I've written before about how tired I am of the seemingly eternal debacle that is the East Aurora Illinois School District's policy/non-policy/policy debate on equality for trans* students in that district. In October, I recapped the situation and expressed my grave concerns that the district's plan to hold hearings open to the general public on the matter would turn dark and ugly.
Sadly, my fears were justified. With backing and organizational support of the Illinois Family Institute, classified as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 120 religious and conservative protesters showed up to picket the meeting. Some behaved in what has been described as a threatening manner, and speakers who supported trans* students were "hissed at, booed and shouted down by the protesters."
Ad Hoc committee member Joanie Rae Wimmer, an attorney who is herself trans*, in particular felt threatened by a protestor who singled her out publicly as being a threat to children.
As of this writting, the committee's chairwoman has chosen not to set a date for the next meeting, and the process seems, if not derailed, certainly stalled.
I'm terribly sorry that supporters of an inclusive policy, and Ms. Wimmer in particular, have been put in a situation where they feel (possibly rightly) threatened. But, as I wrote about in October, I'm even more worried about how this whole tragic mess has effected the trans* kids that this school district originally set out to protect.
Interestingly, a remarkably similar situation recently occurred twelve hundred miles away in Orange County, Florida (warning: link contains some problematic language).
A call to action from the head of the Florida Family Policy Council brought two hundred protestors to a meeting of that county's school district, which was seeking to implement a trans* inclusive anti-discrimination policy for teachers and students in order to bring the district into alignment with the county and the district's own anti-bullying policies. From available reports, it sounds like the protestors used language and strategies that neatly mirrored those used up north in Chicago.
The parellels between this story and the origin story of the East Aurora mess are striking.
I could be wrong, but it sure looks like the Illinois Family Institute and the Florida Family Council are using the same playbook to plan their respective strategies. However, despite a loud and somewhat fraught meeting in Florida, the Orange County School Board went ahead with implementing the policy in question.
It's certainly a pattern to watch out for moving forward.
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