Mentor Public Schools is withholding mental health information about transgender or transitioning students from parents.
An Ohio school board meeting on Tuesday, September 13 raised concern in parents over an email which went out to teachers in the district informing them that they are not required to inform parents if a student 11 years old or older who is transgender or transitioning asks to use a different name or pronoun.
On August 31, Mentor Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Timothy Hamman sent an email to teachers in grades 6-12 stating that parents do not need to be notified on a name or pronoun change if a student requests it informally with their teacher and does not request for the change to be made in Google or the parent portal known as Infinite Campus.
Hamman’s email was read aloud in its entirety at the September 13 meeting.
The teachers were instructed that they can use the preferred name/pronoun with the student and they do not need to report this information to any other staff or family member unless requested by the student.
While the email was sent by Hamman, Superintendent Craig Heath clarified at the meeting that he was the one who authorized the email to be sent. According to board member Annie Payne, it was done without board’s knowledge.
Heath said that the email was regarding an isolated incident between one high school student who approached one teacher about using their preferred pronouns in the classroom and did not want their parents to be involved. It was stated that there was a miscommunication with the staff and the email was not intended to be sent throughout the district.
“We are committed to looking at that policy at the board retreat or work session so we can have open transparency with every aspect of this topic,” Heath said. “Each child’s safety – physical, social, and emotional – are at our utmost priority.”
The meeting shifted to a public comment period during which tensions ran high concerning this issue.
“One thing that I noticed when you talked about the retreat, the number one topic you want to talk about is pronouns and the LGBTQ movement,” a concerned citizen said. “I didn’t hear one word about education. What are we teaching our children? It is not your responsibility to worry about moral values. That is the parental right. You are treading on parental rights all over the place, and you’re also violating the Constitution.”
Another concern was that teachers and school staff will be put in very tough positions when navigating this policy.
“If the school nurse for example, calls home because your child gets sick, do they have to remember to call the child by a different name when speaking to the parent and call the child by something different when they are in school?” one woman asked. “If a child brings home graded homework, will the teacher white-out the name on the paper so they don’t expose the secret that this kid goes by something different in school? I’m concerned that if deception is encouraged for pronoun use or this topic, what could be next? If my daughter someday has an unintended pregnancy or gets involved in drugs, will I be kept in the dark about that because the school decides to honor her right to privacy over my rights to care for my child?”
Supporters of the policy also showed up in numbers to share their perspectives on the issue. A transgender student spoke out about the emotional toll some LGBTQ students experience in school. Another supporter verbally attacked Payne for speaking out about the policy without actually having any children of her own in the school district. The woman was interrupted numerous times while she was speaking but Payne stood up for her.
“I’m for First Amendment rights, so I would be glad for her to finish her review of me,” Payne said.
According to Heath, as of September 13 clarification had still not been sent to the teachers regarding the email. LGBTQ issues are on the September 21 board retreats agenda and Heath said he will clarify at that time.
I do want to reiterate that our teachers are wonderful educators. They really do sincerely care for our students; however, they lack the certification and expertise to talk to our students about gender identity. I strongly believe that parents need to be full partners with schools, and ultimately this stance undermines parents’ rights. “Parents have a fundamental right to the upbringing of their children. We should not undermine their right by deciding for them what is best for their child. We cannot take the parent out of transparency. They deserve to know our stance.
Watch the full meeting:
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Mentor Public Schools” by Mentor Public Schools.