New transgender policy passes at Board of Education meeting
In a 6-1 vote, the proposed transgender policy in the Pascack Valley school district passed. Two members of the Board were absent. Joseph Blundo was the one dissenting vote.
The passing of the policy means that it is effective immediately.
“Lawsuits don’t scare me,” Blundo said in reference to Liberty Council, a group based in Florida that had threatened to sue Pascack Valley prior to last night’s meeting if the policy was passed. “This community deserves to have both sides heard.”
Greg Quinlan, founder and president of the Center for Garden State Families, was present and spoke at the meeting. The Center for Garden State Families is a policy organization associated with Liberty Council. Quinlan presented himself as an “ex-gay” and said, “What this policy does is lie to the students.”
“There is not a single shred of scientific evidence but there is vast sociological and physiological evidence that this is a mental illness, one that you are endorsing and promoting,” Quinlan continued.
Quinlan accused Mr. Jeffrey Steinfeld, president of the Board of Education, of being incapable of making decisions for the school community, stating that Steinfeld’s history as a lawyer made it clear that he had “no business being present on the school board.” Soon after saying this, Quinlan was escorted out of the room by Officer Sayers, a Hillsdale police officer as well as PV’s resource officer, where a brief altercation took place between Quinlan, a Mr. Adam Shapiro, and another man. Quinlan was then escorted from the premises.
“[The Board] said that [Quinlan] was not welcome in the building right now,” Sayers said. “[Quinlan] didn’t feel safe so he asked me if I could escort him to his car.”
Others who spoke at the meeting objected to the claims that the policy was unhelpful or misguided.
“The fear mongering around this issue has been a mix of transphobia, misinformation, and paranoia,” said Dr. Dwight Panozz, a psychotherapist and resident of Montvale. “To the misinformed comments: please, take time. Do your homework. Lots of it.
“The paranoid among us represent the true danger in this issue,” Panozz continued. He went on to say that paranoia may represent a projection of one’s own unacceptable wishes and thoughts onto others. “I hope they get help for this.”
James Stankus, resident of River Vale and father of four, spoke against the policy fearing for the wellbeing of those who had suffered sexual assault. “Is it right to put her through the emotional torment of having a man undress in the same room because she does not want to be singled out [and forced to change elsewhere]? One side’s gain is another side’s loss.”
PV Senior Sean Keohane spoke, addressing those who had expressed concern that children would be exposed to inappropriate body parts in the locker rooms.
“I’m gonna tell you the locker room process real quick. Step one: take off your shorts and keep your underwear on. That’s important. Step two: maybe after one or two seconds, put your shorts on,” Keohane said.
“How many of you have ever allowed your sons or daughter to change with members of the opposite sex in the same room?” said Bernadette Orso of Hillsdale. “If you want to respect the rights of all students, you need to designate gender neutral bathrooms and changing stalls.”
Kai Nielsen, a non-binary transgender student at Pascack Valley, pointed out some irony in this. “I just went to use the gender neutral bathrooms,” Nielsen said, “and both were locked.”
“This policy is giving us a choice. We can use the gender neutral bathrooms or the normal bathrooms,” said Kax Petkovich, a transgender male and freshman here at Pascack Valley. “The cisgender students here, they already have that choice. This isn’t taking that choice away from them.”
His father, Bo Petkovich, spoke for the policy as well. “It is well thought out and addresses many concerns and is formatted so that the school has proper oversight.”
Ms. Kim Barron, a resident of Mahwah where the school district has already passed a transgender policy, asked, “Is the school capable of handling the possibility that a large number of gender conforming students may refuse to use the same bathrooms and locker rooms? If 50 students want to leave, will they have somewhere to go?”
“I know, personally, if I were to have to change in a locker room with a boy, I would not feel comfortable,” said Grace Hecht, an eighth grade student considering coming to PV next year. She stated her religion as the source behind her objection to the policy, quoting passages from the Bible and saying that she was “not against the people who are transgender” but that they were “created male or female” and that “God created them without mistake and he doesn’t want them to change.”
“I must say,” said Adam Shapiro, a resident of River Vale, “those same points of view, those same passages from the religious tone, were used in the 50’s and the 60’s to discriminate against blacks. Separate bathrooms and separate locker rooms.”
Many felt the Board had already made up their minds and were pushing the policy through hastily.
Tammy Molinelli, a member of the Board, refuted this suggestion after comments from the public closed. “I can tell you that I’ve spent a huge amount of time talking to people and listening to people, that I take this incredibly seriously so anyone who would insinuate that this is a whim, that we’re just throwing something together willy-nilly, is not correct. I think the Board and myself take this very seriously.”