Two board member had supportive words for a local trans teen. Also: School district prepares ad for superintendent search process.
Two Flagler County School Board members voiced their support for a local teen transgender boy after a woman took the podium during the called the Dec. 17 School Board meeting and called the boy “mentally ill” and a “confused girl.”
"At the end of the day, as a school district our responsibility is to ensure the safety of our students."
— COLLEEN CONKLIN, Flagler County School Board member
The boy was in the audience at the time with his father, Randy Bertrand, who’d just addressed the board for the second time in a month to advocate for greater protections for transgender students. The teen had previously attended school as a girl, but came out as transgender about a year ago and now uses a male name and male pronouns.
The woman said she had previously been an “activist in the homosexual lifestyle,” and that she was there to respond to the comments made by Bertrand during a Nov. 19 School Board meeting.
She said she was “deeply disappointed” that School Board member Colleen Conklin had voiced support for the teen. The woman added, citing no studies, that for 98% of children with gender dysphoria, the dysphoria goes away.
The American Psychological Associated notes in a fact sheet that “gender dysphoria that continues through the onset of puberty or increases at puberty is unlikely to desist,” and warns providers against attempting to alter children’s gender identity. The APA does not consider transgender identity itself to constitute mental illness.
The woman also referred to the "evidence or statements from the American College of Pediatricians," which is a conservative advocacy group with a name similar to that of the American Academy of Pediatrics professional association.
Conklin pushed back on the woman’s comments at the end of the Dec. 17 board meeting.
“I am also not ‘confused,’ and I stand by my comments of applauding you and your family,” Conklin said to the teen.
Conklin noted that when an LGBTQ person is harassed or abused, they become 2.5 times more likely to hurt themselves; and that LGB youth from rejecting families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than ones from accepting families. Those numbers are compiled on the website of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education and the Trevor Project.
SAVE’s website also notes that 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide.
Board member Andy Dance welcomed the teen to FPC, which he’s recently transferred to, and wished him success there.
Conklin said she agreed with Bertrand’s statement that the issue of transgender students’ welfare in school is a human issue, not a political or religious one.
“There are many that believe that it is both of those things, but at the end of the day as a school district our responsibility is to ensure the safety of our students,” she said. “That is all that matters.”