Five days after passing transgender anti-discrimination rule, school board may rescind it

A policy passed this week by a suburban school board quickly became controversial

October 19, 2012

The suburban East Aurora school board will meet Friday to vote on whether to drop a new transgender policy.

The policy, passed unanimously Monday, said transgender students can self-identify at school.

The new rule grants them the right to participate in sports, gym classes and use restrooms without harassment. It specifies that transgender and gender non-conforming students have a right to privacy about their identities, and calls on the school to reduce gender-segregated activities that would require such disclosure.

That got the attention of Laurie Higgins, a writer for the Illinois Family Institute, which directed hundreds of people to email the district this week to complain about the new policy.

Even though she hasn’t read the policy, she still thinks it goes too far.  “I’m going by the news reports,” she said when asked about the new rule.

“We have made this such an elastic and expansive definition of bullying as to render it meaningless,” she said.

State law requires school districts to pass their own anti-bullying policies.

One chief of an Illinois LGBT advocacy group thinks the issue has been blown out of proportion.

“It’s only been made controversial because organizations like the so-called Illinois Family Institute are really trying to apply pressure on the school board to rescind that policy,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.

“Ironically, the tactics that they’re using to get the school board to rescind its anti-bullying policy are very bullying-like tactics themselves,” he said.

Members of Equality Illinois plan to attend the 5:30 school board meeting on Friday evening to show their support for keeping the policy in place.

The East Aurora school district could not be reached for comment.

Update: The School Board of East Aurora voted unanimously to repeal the anti-bullying policy on Friday, Oct. 19. The board plans to discuss the issue again at its Nov. 5 meeting.