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Red Lion's transgender student policy remains in limbo

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

Community members continue to question Red Lion Area school board members over the emergency directive concerning transgender students and a postponed public forum on the matter.

“It’s been quiet for a while,” said Stephanie Smith, the mother of a transgender student, said at Thursday night's school board meeting.

Smith noted that community members are still waiting to speak their peace on the matter.

In December, the school board issued an emergency directive requiring students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correlate with the gender on their birth certificates. The district's transgender students have the option to use a gender-neutral option, if it's available.

Red Lion high school's homecoming in Red Lion on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022.

In practice, this has meant that transgender students are forced to walk across the school to use a nurse or guidance counselor's restroom.

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The board promised to hold a public forum to give residents time to share their thoughts. That forum was set for mid-December, but it was postponed just days before because of “growing safety concerns.” The district did not elaborate on those concerns.  

It hasn’t been rescheduled yet, and the postponement notice was no longer on the district’s website Friday afternoon. 

During a Jan. 20 meeting, Vice President Marc Greenly said the board is building an administrative team to help work on the forum. 

Board member Marc Greenly during Red Lion Area School District’s Board of School Directors meeting at Red Lion Area Education Center in Windsor Township,Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022.  Dawn J. Sagert photo

Smith said this issue must be addressed quickly. 

“The board, as it stands now, is really not concerned about my child’s health and the other transgender children in Red Lion,” she said. 

Another resident, Matt Keene, said “this issue isn’t unique” to the district and it’s becoming an ugly cultural battle.

“There’s a better way,” he said, pointing out there is a social contract in the nation to tolerate their neighbor’s lifestyle.

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Board President Stephen Simpson indicated he'd like to give the district's new superintendent, Robert L. Walker, some time to acclimate before tackling the issue.

“Dr. Walker is nine days into this job,” Simpson said. "We are working on it."

Red Lion Area School District Administrative Office at Pleasant View Elementary School in Windsor Township, Friday, June 11, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

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Keene said the district could solve the issue quickly by renovating its bathrooms — with taller dividers and individual showers — to make them gender-neutral.

“Unwillingness to spend money is never an excuse to avoid doing the right thing,” he said, adding people were willing to spend money to keep bathrooms separate for racist reasons. 

Keene said the district needs to rise above this controversy by embracing an “innovative solution” that other districts could follow. 

— Reach Meredith Willse at or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.