Last night, the Prince William County School Board spent around six hours hearing citizen comments and discussing/debating Policy 060, “Nondiscrimination And Commitment To Equity.” I didn’t watch all of it by any means (for the full video, see here), but I did skim through it, and it seems that there were a lot more opponents (including old “favorites” like anti-LGBT bigot, Del. “Sideshow Bob Marshall) of the LGBT non-discrimination policies (a lot of whom were wearing red shirts for whatever reason) than supporters. I’m not sure why that was the case, but as we’ve seen in other counties (e.g., Fairfax), clearly the opponents were better organized and more, uh, “passionate” than supporters.
Second, I’d note that the Board Chair, Ryan Sawyers, ended up being the only vote in favor of adopting the policy changes now, as opposed to delaying a vote until June 2017 (at least). Now, Sawyers might have been on the right side of this issue morally speaking, but that’s just not particularly impressive for the Chair of the Board to put up a resolution and then lose it 5-1-1. I mean, as the saying goes, when a lawyer asks a question in court, they are supposed to know the answer before they ask it. Same thing for when a Board chair puts up a motion for a vote – he should know how his members are going to vote. Instead, last night there were six hours of discussion and citizen comments, then in the end the only vote held was to postpone action, and it passed 5-1 (with only Board Chair Sawyers voting not to postpone). Lame.
(NOTE: I’m also told by multiple sources that Sawyers “never should have put it out there without coordinating w/his colleagues,” also that he has “alienated the rest of the Democrats on the School Board,” and that “now if someone ever wants to bring it back up they will be really nervous about it, because he completely botched it.”)
Third, it’s a shame for the LGBTQ kids – and also employees – in the PW County School system, to be jerked around like this. The fact is, they really need this to be resolved and stop being endlessly debated. As an LGBT friend of mine put it, “the more discussion, the worse it is for LGBT kids; the more [opponents of LGBT nondiscrimination] are allowed to spew their hate, the more kids feel like they ARE freaks, aren’t welcome, that something is wrong with them.” And no, I don’t see how more community discussion – as several Board members, including Justin Wilk (see video below), suggested would be helpful – is going to lead to any more clarity on this issue. As far as I can tell, opponents and proponents are pretty much dug in, not going to budge, and more discussion just seems to be polarizing/hardening positions even more.
Finally, about the only argument for delay that makes any sense to me at all is this one: “to wait for decisions from state and federal courts, which are expected to provide guidance about how public schools should proceed with regulations on day-to-day school issues, such as whether transgender students must be permitted to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity instead of assigned gender at birth.” The problem is that in the meantime, the issue continues to fester, students (and staff) continue to suffer, and the community continues to be divided. I’m not confident that a delay will help matters, or that even that the issue will be resolved in June 2017, but we’ll see I guess…sigh.
P.S. I just added a speech from a citizen (David Aponte) explaining very well why the Prince William County School system needs this policy.