Wilson County board member proposes policy to out transgender students
The school board member compared being transgender to a mental illness and said it could be a liability if not reported to parents.
LEBANON, Tenn. (WSMV) – Tensions were high Monday night after a Wilson County School Board member proposed creating a policy that would require teachers to tell parents if their student identifies as transgender.
The policy, proposed by Zone 4 member Joseph Padilla, was not up for a vote. The discussion Monday night was to get the idea out there, Padilla said. He compared being transgender to a mental illness and said it could be a liability if not reported to parents.
“To me, something needed to be put in place to protect our teachers, to protect our district and to protect the county’s budget,” Padilla said. “To me, informing parents of their child having a possible mental health condition – that’s not political at all. It’s not political. I’m not outing a child to their parent. I’m informing.”
Dr. Beth Meyers, who represents Zone 2, said such a policy would be a “procedural nightmare,” while another school board member said the policy would be unenforceable.
“I don’t feel we need a policy in place,” Meyers said. “I feel like a policy would be procedural mess. Teachers are smart enough to know the boundaries.”
Padilla said he wanted to implement the policy because parents have expressed the need for more mental health intervention in schools, citing polls taken by Wilson County parents.
“They’re sitting there saying that there’s a mental health problem. These parents are saying this is something we need to address. My response would not ever be to not to tell them about this because obviously they know there’s a mental health issue,” Padilla said. “I never in my life would imagine that so many individuals wouldn’t want to know about their child and any possible mental health issues and would not want other parents to know as well.”
Padilla later compared telling a parent that their student has ADHD to telling them that their student is transgender. He said he’s gotten several comments that his policy would be discriminatory, which he rejects.
“All I’m asking for is a little transparency on this one issue … I’m not asking you if you’re dating someone of the opposite race, I’m going to call your – no, not that’s not it,” he said. “But if they come to you with depression, they come to you with suicide, they come to you with gender confusion, they come to you with any other of these disorders, we notify the parents, and we have a plan to fix it.”
Lindsey Patrick Wright was one Wilson County parent who said at the meeting she believed the policy would be discriminatory. Wright said her 13-year-old child is part of the LGBTQ community and a policy like Padilla proposed would be damaging to others like them.
Wright said she’s frustrated with Padilla’s alleged “bigoted” policy proposals and claims they do not represent most of Wilson County residents’ views.
“Every queer kid and family in Wilson County deserves to know that the majority of us do not subscribe to the bigoted ideas of what you believe Wilson County values stands for … My kid is lucky. When they go home, they have a family that doesn’t believe their identity is a mental illness, Joe,” Wright said. “Not all kids have that support at home, and you all know that. How dare you propose taking away the one lifeline that a kid might have as a trusted teacher? How dare you propose taking away the ability for a teacher to be that lifeline? Shame on you!”
It’s unclear if the policy has a chance at moving forward, but most of the school board expressed that it could cause issues if implemented.
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