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Community members question new gender identity policy in La Center School District

Some feel the policy announced this month will harm students who fear being outed to their parents.

LA CENTER, Wash. — One after another, community members went before the La Center School Board Tuesday night. They shared very different perspectives on the district's new gender inclusive policy announced earlier this month.

“You are throwing away our lives in the name of politics,” said one person who objects to the policy. 

“There is only male and female, God bless each of you,” said another who supports it.

According to recent changes in policy in the La Center School District, teachers are not to ask students about their pronouns. Also, if a student volunteers pronoun information and a parent asks the school about whether their student has requested a name or pronoun change, the school will inform them.

“My parents didn't know about my gender identity until my sophomore year when I was forcibly outed by a high school staff member,” testified a recent La Center graduate. “A member of my family was furious to the point where they physically abused me to the point where I could no longer attend school.”

Some opponents said they felt the new policy was akin to a "don't ask don't tell" mandate. 

“Right now students are being given the choice of staying in the closest at school, or being forcibly outed to their families, which is incredibly, incredibly dangerous for their mental health,” said Emily Hancock, a 2017 La Center graduate and queer activist.

Hancock and others said they're grateful for community members and teachers who are taking action. Some filed a complaint against the policy to the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“It could take six months before they start the investigation,” said Erin Smelser with Clark County Pride. “So until that happens, or the policy changes, here we are.”

“I want to thank all the teachers who signed the civil rights complaint,” testified another recent La Center graduate. “It feels really lonely right now and it's good to know we're not alone."

Still others embrace the district's policies and feel they clarify other issues related to gender identity.

“If we keep dealing with pronouns, it creates further issues with sports, what bathrooms to use and much more,” said Community member June Duncan.

Other community members, including nurse Eva Wagener, countered such arguments.

“How about instead of harmful transphobic policies — you stop obsessing about the genitals in kids' pants because that's all you're doing,” said Wagener. “Start focusing on policies that promote inclusion and safety.”

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