The Pennridge Policy and Curriculum Committees met on Monday evening and most of the remarks offered during the evening’s first public comment segment focused on two different versions of a proposed athletics policy concerning trans athletes.
Republican school board candidate Josh Hogan thinks one draft, as proposed, will encourage young students born biologically male to take puberty blockers – and in turn that local parents will obviously support this – seemingly just so they can play on girls’ sports teams. He believes it takes “a pro-gender ideology” approach.
“We’re putting kids on the puberty blockers and that has lifelong consequences,” said Hogan. “I don’t know that we should be making puberty the main distinction because again, this is the whole problem … a policy like this is going to push that kid further or incentivize getting on puberty blockers.”
There is no evidence of this happening anywhere. The part of Policy 123.3 Sex-Based Distinction in Athletics (Version 1) which he is referring to reads:
The school will provide reasonable accommodations for male students who have not begun male puberty to play during that season on teams designated for females. Students seeking an accommodation under this section shall provide a doctor’s note to the Athletic Director certifying the student has not started male puberty.
Dan Shapiro from Bedminster Township addressed agenda items on both the Curriculum and Policy Committees’ agendas.
He questioned the need for the sports policy and asked if there have been any actual incidents of transgender kids playing sports in the district.
“At the end of the day, I think I speak for a lot of people who want to say, we would love it if you would stop wasting your bandwidth and our tax dollars on talking point issues that aren’t actually happening here,” Shapiro said. “Stop dragging us into lawsuits and actually do things that affect what’s happening.”
He also said that he’d like the district to provide a document to the public that showed proposed curriculum changes side-by-side.
“I’d like to see another PDF that says which of the changes were from Mrs. Raber, which is from Jordan [Adams],” he said. “We want to know how much of our kids’ educational future you’re giving to this guy. We want to know where his influence is.”
At the conclusion of the first public comment period, the Policy Committee began its review of the two variations of the Sex-Based Distinctions in Athletics policies.
The origin of the policies is not a mystery.
In June of 2022, the Hempfield School District in Lancaster County enacted such a policy. “The board will work with the Independence Law Center — a Harrisburg-based law firm with a reputation for opposing LGBT rights in favor of religious liberty — and the district’s solicitor, Fox Rothschild, to create the policy,” reported Lancaster Online.
A review of Hempfield’s sports policy reflects a nearly identical version of the proposed Pennridge policy.
Mrs. Cullen remarked that 70 percent, the majority of Americans, support school sports policies that eliminate males from playing on female teams.
Cullen also said that the athletics policy should be reviewed by the Board’s solicitor. “This is not something that we should be looking to rush,” she said. “It should be something that we absolutely cross every T and dot every I and make sure that we get it right. It’s already our practice in Pennridge, so it’s not an emergency.”
If challenged and found to be discriminatory, the Sex-Based Distinctions in Athletics policy could result in legal ramifications for the district.
The committee also discussed how the proposed district policy aligns or contrasts with Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc. (PIAA).
The Policy Committee concluded without a vote on either version of the policy.
The second half of the evening included a presentation of new RELA curriculum by Dr. Scheid and Mrs. Raber. “Mr. Adams, myself, and then teachers have all been part of this process for all the units and resources,” she said.
Interpretation of the words “required” versus “optional,” as applied to the use of curriculum resources, once again became the topic of discussion.
“Where a lot of people’s discomfort comes from is because nobody knows what they’re supposed to be doing, what they’re required to do, what they’re allowed to do,” Joan Cullen said. “You do need to be clear and I’m sorry, if it’s going to be painful to get to that definition that makes it clear, too bad. That’s our job.”
No consensus on the definition or use of the words was reached.
Mrs. Raber continued her presentation but without having a before and after comparison, it was difficult for viewers to understand exactly what portions of the RELA curriculum were changed or modified.
A spirited discussion about the role social studies credits, AP courses, and dual enrollment have on college admission took place.
It was generally agreed that there is a necessity for guidance counselors to have resources available to explain the benefits and potential disadvantages of AP and dual enrollment.
A second public comment segment closed out the evening.
Parent and local resident David O’Donnell questioned the need for sex-based distinctions in athletics. “The fact that you think that trans students are going to destroy sports is utterly ridiculous.”
Laila O’Donnell, an ninth-grade student in the Pennridge District, closed out the meeting with her public comment.
“The way you are treating us doesn’t show that you care for your students. You clearly do not understand anything about LGBTQIA,” she said. “The fact that you are making policies out of fear rather than understanding is ridiculous and harmful … I feel ashamed and angry that you treat them in such a way. We deserve better, and there’s simply no need for this policy. Can you please just stop?”