Millburn D24 school board blasted for ‘transphobic’ fuss over menstrual products in boys bathrooms; ‘Where is all this hate coming from?’ newstrendslive

Millburn District 24 school members who recently criticized state regulations mandating that school buildings make menstrual hygiene products available in boys and girls bathrooms — calling them “lunacy” and an example of “inmates taking over the asylum” — were greeted by an angry crowd of 40 at a committee meeting Monday.

On Jan. 23, members of the board went into a 90-minute discussion over the installation of menstrual hygiene product dispensers in boys bathrooms in accordance with Illinois law, with a majority of the board taking issue with the move.

During the course of that discussion, board members Jim Guziak, Peter Pettorini, Sean Coleman and Cassie Roberts voiced varying concerns, including privacy and potential danger to students.

Millburn School District 24 operates Millburn Elementary and Millburn Middle School, and covers parts of Lindenhurst, Wadsworth and Old Mill Creek.

At Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, school law attorneys Michelle Todd and Jeff Goelitz — of Itasca firm Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn — told board members about federal and state court cases and laws, advising them about the risks of litigation if they do not comply.

That came after a barrage of impassioned comments from people in attendance, 16 of 17 who expressed support for keeping the menstrual hygiene products in the bathrooms.

Some of the speakers ridiculed the board for its rhetoric during the Jan. 23 meeting as transphobic and embarrassing to the district.

Warren Township High School senior Sophia Runyan, a 2019 Millburn graduate, told the board its words “make me sick,” and asked if it was truly committed to making students feel as if they belong and are safe.

“Think how far you’ve gone just to ensure your children won’t come in contact with a tampon,” she said.

Runyan pointed to the recent killing of transgender teen Brianna Ghey in England, and how two other teens have been arrested in her death, and gave Guziak a photo of Ghey at the meeting’s conclusion.

“History is on our side, and change is inevitable,” Runyan told the board. “I hope that the board will tonight decide to change things a little faster, for the better, but they may not. Nevertheless, things will get better for all of us, and there are more of us than there are of them.”

‘I am so opposed to this’

At one point on Jan. 23, Guziak sparred with board President Brendan Murphy, who opposed the board majority’s stance, over what transgender people are, and about a constituency whose concerns Guziak said he was representing.

“We’re not allowing girls to go into boys bathrooms, and boys to go into girls bathrooms,” Murphy said, over members’ interruptions.

“A trans person is a trans person,” he continued.

Guziak replied, “No, a trans person is an XX or an XY. That’s it.

“I can call myself anything I want to,” Guziak said, “but when you take a blood test of me, you’re going to find out what I am and it’s more scientific than that. I can say I came from freaking Jupiter.”

Pettorini complained that he learned of the dispenser installations from his son, adding, “You’re a boy or a girl.”

Both he and Guziak mentioned struggling to control their emotions during the discussion.

“I am so opposed to this,” Pettorini said. “This is like the in-control version. I can’t even tell you guys. It’s pure lunacy that we’re even having this discussion. It’s offensive that we’re even having this discussion.”

A few minutes earlier, Guziak said what has happened with Illinois laws governing schools is like “inmates taking over the asylum,” and explained that he was speaking on behalf of a constituency that had voiced its concerns.

“We have a constituency that we are responsible to,” he said. “People have elected us, except in my particular situation where I was appointed, but finally, finally, we’ve got some people’s attention here. So they’ve hit the boiling point. This is it.

“I’m hoping that they’re going to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘Enough of this crap,’” Guziak said.

He added, “If my daughter was still in this school, I’d be jumping up and down on this table here. I really would be.”

Former District 24 board member Denise Ide said before Monday’s meeting that the school board, teachers and community were supportive back when her son came out as trans when he was in seventh grade. Ide said it was “unbelievable” to hear the board’s Jan. 23 discussion.

“To have this line of hate speech be preached by our school board, completely off-topic from the agenda, is appalling,” Ide said. “And as a board member, it’s appalling that you’d be saying that we’re going to go against a state mandate as a public school.”

“Outraged, angry and even embarrassed”

A tearful Suzanne Dekorsi told the board Monday that teachers were “outraged, angry and even embarrassed by your words,” and said the board should, “spend a little bit of time in the school you’re representing.”

“I cannot even tell you the number of teachers who texted, called or came to my office saying that this may not be the district for them,” she said.

Dekorsi, who has taught more than 20 years in the district and is the president of the Millburn Federation of Teachers, also called attention to former board clerk Veronica Willis’ resignation from her part-time position in the lead-up to Monday’s meeting.

“A strong, adult woman was so disgusted that she resigned her post,” Dekorsi said. “How do you think those words affected families, maybe even students who were watching the board meeting on their school iPad? A board meeting that is forever a part of our Millburn history.”

Kristin Dahnert, a transgender woman who said she lives in the district and watched the video of the Jan. 23 meeting that morning, told the board Monday to, “focus on what you do best, educating the kids.”

“I just can’t take it anymore,” Dahnert said. “My kids grew up in this area. Where is all this hate coming from? I just don’t get it.

“The trans kids in your school, you probably don’t even know who they are,” Dahnert added. “We don’t want (you) to know. We don’t want people to know, because it’s a private thing. We just want to blend in with everybody else. That’s all we want.”

One speaker, who said his name was Roman, spoke in favor of removing the products at the Jan. 23 meeting and again on Monday.

“Nobody said anything about hate,” he said. “If your child is transgender, that’s perfectly fine. But don’t force it onto my kids.”

He said he had heard that a survey might be sent out to parents on the matter, and that he wanted the board to follow through with that.

“The way you fight for your kids, we want to fight for our kids,” he continued. “You have no right to push this onto our kids. If a kid in this school needs a tampon, you can go into the nurse’s office, the girls bathroom. There’s no need to put this into the boys bathroom.”

When approached after the meeting to confirm his name, the man gave another name and said, “I identify as a ham and cheese sandwich.”

Superintendent Jason Lind said the school district has a gender support plan for students that follows practices in accordance with the Illinois Human Rights Act, adding that there are parents of “students who are transgender in our district who are not out yet,” who have communicated with him but did not want to attend the meeting due to confidentiality concerns.

“We have very active staff in looking after our kids and keeping all of our kids safe, no matter what,” Lind said. “So we will handle that. We have handled it, I think quite nicely, and have (had) a lot of positive feedback from parents over the last five or six years, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Anna Chang-Yen, a Gurnee resident who had three children attend Millburn, said she was “really disgusted at the vitriol spewed” by board members on Jan. 23.

“As the parent of a trans child, I’m particularly angry at the effects these kinds of irresponsible comments can have on children. We heard somebody else give the statistics about how many transgender people and children attempt suicides, and the rates are highest among children.”

Chang-Yen added that “school belonging can have a major positive effect on those outcomes,” and that she is “sorry that in 2023 we don’t live in a world with less hate and ignorance.”

Guziak responded to criticism for his comments and declined demands to make an apology in a lengthy speech at the end of the meeting during which he derided state politicians who, “have lost their minds.”

“That’s an opinion, and I certainly appreciate that. Now, in my opinion, the board does not owe the community an apology,” Guziak said. “The community is owed an apology by politicians and bureaucrats, some who may be in this room, who have put us in this situation.”

Later in his address to the crowd, he asked, “Who speaks for the children who are uncomfortable or intimidated by those of the opposite gender in restrooms? Who speaks for the parents who do not want their kids exposed to the opposite gender in bathrooms and locker rooms? And lastly, who speaks for the taxpayers that need to fund the products in the boys restrooms?”

Roberts said her issue was with, “government overreach, as it relates to why the state is dictating what specific schools do within their restrooms,” and “never with regard to transgender usage of bathrooms.”

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