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Community speaks out on East Aurora transgender policy debate

About 50 protesters from Auroreastside churches gathered front School District 131's McKnight Center Friday November 29 2012 about an hour

About 50 protesters from Aurora eastside churches gathered in front of School District 131's McKnight Center on Friday, November 29, 2012 about an hour before a school board meeting. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 1, 2013 6:41AM

More than 100 people from across Aurora showed up at the East Aurora School District School Service center Thursday night with signs and loud voices, ready to express their concerns about a controversial transgender policy board members continue to grapple with.

Pastors from churches throughout the city took time to speak in front of the 22-person Ad Hoc committee the district created to help implement a fair policy regarding the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students. The new policy will potentially replace a recently rescinded policy board members had previously passed.

The quickly rescinded policy would have allowed students identifying as transgender to be allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms of the opposite anatomical sex. It also called for teachers to call students by whatever name or pronoun they identify with.

But, as quickly as the policy was passed, it was taken away, and parents who showed up Thursday wanted to make sure it stayed that way.

“I’m going to try to be respectful, but will be blunt with what I have to say,” said Robert Pryor, a father of four. “What’s going on here is very destructive, not only to the school, but to the town and the state. My hope is that the community rises up and expresses its disapproval for what is going on here.”

And the community certainly seemed to be doing just that on Thursday evening as they overflowed into the hall of the small board room.

Parents said that if board members choose to again pass the rescinded policy, they will be trampling on the rights of every child. With their little ones in tow, parents held up signs asking for security in the schools.

“I am for anti-bullying, but no one should compel me to share a restroom with a member of the opposite sex,” one sign read.

“We need anti-bullying laws that do not trample my right to privacy,” another stated.

Committee member Dan Haas said that of the district’s 15,000 students, only two are currently identifying as transgender, and that their cases are being dealt with by principals at the building level. He said that the current policies in place are sufficient, and that tampering with them will invite unintended consequences and jeopardize the safety and privacy of all students.

During the committee’s last meeting, there were just a handful of audience members who showed up with concerns. This time around, the turn-out was far more indicative of the commotion the policy has created on a nationwide basis.

“We need to make sure we have the value of this city as the vested interest of this committee,” said Pastor Pat McManus, also a committee member. “If not, we are minimizing the ability of the community to have a voice in this city.”

The Hispanic community, a largely religious one, stood together strongly on Thursday as they picketed the meeting. Mothers said their young children are worrying more about the possible policy than their academics, and pastors said they’ve been approached by young clergy members about their hesitation to use the restrooms.

“East Aurora has survived over 100 years without these policies,” father of three, Raul Garcia, said. “We don’t need them.”

Aurora resident Larry Hau said he can’t imagine any responsible father allowing his daughter to use the restroom at school with a member of the opposite sex, no matter what gender that person identifies as.

”I think you should respect what parents want for their children,” he said before a roaring applause.

Others called the proposed policies a complete violation of privacy, modesty and respect, and “a threat to the security of our children.”

“This policy has been manipulated to jeopardize the security of our youth,” said Pastor Edgar Palmas.

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