Monday, May 18, 2015

Fairfax County School Board Member: Vote to Adopt ‘Gender Identity’ Protection Is ‘Federal Overreach'

The Fairfax County Public School Board in Virginia voted Thursday to add “gender identity” as a protected class to its non-discrimination policy despite heated remarks during the meeting from parents who are concerned about the implications of the change.

Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz, the only member who voted against the change, said the Board was warned by a local school official that federal funding could be pulled if the change was not adopted. She called it a case of federal overreach that must be opposed.

The memo warning about federal Education Department funding was issued by Steven A. Lockard, the deputy superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools, just prior to the vote.

It states: “The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education is requiring that school divisions 1) revise their non-discrimination policies to include gender identity, and 2) hire a consultant to advise on revisions to regulations and, more generally, how school divisions should handle individual cases of transgender students. If the School Board amends Policy 1450, we will be able to tell them that we have already done the two things that OCR is requiring.”

“If FCPS refuses to amend its policy, OCR has the right to recommend the termination of federal funding to FCPS,” Lockard’s memo emphasized.

Schultz discussed her concerns regarding the federal government’s role in the decision in a conference call:

 “We have a significant battle on the forefront of federal overreach, all the way down to a local school board level that comes into every single community, in every town, in every district, in every jurisdiction across the United States if we are to allow the federal government to dictate this language. And if they can dictate this, what can’t they dictate?” she asked.

“How can you convert a 1972 Title IX reading to a 2015 interpretation to mean sexual orientation and gender identity/transgender?” Schultz asked in reference to federal government’s announcement that it considers transgender students to be protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX.

Schultz pointed out that the funding the Education Department is threatening to withhold  is “for the children who are most in peril in school districts,” such as students with disabilities and those who require subsidized school meals.

Schultz also noted the lack of information about how the policy would be applied, saying there was “no presentation to the board about the scope of the problem for employees, the scope of the problem for students, how many students were involved, what it meant, how much professional development this needed, and what this meant for ultimately the respect and dignity and rights of all of the other students.”

“Where are parental rights in the education of their children?” she asked.

 Schultz also wondered, “What’s next? Are we to say that every school board, whether they’re appointed or elected across the United States of America, now has lost control over running their local school jurisdictions?,We are just, you know, puppets of the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice?”

“Are we going to stand up and say, no you don’t and go to our U.S. Congressmen and women and say are you going to allow your Department of Justice and your Department of Education to come and take money from your constituents and further imperil the education and the value of education in the United States and disregard all parental rights?”

Following the decision by Fairfax County Public School Board, tried to reach Republican and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate, asking the following questions:

--Should a transgender man who dresses and identifies as a woman be permitted to teach in public grammar schools?

--Should the fiscal 2015 appropriation for the Department of Education defund its mandate that public schools have a "nondiscrimination" policy toward transgender teachers or lose their own federal funding?

The questions were posed in repeated phone calls and e-mails with a response period of four days to: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) ,House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The only response received by press time was from an aide to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer who replied on background that Hoyer believes discrimination should never be tolerated and strongly supports policies that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

“There is a significant battle for the hearts and minds of young people in the United States of America, and the federal government is using $640 Billion in federal education funds to weaponize an agenda upon every local school district in the United States, and it’s time for a national conversation about this,” Schultz concluded in the conference call.

The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights updated Title IX protections in 2014, stating: "Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity, and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation. Similarly, the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations."


Imagine the uproar if universities introduced ‘Good Girl’ workshops

Today, Indonesia’s military announced its intention to continue to subject female recruits to virginity tests. According to a spokesman, this is necessary to ensure women soldiers have the right mentality, and are not ‘naughty’. Human Rights Watch immediately denounced the tests as discriminatory and demanded that they be abolished. Meanwhile, in Oxford, the principal of Somerville College bemoans what the Daily Telegraph calls an ‘epidemic’ of sexual harassment and intimidating behaviour towards female students. It’s strange, but I am not aware that county courts are inundated with student claims of sexual harassment, a staple of employment tribunals. So what is going on?

These two episodes have more in common than you may think. They both evince an intense anxiety at the prospect of women being out and about in the world on the same terms as men. Both treat the world as a perilous place for women, who are deemed fragile and weak.

It’s ironic that Muslim fundamentalists and modern Western feminists have so much in common. Their views of the sexes are hopelessly anachronistic and reductionist. Oxford University, a hotbed of radical feminism, is now so exercised about the prospect of sexual and social interactions between students, it might as well insist that women be segregated at all times.

Last week, the High Court dismissed a claim by an ex-student, Elizabeth Ramey, that the university’s anti-harassment policy was unlawful and discriminatory because it mandated that allegations should only be investigated by campus authorities in certain circumstances. As the judge explained, the policy had been introduced after Ramey graduated, so she had no legitimate interest in taking the university to court. Ramey, who claimed to have been raped in 2011, had reported the incident to law enforcement authorities, who investigated but decided the case did not merit a criminal prosecution.

Why are students expecting universities to investigate such allegations? And, absent a prosecution, what was the university supposed to do for Ramey? It’s common sense that students must not assault each other, or damage each other’s belongings, or plagiarise each other’s work. But university students are adults, and it is unrealistic to expect the university to police all aspects of their lives, including their private life. Employers do not do this.

Only a few days ago, male rugby players at Oxford were ordered to undergo training in ‘positive masculinity’ at so-called Good Lad Workshops, without which they would not be permitted to compete in the inter-varsity rugby league. Imagine the uproar if women students were required to undergo tuition in ‘positive femininity’ – a Good Girls course – as a precondition of competing in university sports.

The thinking behind the Good Lad workshops is extraordinarily insulting to male students. It implies that they are all potential rapists, who must undergo moral instruction before they are deemed fit to participate fully in university life. It’s a depressing reflection on the student feminist mindset that men are viewed in such a contemptuous fashion: a kind of reverse sexism. It’s high time male students challenged such an overtly discriminatory measure, which has nothing whatsoever to do with sports, and everything to do with imposing a gender agenda.


Australia: Parents seeking reform at ‘dictatorial’ Islamic school

More than 100 angry parents have picketed the Islamic College of South Australia, worried it is becoming too fundamental after it cut music and sport from its curriculum, described pianos as evil and stopped singing the national anthem at assemblies.

Parent representatives have called for the board and principal of the western Adelaide school to be sacked, fearing segregation is spreading from single-sex classrooms to corridors and buildings, and education standards are ­falling.

Mother of three Souraya Serhan said there were concerns about the curriculum after the school’s NAP­LAN results fell across all age groups from 2008 to 2013. “The board is dictatorial: they don’t have any focus on education, it’s about cutting costs,” Ms Serhan said.

She said that over the past three years 14 teachers had been sacked or forced to resign, and there had been four principals. Respected imam Khalid Yousuf was sacked last month.

“These are teachers who have been in the school that are trusted and very, very capable teachers, only to be replaced by less-experienced teachers,” she said.

Ms Serhan said her son had been suspended via text message, but she had negotiated his return because he did not want to go to a non-Muslim school.

Another parent, Esam Elhelw, said the board had been disciplining students inappropriately.

“My daughter was pushed into and locked in a room by (a board member) and two other people working in the school. She was physically pushed by someone who is working here as a teacher instead of Brother Khalid,” Mr ­Elhelw said.

School board chairman Farouk Khan said schools “usually” had a high turnover of staff and the board was comprised of competent and professional people.

He defended its academic performance and said Year 12 results “continue to grow”. “We are very proud Aussies,” Mr Khan said. “We sing the nation­al anthem on different occa­sions.”

He welcomed donations of pian­os to replace the ones that had been removed.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils administers the school and parents have contacted the organisation, also calling for the board to be removed.

AFIC spokesman Amjad Mehboob said he would interview parents, staff and the board next week.

“The board deals with these issu­es, and when it becomes a public issue AFIC steps in,” Mr Mehboob said. “We’re going to carry out investigations and step in next week.”

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne yesterday raised concerns about potential radicalisation at the school, and will write to his state counterpart Susan Close.

“We want our children to get a sensible and secular education, not an education that points them in the direction we don’t want them to go,” Mr Pyne said.

He said it was the second time he had written to a state government about an Islamic campus, after writing to the Victorian Education Minister James Merlino in April about the al-Taqwa College and its attitude towards Israel.

Mr Pyne said the most extreme measures included removing the school’s licence and all funding, but investigations needed to take place before extreme measures were considered.

The My School website shows the school received $7.5 million in funding in 2013, with about $5.6m from the federal government, about $800,000 from the state government and $1.2m from fees and parent contributions.

Ms Close said it was up to the Education and Early Childhood Services, Registration and Stand­ards Board to investigate, because the school was independent. She did not have the power to remove funding.

She said the standards board could only rule on whether the school was teaching the Australian curriculum appropriately or was looking after the welfare of its students. “They are an independent organisation which chooses to run a school: it has been registered because it is teaching the appropri­ate Australian curriculum, beyond that they really need to look at how they are looking after their kids,” Ms Close said.

Standards board registrar Paul Claridge said two parties had complained about the Islamic College and once their complaints were in writing, the board would consider investigating.


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