meeting was open to public expressions where many individuals gave their thoughts on the matter to the board and those present.
Russell Hiatt said he thinks the board has every right not to allow this student to use a restroom of the opposite sex. He also quoted Genesis 1:27, stating this is a case of confused identity, not a confusion of biological sex or gender.
“Just because 1.9 percent of adolescents are confused about who they are doesn’t mean that we should abandon the other 98.1 percent of adolescents that are comfortable and secure in the roles of modesty and civility that we have been practicing for hundreds of years,” Hiatt said.
He said the community will protect their children as best as they can, including removing the children from the school system if need be. If 10 students left, $100,000 of funding would go with them, according to Hiatt.
Hiatt reminded the room how adolescents are still learning intellectually, physically and emotionally. He said the community is failing at educating students through the removal of God and morals from schools and replacing them with personal thoughts and acceptance of everything.
“Make no mistake, these are children we are dealing with. Our (children) need to be protected from things they may not yet understand,” Hiatt said. “All it would take is one young (person) making an immature, bad decision in a situation (they) never should have been put in. And (they) could be prosecuted for a crime that could ruin the rest of (their) life.”
An unnamed parent of five children quoted Denise Spooner saying, “This is how they get their feet in the door to push more and more of their agenda on us. What about the rights, safety and welfare and discrimination of the straight students who just want to be safe in the bathrooms, locker rooms, with their own biological sex?”
Carl McMurry noted how the board said a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the meeting, both alluding to God, and he asked how they can consider being “under God” and asking for God’s blessing as they remove the separation of male and female.
President of the Indiana Liberty Coalition Rhonda Miller spoke after him, saying they will stand by the parents of the community.
“I’m here tonight to inform you if you continue down this path of institutionalizing transgender acceptance and embrace by forcing this in your schools, you are not only violating the safety and privacy of the majority of your students, but you are now palpable in the abuse of these transgender kids as well,” Miller said. “I’m asking you to reconsider your decision on this matter. We are prepared to stand with the parents in this community and link arms with them to protect their children.”
Madison-Grant High School senior Harrison Hiatt told the board his thoughts and what he has heard from some of his peers. He was the only student to speak on the matter during the meeting, and he was commended for his bravery by both board President Mary Jo Brunt and the public at various times.
“How we all feel is just a feeling of unsafeness and how we feel uncomfortable with this policy being instated in the school… I am just wondering why our safety and our comfort should be sacrificed for a decision that will be impermanent in less than five months? It doesn’t make sense to me how our safety, our comfort and how we feel should be sacrificed — the majority — should be sacrificed for the minority,” Harrison said.
The only two questions answered by the board or Superintendent Scott Deetz was posed by mother Anna Richards. She asked why the students and faculty were not allowed to discuss the matter and why the community wasn’t notified of the decision beforehand.
Deetz answered both questions, explaining they advised teachers to send students with questions to the guidance counselors or the board because they do not know where the teacher’s liability stands currently regarding this matter.
“We don’t want to squash the conversation, but as you know, legally speaking, the courts are all over the place. And we didn’t want to unknowingly open our teachers up and expose them in such a way that they could get in trouble legally,” Deetz said.
He said they notified the community through a public announcement at a school board meeting, understanding the media would make it widely known. This was the advice given to him from the Indiana School Board Association through legal advice.
After this, Brunt reminded the public they were in a time of expression, not question and answer.
“There are many things that we still do not understand until we can get an executive (session) and dissect this completely apart with Mr. Mayes,” Brunt said.
An unnamed woman attempted to explain to the public what some of their words were insinuating about the transgender community.
“I just want to say as someone who works with a lot of transgender patients… I just want to make sure that we’re all careful because so far tonight, we’ve compared transgender people to rapists, pedophiles and Nazis. I just want to make sure we’re respectful… I just want to be careful what we’re comparing here,” she said.
Ron Meyer and Vicky Hiatt said the public’s sentiments were not in any way to attack this student or the transgender community, though they both stated they disagree with the decision.
“It’s not fair for their actions — which is minute in comparison — shoved on us,” Vicky Hiatt said.
Brunt and other board members thanked the community and said they are all still learning. Deetz said he was thankful the public felt comfortable to share their thoughts and research as they continue to learn about this themselves.
“What we are trying to do as an administration and school board is to understand the policies whether it’s local, state or federal — as we heard tonight — and create the best combination that not only adheres to policy or law but also matches the needs of our student community,” Deetz said.
In other business, Brunt announced that Deetz has completed 99 hours of instruction to obtain his certification of chief business officer. The election of board officers took place with all positions remaining the same as 2019. The board also approved a resolution for board compensation for 2020, which will remain the same with a base pay of $2,000 annually per member.