Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Iowa Rep. Jeff Shipley addressed the Fairfield Community School Board of Directors Monday about transgender issues in the school.
Upon learning earlier that day that Shipley was scheduled to speak, several residents attended the meeting to also speak on that issue, most of whom expressed a different opinion from Shipley’s.
Shipley said his most urgent concern was that school districts in the state are hiding information from parents about their children’s health and well-being. Shipley cited a policy in the Linn-Mar School District that states once a student is in seventh grade, the student would be in charge of their “gender plan” which would “dictate the terms of their accommodation.” Shipley said the policy states that this information would not be divulged to parents without the student’s permission.
“I hope people will recognize that this is a lot more power than seventh-graders have previously enjoyed,” he said. “Students who are not old enough to consent to having sex are not old enough to consent to changing their sex. The notion of concealing information from parents on sensitive issues has been seen as a bright red line that has generated a lot of mistrust and apprehension across the state.”
Shipley said he didn’t understand how it could be healthy for a student to present themselves as one identity or persona at home, and another identity at school. He added that, though Linn-Mar’s policy is ostensibly grounded in improving a student’s mental health, it does not mention a mental health evaluation.
“That is a pretty red flag that has people concerned,” he said. “People are accusing this of being grooming behavior. When I’m using it, I’m referencing anyone who would conceal information or create a barrier between the parents and the kid. A lot of people who investigate sex crimes would say this is Grooming 101.”
Shipley asked the Fairfield school board to make it clear in their policies that parents are included in the decisions about their children.
After Shipley’s remarks, several residents spoke in response. Resident Lore Oliver addressed the board. He said he runs a local business called Southeast Iowa Fix It Service.
“I only bring that up because I grew up as an LGBTQ kid in this state, and I was always under the impression that I wasn’t going to be useful, that I couldn’t do the things my peers could do,” he said. “And today I run and operate a sole proprietorship. I do plumbing. I do drywall work. That’s directed at any children who may be listening today, that you can be valuable and useful.”
Oliver said he is spearheading a project called the Fairfield Safe Spaces Initiative. He said several businesses have agreed to partner on this project, where the business will be known as a safe space.
“I would love to add Fairfield schools to that list,” he said. “I would love nothing more than to hear that children feel safe in this school. Talking to younger kids in this area, they do not feel safe, especially when … we have predatory politicians coming into their spaces. It’s just unacceptable.”
Resident Star Dust said they did not like that Shipley has been invited into Fairfield school classrooms. Star Dust cited a study in an academic journal that said “preventing queer students from accessing their backgrounds in accordance to their gender comfortability leads to serious mental health concerns,” including 40 percent of whom reporting bathroom discrimination, resulting in higher rates of depression.
Other speakers included former middle school teacher Minca Borg, who said that LGBTQ youth who have at least one accepting adult in their life can reduce their chance of suicide attempts by 40 percent.
Resident David Sands, a Fairfield pediatrician, spoke about the science behind sex and gender.
“It may come as a surprise that there are those who look female, who carry male chromosomes, and those who are male carrying female chromosomes,” he said. “Some may have two X chromosomes and a Y chromosome. Gender identification by sight is not necessarily reliable.”
Sands said that any policy the school adopts should allow children to explore what they need to explore and make them feel safe.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org