That was evident at Monday night’s Eastern Lancaster County school board meeting, as at least a dozen LGBT activists showed up to urge school board members to change the policy.
The policy, which goes into effect Aug. 26 — the first day of school — would separate students by biological sex in bathrooms and locker rooms while private, single-user areas were being built districtwide.
Critics say it discriminates against transgender students who wish to use facilities matching their gender identity.
“I’m pretty much here to show support for transgender students across the state of Pennsylvania,” Naiymah Sanchez, trans justice coordinator with the American Civil Liberties Union, told LNP prior to the meeting, “and actually to put a little pressure on board members to make the right decision.”
The “right decision,” she said, is to add private stalls “quickly,” and, in the meantime, “take down these restrictions on who’s able to access what restroom.”
Naiymah had more than a dozen other supporters by her side, some of them wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words “trans people belong” and pins that read, “I envision a world free from discrimination.”
They sat as close as they could to the board members. None of them, however, were allowed to address the board because they’re not Elanco residents.
One of the few residents who spoke criticized the board over its decision to appoint Randall Wenger of the Independence Law Center as legal counsel related to the policy. The law firm is affiliated with the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a nonprofit that promotes religious conservative ideals.
“I feel you are throwing money down the toilet on this,” Lisa Garrett, of East Earl, said.
Wenger is offering his services for no cost and would defend the district if the ACLU or another group would file a lawsuit.
Garrett, however, questioned what would happen if a judge decided against the district and ordered it to pay for damages to a transgender student’s family. She also questioned the legality of selecting a law firm tied to a religious rights group.
School board President Glenn Yoder said the district’s solicitor was “fine” with Wenger’s appointment.
Asked after the meeting about the likelihood of the board changing course, Yoder said it would be up to other board members to challenge the policy, which hasn’t happened.
The school board member most vocally opposed to the policy was Rodney Jones, the board’s vice president who resigned Aug. 1. The board on Monday voted unanimously to appoint Jackie Geyer, who is up for election in November, to fulfill Jones’ term.
Geyer, unlike Jones, said she supports separation by biological sex in bathrooms and locker rooms.