EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — Some LGBTQ+ activists have been saying they’ve been going to EVSC School Board Meetings for over 2 years asking for better support of LGBTQ students and faculty. Now, they say the board may be starting to hear their plea.
Last night a heated exchange between EVSC’s General Counsel, Patrick Shoulders, and the president of Tri-State Alliance, Wally Paynter, finally provided some answers Paynter says he’s been searching for for over two years.
“We were surprised that the policy toward transgender students has changed about which bathroom they can go to and which locker room. So, if that is true, a big plus to EVSC,” said Paynter.
EVSC’s current non discrimination policy states students must use the bathroom based on their assigned gender at birth. However, Shoulders tells Eyewitness News, “The EVSC reviews each student’s situation one at a time. Each student is unique. The EVSC considers medical and legal documentation along with parental guidance and consent when making decisions concerning gender.”
Greater Evansville Youth is another organization seeking better protection for LGBTQ students in the EVSC.
“Make gender identity something that is protected specifically. Not having gender identity stated in policies, means it can slip under the radar,” said Kirt Ethridge with Greater Evansville Youth. “The transgender youth that we’ve spoken to say they often feel unsafe in their schools. They often feel they do not have the support they need.”
Ethridge says requiring parental involvement to change a student’s assigned bathroom leaves many kids unprotected.
“Many transgender youth feel unsafe coming out in their home and also it costs money to go before a judge and present your case and get your named changed. Providing legal documentation is not always an option and so it’s unfair to them to put that restriction on them and say ‘Well, because you cannot provide this information, you cannot be protected,” said Ethridge.
The increased pressure on the EVSC School Board to make changes comes after an interaction between Tri-State Alliance and School Board Member Ann Ennis, who is a supporter of Greater Evansville Youth, was caught on camera and viewed more than 25,000 times.
A week after the video circulated around the internet, Ennis posted to Facebook saying:
“The video of me from November 25th is out of context. After the school board meeting, I attempted state my support for LGBTQ+ issues to the group and was unable to be heard. My comments upon leaving the group were because I was not being allowed to speak. I let myself become angry at being unable to speak. That unprofessionalism on my part led to my wrong-spirited comments. I was not speaking about the tragedy of transgender or of any suicide. I have a long history of stewardship and political activism for LGBTQ+ issues. I will continue this work, and have since September with a new area organization — Greater Evansville Youth.”
She’s since added to her statement saying:
“Mr. Payter and Lisa Daughtery, who was also present at the time, are on record saying that my comments were about my family’s donations to TSA, how the donations were stewarded and in reaction to being repeatedly called transphobic and homophobic making it impossible to me to speak.”