Editor’s Note: The following is a letter from Nick Kapoor, a member of the Monroe Board of Education.
To the Editor,
After nearly a year of waiting for the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Policy to be voted on, the Board of Education majority took the most cowardly and shameful route by voting it down without a word of discussion. The transphobia, xenophobia, and “don’t say gay” mentality that has gripped the national Republican Party for some time was beyond evident at the June 6th Board meeting.
Isn’t it the responsibility of elected officials to explain their votes? Would we expect our Congressman or Senators to take a vote and not answer questions about it? Absolutely not. To not say a word about a policy that has generated the largest amount of discussion in our community over the last year should be unacceptable. Monroe’s students deserve an explanation.
The rejected policy is a best practice of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and a recommendation of the Connecticut State Department of Education. Some of what was in it include:
- Respecting student pronoun choice
- Giving students the space to come out to a teacher or staff member without fear that their parents or guardians will be notified if the student has a fear of potential retribution
- Allowing students to use the restroom of the gender identity with which they identify
- Affirming that students can dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity
I appreciate the Superintendent’s sentiments that he expressed at our meeting. I sincerely believe that our administration does what they can for students who come out. However, the Board of Education is the highest body in our local government regarding education — there is no one above us except for the voters who put us in our seats. To enshrine and codify a statement protecting transgender and gender non-conforming students into our local education laws was the only goal. Thankfully, much of the policy is state law. We may live in a town where the majority of Board of Education members think it’s the 1950s, but we do live in a state that knows it is 2022 and is at the forefront of civil rights protections for all protected classes.
Board Chairman David Ferris said in a Monroe Sun article, “It’s not a vote against transgender students.” He couldn’t be more wrong. It was quite literally a vote to not codify protections for LGBTQ+ students in our local policy book. It was precisely a vote against transgender students.
The Board Chair continues, “There are parents on this board with children in the LGBTQ+ community. I think everyone has their personal reasons.” It seems that voting against the interests of one’s own child cannot break the poisonous barrier of partisan politics. Every Board member had the opportunity to state their reasons for voting no, but none did. The silence was deafening.
I personally reached out to each Republican Board member twice and another two times pleaded publicly for someone to talk with me so that we could compromise and pass something. After offering my hand four times, no one accepted. Even in dysfunctional Washington, D.C., elected representatives at least talk to each other. Chairman Ferris said in the Monroe Sun that the door is “not slammed shut” on this issue. If the door was not slammed shut, I would have heard from one of my colleagues over the last ten months, but I did not. If there is room for compromise, I look forward to a Motion to Reconsider being made at a Board meeting in the very near future.
To all LGBTQ+ students in Monroe schools: I see you. I hear you. And most importantly, I support you. Do not let six officials who do not even have the decency to say why they voted against you make you feel less than. Be yourself unapologetically. There is only one you and you should be celebrated for who you are. The Monroe Board of Education is broken. Unfortunately, party politics won this battle, but don’t be discouraged, we keep fighting! Let this vote fuel you and encourage you to get engaged in our local government.
If the government is made of the people, by the people, and for the people, then it is time for the people to demand more of our Board of Education members. At the absolute least, an explanation of the six Republican “no” votes is warranted. Our town deserves it. Our teachers deserve it. And above all, our students – the future leaders of our society who are reading and watching our actions — deserve it.
Monroe Board of Education Member
Silence to me indicates that there is no valid response to vote no and no improvement sought in any way. I do feel ashamed that my community did not address inadequacies in our stated policies. I believe in my heart that we are better than this selfish inaction and remain hopeful that we can gain understanding together.
Thank you, Mr. Kapoor, for speaking up for kids who desperately need an advocate and deserve better than the shameful, cowardly, stony silent rejection they got from our board. “I see you, I hear you, and I support you.” To the board members who shut this down without the courage to say why: I am ashamed of you and ashamed today for Monroe.
Anyone holding a public office and determining policy owes it to their constituents to clearly explain their position and reasoning.
We absolutely deserve to know why they voted it down.