Talks over transgender student policies brings more than 100 to Williamston School Board of Education meeting

Williamston, MI (WLNS) – Should students be allowed to use locker rooms and bathrooms based on their gender identity?

It’s a question that’s become the focus of many meetings hosted by the Williamston School Board of education as it works to create it’s own policy to provide accommodations for transgender students.

Talks over those polices brought more than 100 people together in a cafeteria at Williamston Middle School Monday night  to weigh in on what they think about the issue.

“I strongly believe that we need equal education opportunities for all students,” one parent said.

“I speak tonight in support of the proposal that would treat all students, including those who are transgender identified or those who are gender non-conforming with dignity and respect,” Jayne Schuiteman said.

Others, including Jerry Peach who said he represents many families in the district said the policies need to be looked at closer.

“I fear that this is a policy that’s not well thought out and I fear that this is going to violate standards of common decency,” he said.

“As a mother and a nurse and a member of this community, I hope you all continue down this path of having a place for all of our students to feel safe and to learn and to grow,” another woman said.

This policy would basically allow students to use the bathroom and locker-room of the gender they identify with, play sports based on their gender identity, and require the school to address students by their preferred pronouns and chosen names.

Perhaps the most controversial part of this policy is a provision that says teachers or school officials will not disclose a student’s transgender or non-conforming status, even to parents, unless the student gives the school permission to do so.

Parents are concerned because they feel like this provision takes away their parenting rights.

“From my understanding it’s also a blatant act against the Michigan State constitution in addition they site the previous guidelines from the department of education from the Obama Administration as their motivation to this, however the Trump administration has since rescinded those guidelines so they don’t have anything to fall back on from the federal standpoint as well,” Sean Bertolino said. He’s a Williamston parent.

Over the weekend, 6 News spoke with Greg Talberg, the president of the Williamston School Board of Education, who says the school is just trying to be proactive in coming up with a policy.

“We do have a great deal of concern for all the kids in our schools but we also have a great deal of concern for the rights of those who identify as transgender,” he said. “So we’re trying to balance all of those needs/concerns and rights to privacy and safety for all our kids.”

“What matters is as a citizen and a tax payer, this is bad policy. The school board is opening itself to litigation and will in fact be the subject of litigation. It seems as though the premise of all this, while very well intended, I don’t think anyone is disputing it, no one is doubts the heart is in the right place but we’re not thinking this through critically,” Bertolino said.

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