Dear Red Lion: Stop bullying your LGBTQ students

York Dispatch editorial board

Objections raised by a vocal minority of Red Lion parents and community members reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be trans.

Unfortunately, Red Lion Area School District officials — who stood mute to their own recent, far more pressing controversy: the investigation of alleged inappropriate behavior by ex-Superintendent Scott Deisley — seem all too eager to add fuel to the flames of ignorance.

In the meantime, the school board sent a message to trans students that they aren't worthy of basic human dignity. If these students want to use a bathroom or locker room, they must use the one that corresponds with their birth certificate — as though every student carries it around with them like a hall pass. Alternately, they can ask their teachers for permission to go to the nurse and use the facilities in that office — like that's any less disruptive.

Eric Haywood speaks about Title IX during the public comment portion of 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

Former Red Lion superintendent had shown 'unacceptable and hurtful behavior,' district officials say

It's not altogether unreasonable to be concerned with what bathroom a student uses. But that concern is rooted in the idea that a trans boy is not a real boy and a trans girl is not a real girl. Or that they dress or speak the way they do because they want attention or for some other nefarious reason.

Common sense should tell you otherwise.

No one, and certainly not LGBTQ people, look back on their days sharing a school locker room with any fondness. There's a reason Stephen King chose to open his novel Carrie (and later the movie, too) in such a place. Cisgender, straight bullies are far more likely to be the ones using the relative seclusion of a bathroom or locker room inappropriately.

The mere presence of a trans person does not constitute inappropriate behavior. Odds are, this historically marginalized group wants to spend as little time as possible in places that leave them feeling more vulnerable to insult and abuse.

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Never mind the fact that schools should be enforcing a code of conduct — whether we're talking cigarette smoking or sexual harassment — on school grounds regardless of who's violating it (and that includes administrators).

Likewise, anyone who's attended an American high school knows that deviation from what is deemed "cool" immediately opens them to ridicule and harassment. Even something as simple as eyeglasses becomes fodder for bullies.

In this environment, trans kids aren't looking to stand out. Most simply want to learn and move on with their lives.

Red Lion has a history of marginalizing and humiliating its LGBTQ students.

In 2013, the school district refused to include a transgender student on its ballot for 2013 senior prom king. Instead, the school listed the trans boy on the ballot for prom queen using his birth name.

Red Lion denies transgender student's request

That sounds an awful lot like Carrie, right?

And now the district is pulling another outrageously transphobic stunt by refusing to allow its trans students to use the bathroom and, to add insult to injury, plans to hold a public forum Monday night to scrutinize their very right to exist.

School officials are creating a hostile environment for students who are just trying to live their lives — and sending a message to all the bullies that their own inappropriate behavior is justified.

If we could issue detention slips to Red Lion's school board, we would.