Values Voters Summit Panel: Gender Ideology in Schools Can be Reversed
On May 7, 2015, Fairfax County, VA School Board officials voted to allow students to use their preferred restrooms. The decision was the nation’s first. Only one school board member voted no, despite hundreds of angry parents in attendance.
On Saturday, a five-person panel at the 2017 Values Voters Summit discussed how to change that decision. Speakers also focused on how parents can reverse the trend of school districts allowing full access by girls and boys to restrooms, locker rooms, and more.
‘Fake Science’ Undermines Women, Says Speaker
Family Research Council (FRC) Senior Fellow Cathy Ruse said that gender identity activists use a campaign against “bullying” as a pretense. Their real goal, she argued, is to change the beliefs of students. Ruse said that parents were told that little would change in Fairfax. However, students are taught that there can be wrong genders at birth. They are not, she said, taught “about serious health risks associated with trying to transition to another sex.”
Ruse stated that changing genders is “fake science.” She said that at least 80 percent of people who are gender-confused as children accept their real sex “when given the chance.” Will school systems “bully [confused students] into rejecting their natural biology?” she asked.
Ruse argued that women and girls are especially harmed by the Fairfax decision. “Do [girls] hear that being female isn’t good enough?” she asked. She said women’s rights and preferences are ignored. Ruse cited a survivor of sexual assault who said that female restrooms and locker rooms “were safe spaces” before men were allowed.
Ruse’s colleague Peter Sprigg doubled down on the fake science theme. “The vast majority of people who identify as transgender are completely normal in their” biology and physiology, said Sprigg. He also said that trying to change genders does not improve mental health. He cited a Swedish study that examined 324 “sex-reassigned persons” who underwent efforts to change gender between 1973 and 2003.
According to the study’s main conclusion, “Our findings suggest that sex reassignment … may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism.” Sprigg said that suicide rates for those who attempted to change gender were 19 times higher than those of the general Swedish population.
Years to Change School Start Times, Weeks to Change Gender Policies
The single Fairfax County School Board member to oppose the gender policy change was Elizabeth Schultz. She said on Saturday that normal procedures for policy changes were ignored.
According to Schultz, changing high school start times affected 50,000 out of 189,000 district students. Changing the start times took 10 years and “involved the hiring of…experts.” The region’s traffic, community and youth sports, school athletes, impacts on working families, and more were considered. The public was consulted.
Schultz also noted that changing student discipline was due to an “emerging mental health crisis, a suicide crisis.” The Board considered second-chance programs, the location of students for suspensions, student transfers, and whether expensive specialized services should be done at school instead of at homes to save money. The district consulted outside experts.
In contrast, “Adoption and full implementation of the [gender identity] language took place in a matter of weeks,” Schultz said. “We did not make any attempt to differentiate implementation of our language” for factors like age. Schultz said many factors are normally considered to ensure effectiveness.
“The race to embrace has led to fast policy – ideologically … driven policy,” concluded Schultz. Many school districts look to Fairfax, she said. It’s one of the largest school districts in Virginia, and is a state and national leader.
Meg Kilgannon, Executive Director of Concerned Parents and Educators of Fairfax County, said that parents have to lead. Kilgannon outlined three strategies she said will win allies and reduce backlash.
“Divide and conquer” was first. Kilgannon said that parents should split the “LGBT” movement into “LGB” and “T.” She said Americans aren’t ready for gender ideology.
Second, “Never, ever attack LGBT people or trans people or parents of trans children. We’re all people just struggling to get along in this mean, old world.” KIlgannon said that everyone has “dignity.” Attacks on gender-confused people and their parents “undermine” the goal of reversing course on girls and boys using each other’s facilities, she said.
Finally, Kilgannon said religious arguments are “simply not effective.” Broader coalitions with feminists and other liberal-aligned individuals and groups are more likely when not using religion, according to Kilgannon. “Secular arguments are perceived as more inclusive.”
The tactics of opponents of gender ideology, she argued, must be “engage, educate, explain, empower, and elect.”
Do Elections Matter?
At the May 7, 2015 school board meeting, Schultz had urged parents to remember the 10-1-1 vote results in the following election. Six months later, two new board members were elected. Schultz told The Stream that conservatives are still outnumbered. But she also said, “You can look at the fact that we picked up two additional seats – so we went from me to two more. So that’s a pretty significant increase.”
The school board’s decision did lead to voter backlash because “you have a general malaise,” explained Schultz. “People think school board elections don’t matter to them. They don’t have children in the public school system, they home-school their children, their children go to private school – they think, ‘it doesn’t matter to me.’”
“The problem is that all those children in public school,” she noted, “will be their peers in college, in their careers, they’re going to be their neighbors.” Schultz said that local elections might matter more than national ones, “because it’s the thing that drives culture in which we live more than anything else.”
In 2015, the Obama administration threatened to pull Fairfax’s Title IX funding. Board members used this to justify the gender policy change. Schultz said the pressure didn’t matter. “It’s the local ideological bent of the left taking hold of school boards across the country.” Asked about the Trump administration’s reversal of the Obama policies, Schultz said “whether or not the federal government has done or undone something is almost a moot issue.” She told The Stream that without local accountability, “you have a rogue group of either appointed or elected individuals who are going to instill their will.”