Elanco school board

Rodney Jones and other Eastern Lancaster County school board members discuss a student privacy policy Monday, May 13, 2019.

Perhaps the most notable names on Tuesday’s Republican primary ballot in Eastern Lancaster County were those that were missing.

Rodney Jones and Melissa Readman, two incumbents with 16 years of combined school board experience, did not run for re-election this year.

Their votes against a student privacy policy that would force transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that adhere to their biological sex may be the reason why.

Neither Jones nor Readman earned the local Republican Party’s endorsement, despite being endorsed in previous elections. The committee instead chose five who support separation by biological sex.

“I’m upset. I’m angry,” Jones said. “I don’t believe that the local Republican committee reflects the views of the community in its entirety.”

While area party chair Chris Buck said endorsement decisions weren’t based on a single issue, the biological sex debate “certainly played a role in whether a candidate was endorsed or not endorsed.”

Being an incumbent, he added, “doesn’t mean you are getting rubber-stamped in.”

In total, 10 people sought the Republican nomination, Buck said.

“All of them were extremely qualified, and there are some, just like anything, that are more qualified than others,” he said.


‘A bargaining chip’

Jones, a 53-year-old head of sales for a medical device company called XVIVO Perfusion, said he was disturbed when he discovered he wasn’t endorsed.

The committee, he said, has used the transgender issue “as a bargaining chip for who they were going to endorse and who they weren’t going to endorse.”

Among board members, Jones has been the most vocally opposed to the controversial biological sex provision in its student privacy policy. He fears a legal battle might ensue because of it — a battle, according to current case law, the district could very well lose, legal experts have said.

The Elanco community has argued over the issue for months, but many members of its conservative base agree that a lawsuit might be worth protecting the community’s traditional values.

It’s not “man’s court” that matters, as one resident put it at a recent meeting — it’s “God’s court.”

Regardless of his personal beliefs, Jones said, the right decision as a board member is to follow the law.


‘Disheartened’

Readman said she has simply tried to “gather information, process the information and make the best decision” regardless of what people tell her.

“I do not feel like I was elected to be a puppet to the people,” she said.

Asked why she thinks she wasn’t endorsed, the 58-year-old preschool teacher said, “I can only go by what I was told” — that it was “very close.”

“What I might infer into that is up to me,” she said.

Readman said she’s upset by how much this issue has been politicized.

She’s also “disheartened” by the negative — and, at times, hateful — emails she’s received from community members.

“It’s been a very eye-opening experience to what public service can be like,” she said.

Both Jones and Readman could have run without the endorsement, but they expressed concern over the time and money necessary to run their own campaigns.