The Red Lion Area School District decided in a meeting yesterday that LGBTQ students are required to use the bathroom that aligns with their sex assigned at birth. This is a devastating blow to queer children in York County.
The school board held a vote on the matter during their meeting Dec.1. The motion passed 6-2 in opposition to LGBTQ rights. This was done as an “emergency directive”, which allowed it to bypass deliberation and go directly to a vote. Several LGBTQ advocacy groups condemn this move, concerned that the very nature of the decision violates the Sunshine Act, a law that requires public officials to be transparent about the decisions they make. This comes at the end of a year marked by a steep rise in violence against the LGBTQ community, most notably the night club shooting in Colorado Springs last month that killed five people and injured dozens of others.
Donna Haywood, member of the board, commented after the vote “If it’s six now, then it can turn into more numbers later, and then the numbers just keep rising. If we nip it in the bud now, it doesn’t have to get more than six.” seeming to suggest that, if students are barred from using the bathroom that aligns with their identity, they won’t become trans, as though it were that simple to make queer kids disappear from society.
Advocates for the anti-trans policy claimed it was for the safety of all students. This is a ridiculous claim. As the board members themselves mentioned, there are just 6 students who have requested to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. This makes them the OVERWHELMING minority and, therefore, targets of bullying and harassment. It is the safety of these few students that should be a greater concern for the members of the board, the officials whose job it is to protect students and promote their success. This motion threatens the students’ safety and creates a hostile learning environment.
Kids can be ruthless. 73% of LGBTQ youth suffer with high levels of anxiety and depression, nearly all of which are driven by hostile environments at school, home, and beyond. In fact, according to the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth support and research organization based in the US, LGBTQ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support.
These anti-LGBTQ school policies only exacerbate the fear of these kids. In schools that have implemented these policies, queer students report higher rates of bullying and harassment. When those in charge of a school system endorse this kind of discrimination, it only empowers other students to discriminate as well.
Red Lion is just the lastest in a string of discriminatory school board decisions sweeping across the nation. In recent months, this issue has come up at Manheim Township School, Conestoga Valley,
It is so important that LGBTQ youth can have access to safe spaces, that they know they are loved and accepted. In schools that have LGBTQ-supportive policies, such as allowing students to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity, permitting them to play on the correct sports team, and creating a GSA or other queer club, these schools had remarkable lower rates of attempted suicide among LGBTQ students.
It is unethical and antithetical for a school board to make decisions proven time and time again to harm and endanger students. And yet, that is precisely what the Red Lion Area School district has done.
Lancaster LGBTQ Coalition Communications Committee
National Spokesperson for The Sunrise Movement
Member of Lancaster Stands Up
Employee of the YMCA of the Roses
Editor of The Rebel Newspaper