What's safe & welcoming about this?

Updated: Oct 22

Subject: Public testimony

Date: April 16, 2022 at 8:03:44 AM EDT



Dear Salem-Keizer School Board and Superintendent, Like many parents, I was not afforded the opportunity to speak during the public comment of your last meeting. As I have already expressed to you, there has been a noticeable trend of a disproportionate number of LUS activists being given an opportunity to speak during your meetings while only a statically improbable and small number of parents get to speak. Due to this, I will address my concerns publicly and in writing. While addressing the high rates of suicidality among transgender youth should not be ignored, applying the practices in this district’s transgender policy to the entire student body population instead of just those affected by gender dysphoria is ill advised. There are no studies that I have found looking at the effects of teaching gender fluidity to gender conforming students or the impacts it could have on the mental health of gender conforming students. This appears especially foolhardy considering the greatly increased rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide amongst all youth. The US surgeon general and several national pediatric societies have declared American youth to be in a national mental health crisis. This is just one of many concerns I have about the release of this policy. It is unconscionable that this district’s transgender policy dictates that gender affirming books be put in all district libraries K-12, with no mention of age-appropriateness. Many of these books, which I have seen and which have been found in Oregon school libraries, include extremely graphic and even pornographic content. Often these books teach children how to engage in sexual acts by themselves and with others, condoning even incest. With the number of children who experience sexual abuse, I find it highly ironic that this board would approve an abuse proclamation in the same week the district released this policy promoting books that condone this behavior. Additionally, it is unlawful to expose children to pornography and teachers are mandatory reporters. I would encourage every parent to examine the content of their child’s school library and if pornographic content is found, contact child protective services and file a police report. Administrators and the district should be held responsible for any child exposed to pornography in their school library. This is especially true at a time when 4 educators in Oregon, to include 1 in this school district, have been arrested or are currently under investigation for sex crimes against children. All 4 of these situations have occurred in the last 2 weeks. It is extremely ill conceived that this superintendent would roll out a policy that would make it easier for sexual predators to hide their grooming practices under the guise of comprehensive sex education or transgender inclusion, making it that much more difficult to detect their abhorrent behavior. The practices in this policy put all children at risk for heightened exposure to sexual predation by mandating that teachers, administrators and counselors help a child transition their gender. Assessing or counseling a person for gender transition is a specialty within the mental health field that requires specialized training and competence to engage in. That any school district would not only permit, but require educators to engage in this practice, which is outside of their scope of practice and expertise, is irresponsible and could lead to unintentional harm of the student and open the district up to costly lawsuits. Particularly when this policy permits the school to utilize deceptive practices to withhold information from parents that could be life saving. While this policy seeks to increase the safety of trans students, withholding data from parents about a student when the prevalence of mental health conditions and suicidal rates amongst this population are so high, could prevent the child from receiving necessary professional services. Preventing parents from being aware of the potential risk of morality of their child keeps the people who have the most time with that child and responsibility for that child from implementing potentially life saving strategies for them. This policy has also been implemented at a time when there has been a considerable increase in violence in SK schools and schools nationally. Just consider the Nevada teacher who was recently sexually assaulted by 16 yo student who then attempted to murder her or the 2 different girls in Virginia raped by the same trans girl in the girls restroom. SK is not without it’s own issues with sexual assault and assault in general by students toward one another and their teachers. It has become so problematic that teachers have written pleas to the district to solve the issues that have made them feel so unsafe in the school and their classrooms. This policy does not address the needs of students with a history sexual trauma. Research tells us that 90% of all rape victims in the US are women and 1 in 5 women in the US report having been sexually assaulted. Yet only 1/3 actually report it. The superintendent and board chair indicate that they place the onus on these students to ensure their own safety, rather than for the district to perform their sacred duty of ensuring the safety of every student. Instead the district is placing the importance of the inclusion of a very small group of students over the mental health and safety of a statically much larger group of students. Finding alternatives for the much smaller number of trans students, who are already self identifying, would be a much better option. Statistically there are far more female victims of sexual assault attending SK schools than children who are gender-non confirming. Do these victims of sexual assault not deserve to feel safe? Many of these girls who have experienced sexual assault will never tell an adult of the trauma they have experienced. Do they get no say in who will get to come into their safe space when they are at their most vulnerable, such as in the bathroom, locker room or hotel room while on a field trip, as indicated in this policy? The superintendent noted a moral and legal obligation for protecting the transgender student. Where is the district’s moral obligation to protect the mental health and legal obligation to protect the physical safety of its female students, who are also a protected class? Teachers and students in SKSD are regularly assaulted and do not feel safe. I speak to teachers and educators frequently that have been assaulted in school by their students. To this end I have personally had to remove one of my children from the district due to the district’s failure to protect them from excessive bullying and physical assault. It is the responsibility of the district to ensure the physical safety of EVERY student. During the tenure of the current superintendent, disciplinary actions needing to be taken related to student violence have constantly worsened. The superintendent needs to be held responsible for the irresponsible actions taken that have led to reduced safety in SK schools. Another issue I would have addressed during the public testimony, if parents had been given equal time to speak is related to bullying. This school board has taken a no bullying pledge. Every person who attends the school board meetings needs to be held to the same standard of respect for others and not be allowed to bully or call names during the meeting. The double standard displayed by the board chair has been noticed. If the chair cannot manage the responsibilities of the position he should be replaced. This same principle needs to be applied to the consideration of a second vice chair. Never before has there been need of a second vice chair. If the chair and vice chair are unable to manage the responsibilities of their duties then they should be replaced. Adding additional bureaucracy to a system that is currently not working is unlikely to resolve the issue. Angela Plowhead

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