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Transgender-Phobia Rules in O C School District

by Carolina Sunday, Apr. 04, 2004 at 2:10 AM

A trioka of transgender-phobic Westminster school board members may cost their students over $ 60 million in lost state revenue.

IMC editor's note.

I attened the 4/1 meeting, which audience overflowed so that many had to listen from an amphithetre next door.

The three recalictrant transgender-hating board majority of Judy Ahrens, Helena Rutkowski and Blossie Marquez-Woodcock ignored the pleas of 90% of the speakers- 2 hours in length at 1 minute a piece, including parents, union leaders, teachers and administrators.

Most of the audience inside booed the few who supported the 3 member trans-phobic junta .

Some angry residents served two of the members with recall petitions.

When the vote came finally at about 9:45 pm the Board was so confused it did not even understand what motions they were voting on, despite repeated attempts by frustrated staff, including the District's superintendant and lawyer to explain parliamentary procedure.

The three even voted down a request to ask the State for an extension of time to revise their non-compliant policy, even thoug the staff assured them the State was willing to grant such extension.


text of the LA Times article follows:

"April 2, 2004

Board Digs In on Gender

Three Westminster trustees maintain their stand against a state law despite fierce opposition at a packed meeting. Millions of dollars are at stake.

By Joel Rubin, Times Staff Writer

A divided board of trustees for a small Orange County school district refused Thursday night to reverse its defiant stand against a state antidiscrimination law.

Their unbending stance sets the Westminster School District on a collision course with state education officials, who could withhold millions of dollars in funding as a sanction. It also prompted opponents to serve two of the trustees with papers notifying them of an official recall effort.

The decision is certain to further fuel the anger of California Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who sent a rare, personal letter to the board Thursday, spelling out the possible sanctions and promised to "move with all deliberate speed if you challenge my authority."

The board's action was greeted by an outburst of boos and hisses.

"This just makes me sick," said Loretta Courtemarche, the longest serving teacher in the district, after the decision. "They are trying to push this as an issue with God. They're putting our children in jeopardy. I'm now ready to kick the members out."

Julie Peterson of Huntington Beach told her 10-year-old son, Clay: "They don't care about you." Peterson says she wasn't aware of the board's position until this week when Clay alerted her. "He told me that his school was going to lose $40 million because of the board. I teach my child morals. His school is responsible for teaching reading, writing and mathematics. It was absolutely, completely moronic to the end."

At issue is the wording of a state law that requires schools to protect certain groups from discrimination, including transsexuals and others who do not conform to traditional gender roles. Citing their Christian faith, the three-member majority of Judy Ahrens, Helena Rutkowski and Blossie Marquez-Woodcock have held firm for months to their belief that the law immorally allows students and teachers to define their own gender and promotes alternative lifestyles. They have repeatedly refused to revise the district's policy to comply with the state law.

O'Connell's letter was read aloud at the start of the meeting by Board President James Reed ‹ who supports the law, along with trustee Jo-Ann Purcell ‹ to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. O'Connell harshly criticized the board, saying that its position was "immoral," "unconscionable" and "indefensible."

The overflow crowd of more than 900 that packed the auditorium at Stacey Middle School was overwhelmingly opposed to the majority's stance. For almost two hours, the stone-faced trustees sat onstage and endured a barrage of criticism, calls for their resignation and pleas to change their vote.

"How dare you use my son as a shield for your discrimination, your fear and your hatred?" said Donna Scott, a parent of one student.

Her sentiments were echoed by parent David Labinger: "You on the board are all entitled to hold whatever personal religious beliefs that you desire, but to endanger an entire school district because of those personal beliefs goes against the values you purport to uphold."

But the board majority also had a few supporters.

Richard Sturges, a pastor at a local church, asked them to remain strong. "It's interesting that the word 'tolerance' is used a lot this evening," he said. "Does that mean agreeing with just one point of view?"

The three trustees' stance has pitted them against state officials, fellow board members, teachers and parents who accuse them of putting their personal beliefs ahead of their obligation to uphold state law and protect the district's students.

Westminster is the only district in the state to refuse to adhere to the 2000 law after being found out of line, according to state officials.

District Supt. Barbara DeHart presented the board with two options: Schedule an emergency meeting before the deadline to reverse the vote or request an extension from the state. The board majority voted to table the first option ‹ effectively killing it ‹ and defeated the second option.

"I'm devastated, I'm angry," said Reed, the board president, after the votes. "It's incomprehensible to me that after everything that was said tonight, that these three board members did what they did."

Added district spokeswoman Trish Montgomery: "We're very disappointed that the board chose not to comply. The deadline is now going to come and go and we will just have to wait and see where the chips may fall."

Although state officials have said no decisions concerning possible sanctions would be made until after the deadline, O'Connell made clear that if the district did not reverse itself, he could move quickly to deny Westminster millions of dollars in federal and state funding.

In his letter, O'Connell threatened to withhold some or all of the nearly $12 million that is reserved each year for such district programs as special education. O'Connell said he could deny the remainder of Westminster's funding for this year ‹ about $6 million according to district officials ‹ or wait to reject its application for all $12 million of next year's funds.

Michael Hersher, a lawyer for the Department of Education, said that before the state could withhold any funds, it would have to give Westminster officials a chance to plead for mercy at a hearing.

The $12-million figure contradicts repeated statements from district officials that all $40 million of Westminster's state and federal funding is at risk.

Regardless of the amount, the small district that serves 10,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade with a $70-million annual budget could not afford sanctions, according to Montgomery.

"Whether we're talking about $12 million or $40 million, it would be devastating," she said.

State law also allows the California Department of Education to sue to force Westminster to revise its policy. Hersher indicated, however, that state officials would lean toward financial sanctions because of the high costs of a lawsuit.

In listing groups protected from discrimination, the district currently makes reference to "gender" and no reference to either "sex" or "sexual orientation." The omissions are important in light of an antidiscrimination law signed in 2000 by then-Gov. Gray Davis meant to protect students and school staffs. The law requires every school district's discrimination complaint procedures to reflect the state's definition of "sex" as male or female and "gender" as a person's actual sex or perceived sex, regardless of whether they are male or female."
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