New Prairie School Corp. discusses gender policy at board meeting

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 7:18 PM EDT
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LAPORTE COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - On Monday, the New Prairie United School Corporation held a public meeting for a plan that could impact students’ lives.

The meeting invited the public’s input on a support plan for New Prairie students who identify as transgender or nonbinary.

The district superintendent, Dr. Paul White, said the support plan, in part, is about making New Prairie compliant with federal laws and guidance. The policy, however, has several families concerned because they say they feel like they are not in the loop about how their child identifies at school.

Page 1 of the Gender Support Plan.
Page 1 of the Gender Support Plan.(WNDU)

Dr. Paul White confirmed the document above is what a social worker completes if a New Prairie student between ages 5 and 19 expresses that they identify as a different gender from the one they are assigned at birth.

Some families claim the district never told them about this policy. Dr. White, however, said that that’s not true, and that the policy has been publicized in school board meeting minutes since August.

The gender support plan does say, “school staff shall not disclose a student’s transgender or gender nonconforming status to parents/guardians without student’s permission unless permission is given by the district’s legal team.”

Dr. White explained more on this part of the policy.

“We are a public school system, and we are bound to certain federal and public requirements,” Dr. White explained. “And I think that some of that is being missed in this, you know, maybe the hope or the interpretation that we can have some standards that a private school would have a private religious school and we simply that is not something that is possible for New Prairie or any other public school system in this area or anywhere across the country. So that needs to be remembered at all this.”

While the school board did not vote on the matter, over 100 people attended the meeting.

Of those who spoke, the majority said they are against the plan.

“That the very children that need our signature and permission for everything else under the sun, can all the sudden choose a life-changing identity that can furthermore affect their mental health ... they can do this at any grade in the district,” said one parent.

“They think it’s okay if a child comes to them with this issue of gender confusion or gender dysphoria or whatever you want to call it. They say themselves that these kids need to be protected because they have a higher suicide rate, and I believe they may, that may be true. But it’s a big problem with me if a child comes to them and says they have thoughts going on or an indication that they might be a part of that group that is at this higher rate of suicide that the school will willfully keep that from us,” said Parent Joe Emerick.

Others said they support the plan.

”I am a 45-year career pediatric nurse and I think I understand kids from infants to teens...They need our support from our schools, and I applaud you and Dr. White for what you are doing to try to help these kids,” said one parent.

“There’s got to be a better way to love them through this, then to keep secrets from parents...I don’t take their word for it that this is just legally required that we have to do this stuff,” said Emerick.