Tells school board: “We are saying to young females it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable you are”
By Michael Bielawski
A parent at the Champlain Valley School Board meeting on Tuesday spoke up about concerns she has regarding an update to the school’s equity and transgender policies. The board is currently proposing, to be voted on next month, that people must use preferred pronouns and transgender people can choose the bathroom/locker rooms that they identify with, among other provisions.
The proposal is to be voted on next month.
Michelle Gagne is the parent of a senior at the school who has Down syndrome. Due to her condition, her daughter is not supposed to be in certain situations with biological males such as for example locker rooms or sleeping arrangements during a field trip.
“I have a daughter with special needs, she has Down Syndrome, she can’t tell us when somebody does something to her or makes her feel uncomfortable,” Gagne said. “She doesn’t have the words to do that.”
She is adamant that her daughter remain safe while attending school.
“We have told her that you are not to be in a room with a person with a penis. You are to be with girls,” she said. “That’s how she’s been brought up.”
She continued to speak about the various challenges these proposals may create.
“My daughter will not be able to go and stay overnight somewhere for a biological male who wants to sleep in a room with biological females and shower in a bathroom that they all share,” she said. “It makes me very uncomfortable for her because my daughter can’t see the difference. She doesn’t understand.”
She added that she feels this movement to include biological males with young women in private situations is undoing women’s rights.
“And I feel that we are erasing females, everything that was fought for when I was in school when I was a young woman, everything we fought for to have a voice, to have privacy in the bathrooms, to have privacy when we went somewhere,” she said.
“And now if they want field trips, there’s no guarantee that they are going to be able to sit there and just have a room with biological females with them if a biological male wants to sleep in the room because they feel that they identify as a female.”
She said that young women today are in a tough spot because if they feel uncomfortable with these policies and they try to speak out, they may be ridiculed as a result.
“That puts the rest of the girls [at risk] who are not going to dare to say anything and there are a lot of girls out there saying things to me and saying it makes them uncomfortable but because it’s not politically correct in this current environment, they are feeling threatened and I just don’t understand how this is going to help anything. It’s going to help a select few,” she said.
She also disputed the notion that transgenders are happier after doing surgeries to transition.
“I know this from friends that have had the surgery, I know this from friends with children who grew up with my children that have had the surgery,” she said. “It’s a nightmare for them.”
She suggested these proposals could be very disruptive for young women.
“I don’t understand why we are doing this policy and we are saying to young females it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable you are, what matters is that this minority population has to be comfortable at your expense,” she said.
During an exchange with the board, she still praised their efforts to generally address social justice concerns.
“I know that you guys have worked hard to be inclusive and I totally understand that,” she said.
The chair of the Champlain Valley School District Board of Directors Angela Arsenault was the only board member to respond. She is also a state legislator, a Democrat for the Williston area.
“I hear what you are saying, I’m sure that I cannot say anything to completely allay your concerns,” Arsenault said. “But I will say that I know that the facilities that we have here at the high school, there are gender-neutral bathrooms which are single bathrooms and I think there is an opportunity for privacy in all of those spaces already, I’m sure that doesn’t completely alleviate your fears, I’m not sure I could say anything that would.”
She added that there will be a vote next month on their agenda.
Extensive media coverage of the CVU plan omitted coverage of Gagne’s complaint.
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle.