WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — On Monday night, Wilson County residents and the school board debated a policy that would require teachers to tell parents if a child wants to identify as a gender other than the sex they were assigned at birth.
While the policy was not up for a vote but rather a discussion, public comment lasted almost an hour and a half with the security team having to intervene at one point when a speaker did not leave the lectern.
“Keeping a parent in the dark about whatever struggle a child may be having, whatever struggle is deceptive, underhanded, most of all demonic carry, self-harm, suicide and self-harm. A child thinking they would be happy with the opposite sex is self-harm,” said one speaker.
Others who were against the policy said it would encourage the bullying of queer kids and make some of them less safe in their homes.
“These are some of the things that were yelled at my sixth-grader this year at West Wilson Middle School: ‘You’re going to hell. My parents say I can’t talk to you because you’re gay. [expletive], I bet if I kissed you, you’d like it. You don’t deserve to live,'” said the parent.
The parent went on to say the proposal of the policy is dangerous.
“We are not asking you all to understand our kids. We are asking, we are begging you, if you will not support our queer kids, leave them alone. Shame on you,” she said.
Jeff Luttrell, the Wilson County Director of Schools, said debates like these are distracting from more important issues like teacher retention.
“I’ve had more teachers reach out to me in the last 72 hours than I’ve had in two years as director, and I’m hearing, ‘We can’t take any more. Don’t put any more on us.’ You cannot deny the teacher shortage we’re facing, not just in this county, in this country. We’re expecting teachers to do everything, including solve the world’s problems,” he said.
School board member Joseph Padilla, who proposed the policy, said telling a parent if their child is transgender is like telling a parent their child has ADHD.
“If someone says that a child is experiencing a mental health issue, their parent should know,” he said.
School board member Carrie Pfeiffer was against the policy, and said gender nonconformity is not a mental illness and that there are already policies in place for children in moments of serious mental health crises.
“Continuing to say that gender nonconformity is a mental illness is bigotry…I think we need to check ourselves and check our perspective on it. You don’t have to be okay with it,” Pfeiffer said.
Other members supported the idea of a policy like this, but worried about the implementation.
At the same meeting, the Wilson County School Board voted to keep “Red Hood” by Elana K. Arnold in the mature reading section and remove “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Allison Bechdel from school libraries.
Both of the moves were in line with the county’s book review committee’s recommendations.