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Crowd shows up to discuss NLS transgender policy

District residents show up Monday for the New London-Spicer School Board meeting at which the district’s proposed policy to accommodate transgender and gender-nonconforming students would be discussed. Carolyn Lange | Tribune

NEW LONDON — Although a proposed transgender policy wasn’t on the agenda, about 50 people crammed into the New London-Spicer School Board’s meeting room and adjacent hallway Monday night to voice their opinions on the issue.

They will have to wait until next month to do so.

On March 14 the NLS board had a first reading of a policy that would provide guidance for the district’s counselors and teachers to provide a safe learning environment for transgender or gender-nonconforming students.

Part of that proposed policy includes the use of bathrooms and locker rooms, which is an issue that has raised community concerns.

There have been several letters to the editor opposing the proposed NLS policy, and board members and administrators have received emails and phone calls both in opposition and support of the policy.

Based on the hallway conversations and brief questions to the board — including a roll call asking for the names of the three board members up for election this fall — it appeared as though the crowd at Monday’s meeting opposed the policy and were ready to talk about it.

But the second school board meeting of the month — which Monday’s meeting was — is typically a “planning session” during which the NLS board does not take action or cast votes but hears updates on projects.

The agenda for the Monday meeting did not include the transgender policy. But many people in the community believed the issue would be discussed and voted upon.

An email that was circulated encouraged people to attend the Monday meeting and gave a summary of a meeting that was reportedly held at an area church on Saturday with Republican Rep. Tim Miller of Prinsburg.

The email said the goal of the church meeting with Miller was to “rally” people to attend the school board meeting to show their opposition to the transgender policy.

A copy of that email had been sent to NLS board members.

Board chairman Robert Moller thanked people for coming and explained that the issue was not on the agenda for Monday but the board wanted to continue to hear from the public about the proposed policy.

“We take this very seriously,” he said. “And we are making sure we protect every student in this district.”

Moller said NLS has done a good job over the years of protecting all students “and we will continue to do that.”

Moller said the a second reading of the district’s proposed transgender policy would take place at the April 11 meeting.

He said at that point, depending on feedback and revisions to the policy, the board could call for a third reading before a vote is taken on the policy.

“See you in a couple weeks,” said one man as he left the room.

Given the size of the crowd Monday, the April 11 meeting will be held in a larger room. The location will be announced once facility schedules are considered, said Superintendent Paul Carlson.

The board very briefly discussed a format for the April 11 meeting, including whether there should be a time limit for each individual to speak about the transgender policy.

“I think you should let people talk,” said board member Dan DeGeest.

“There were a lot of people here (tonight,)” Moller said. “There are concerns out there.”

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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