In a heated Kern High School District board meeting Monday, conservatives clashed with the transgender community as they reacted to a recent board decision to adopt anti-discrimination policies that include allowing students into the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify.
Dozens of community members from both sides of the issue addressed board members during a packed standing-room only meeting that overflowed out of the chambers and into a satellite location where the meeting was broadcast.
Several parents said that if such policies continued they would pull their students from KHSD and enroll them in home-schooling.
“All we say is God gave you these parts — go to the restroom where you were born to go,” said Jeffrey Burns, a local community member.
Outside the chambers before the meeting began, a group of LGBT supporters gathered for a press conference with the Dolores Huerta Foundation applauding the adoption of the policies, which they say signal a “robust” reform effort.
“The board of trustees took a necessary, intermediate step in improving its compliance,” said Lisa Cisneros, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance LGBT program. “Previously, the district had an extremely weak nondiscrimination policy. This does not offer a silver bullet for achieving a fully safe and inclusive environment for the thousands of LGBTQ students in the district. However, it’s an important improvement policy over the barebones language that existed before.”
Others lauded Trustee Chad Vegas’ recent decision to not run for re-election following the passage of the anti-discrimination policies. Vegas has openly opposed LGBT anti-discrimination policies and said this year that he vowed to oppose any laws that violated his religious conscience.
Rather than do that, he said, he will not seek a fourth term in office.
When some said that the district took great steps toward avoiding potentially costly litigation by enacting the board policies that comply with state law, one man said that there’s “courts higher than those in the state -- the courts in heaven,” he said.
Several politicians on the ballot for mayoral, congressional and assembly races took the opportunity to present their stance on the issue.
Ken Mettler, who’s running for Kevin McCarthy’s congressional seat, called the transgender bathroom laws “pure lunacy,” then took digs at McCarthy who he said helped make “transgenderism the law of the land.”
Alex Merrill, one of 25 Bakersfield mayoral candidates touted that he’s the only one to oppose “this agenda,” and “forced indoctrination.”
Others warned of lawsuits that could occur by protecting LGBT students, and not all students. Many said they thought the transgender bathroom issue has been made up to further a left-wing agenda and that KHSD has not had any issues with transgender bathroom use.
Dean Welliver, a former KHSD student, dropped out his freshman year to enroll in an online program because he was bullied for his sexual orientation, he said.
The meeting became heated at points, when one man spoke out against the policies and referred to a transgender woman in a dress who advocates throughout the state for LGBT rights, as a man.
“That’s a woman!” audience members shouted at him as he yelled back at them that they were being disrespectful.
Board President Mike Williams responded to comments, saying that the district has for years given transgender students the option to use private facilities but are being forced to allow them to use male or female restrooms by state law filtering down to public schools.
“We can’t question it,” Williams said before another man led a prayer during a public school board meeting during his portion of public comment. It was met with applause.
Board members had not addressed another controversial issue regarding whether to allow Concealed Carry Permit holders to bring guns to campus by press time. Head to www.bakersfield.com for more coverage on the KHSD board meeting from Monday night.