(CNSNews.com) – The Fairfax County Public School Board in Virginia voted Thursday to add “gender identity” as a protected class to its non-discrimination policy despite heated remarks during the meeting from parents who are concerned about the implications of the change.
Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz, the only member who voted against the change, said the Board was warned by a local school official that federal funding could be pulled if the change was not adopted. She called it a case of federal overreach that must be opposed.
The memo warning about federal Education Department funding was issued by Steven A. Lockard, the deputy superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools, just prior to the vote.
It states: “The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education is requiring that school divisions 1) revise their non-discrimination policies to include gender identity, and 2) hire a consultant to advise on revisions to regulations and, more generally, how school divisions should handle individual cases of transgender students. If the School Board amends Policy 1450, we will be able to tell them that we have already done the two things that OCR is requiring.”
“If FCPS refuses to amend its policy, OCR has the right to recommend the termination of federal funding to FCPS,” Lockard’s memo emphasized.
Schultz discussed her concerns regarding the federal government’s role in the decision in a conference call:
“We have a significant battle on the forefront of federal overreach, all the way down to a local school board level that comes into every single community, in every town, in every district, in every jurisdiction across the United States if we are to allow the federal government to dictate this language. And if they can dictate this, what can’t they dictate?” she asked.
“How can you convert a 1972 Title IX reading to a 2015 interpretation to mean sexual orientation and gender identity/transgender?” Schultz asked in reference to federal government’s announcement that it considers transgender students to be protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX.
Schultz pointed out that the funding the Education Department is threatening to withhold is “for the children who are most in peril in school districts,” such as students with disabilities and those who require subsidized school meals.
Schultz also noted the lack of information about how the policy would be applied, saying there was “no presentation to the board about the scope of the problem for employees, the scope of the problem for students, how many students were involved, what it meant, how much professional development this needed, and what this meant for ultimately the respect and dignity and rights of all of the other students.”
“Where are parental rights in the education of their children?” she asked.
Schultz also wondered, “What’s next? Are we to say that every school board, whether they’re appointed or elected across the United States of America, now has lost control over running their local school jurisdictions?,We are just, you know, puppets of the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice?”
“Are we going to stand up and say, no you don’t and go to our U.S. Congressmen and women and say are you going to allow your Department of Justice and your Department of Education to come and take money from your constituents and further imperil the education and the value of education in the United States and disregard all parental rights?”
Following the decision by Fairfax County Public School Board, CNSNews.com tried to reach Republican and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate, asking the following questions:
--Should a transgender man who dresses and identifies as a woman be permitted to teach in public grammar schools?
--Should the fiscal 2015 appropriation for the Department of Education defund its mandate that public schools have a "nondiscrimination" policy toward transgender teachers or lose their own federal funding?
The questions were posed in repeated phone calls and e-mails with a response period of four days to: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) ,House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
The only response received by press time was from an aide to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer who replied on background that Hoyer believes discrimination should never be tolerated and strongly supports policies that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
“There is a significant battle for the hearts and minds of young people in the United States of America, and the federal government is using $640 Billion in federal education funds to weaponize an agenda upon every local school district in the United States, and it’s time for a national conversation about this,” Schultz concluded in the conference call.
The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights updated Title IX protections in 2014, stating: "Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity, and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation. Similarly, the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations."