Emotions ran high at the Manhattan-Ogden School Board meeting as the board debated new guidelines for transgender students on Wednesday night.
The Manhattan-Ogden School Board decided in a 6 to 1 vote to adopt guidelines about transgender students. The guidelines include what pronouns educators use, bathroom and locker room assignments, and dress codes.
The room was pretty divided, as people lined up to give public comment. Some argued that this is a life or death issue for transgender kids, like Susan Gerth, the mom of a transgender woman and a Manhattan educator.
“I think that if we can dispell some of the myths and the fear, we can come closer to treating transgender people as the individuals that they are, and understand that they don’t chose to be transgender,” Gerth said. “If they did, no one would choose to go through that hell. My daughter attempted suicide more than once. Fortunately, she failed.”
Max Barbe is currently a transgender student at Manhattan High.
“I have a couple of teachers that don’t necessarily agree with it and don’t call me the right thing. I dread going to their classes. I avoid them at all costs. I thank god when there’s a substitute teacher. I don’t like being around people who don’t support me because it does cause real emotional distress. It’s just terrible,” Barbe said.
Others said changing the guidelines for transgender students is a mistake, like K-State student Jacen Clapp and former K-State student Valley Scharping.
“Instituting policies like these are not the solution. If someone’s life is on the line for what sport they play or what name they’re called, they should be receiving mental health treatment, not being reinforced in their mental health issues,” Clapp said.
“People are male and female. We can’t throw out all customs and norms because there are exceptions. We make rules because there are exceptions,” Scharping said, “Generally speaking we don’t want people to be thrown into chaos, particularly not children. We don’t want to confuse them further, we want to help them. When children suffer from gender dysphoria they need order and they need extra structure and they need help.”
The board said these guidelines will go into place immediately. They based their policy on a policy adopted by Topeka Public Schools in 2015.