Protests on the Agenda at Monday’s SAISD Board Meeting

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Scott Ball / Rivard Report

(From left) SAISD Board Vice President Arthur Valdez, SAISD Board President Patti Radle, and SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez listen to a speaker at a SAISD board meeting earlier this year.

The clock is ticking on the home page of San Antonio in Black, White and Brown (SABWB), a religious group “committed to staying Biblically correct in a politically correct world.”

The numbers are counting down to the next San Antonio Independent School District board meeting on Monday, when the group plans to present petitions to “reverse the ruling” that added gender identity and sexual orientation to the district’s non-discrimination policy for students and staff.

“They [SAISD] are pushing an agenda,” Charles Flowers said in a video posted on the SABWB Facebook page. “They are using our children and our grandchildren to push that agenda.”

The group’s assumptions miss the point of the policy, Board President Patti Radle said. “There’s not a political agenda here,” Radle told the Rivard Report, “It’s an agenda of wanting to offer respect and dignity to all students.”

The board added the language to the policy at the request of a group of students, led by Young Women’s Leadership Academy student Ruby Polanco. In fact, Robert Salcido Jr., statewide field coordinator with Equality Texas, told the Rivard Report that his advocacy group had been asking, without success, for the district to add the language for years.

“The fact that [this time] it was a student-led initiative speaks volumes, because it comes from someone directly affected,” Salcido told the Rivard Report when the language was added at he August 21 school board meeting.

In the video and in a letter on the Facebook page, Flowers connected the policy change to the Texas Legislature’s failure to pass the so-called “bathroom bill.”

“As had been foretold, in the face of the ‘failed attempt’ of the State Government to pass strong Privacy Protection Laws; Cities and School Districts would begin to aggressively implement policies and procedures that would promote immoral, ‘politically correct’ agendas,” the letter reads. “Make no mistake about it, these forces will not relent until our schools, businesses, and churches are complicit to their every demand.”

In the video accompanying the a call to action, Flowers said Christians should respond to this “spiritual hurricane” with the same urgency that they responded to Hurricane Harvey, mobilizing to provide relief. In this case, he said, Christians need to protect sexually traumatized and mentally ill students.

In the video, Flowers makes the case that girls who have been sexually abused will be “retraumatized” by “some guy who wants to get a peek of nudity, and he walks into that bathroom or that changing room.”

Students who are confused about their gender will not have access to the necessary counseling, he asserts.

The group’s website includes links to petitions opposing district policy designed for students, parents, and pastors. The petitions request district leaders to teach that gender and sex are “immutable” and that gender dysphoria be treated as a mental health condition.

The policy is not a bathroom policy, Radle said, but an expansion of an existing policy to protect students who might be vulnerable to bullying or fear, as well as teachers who may feel their jobs are jeopardized by their sexual orientation or gender identity.

While some might “twist” the policy to try to make it about bathrooms, Radle said, those situations would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with the security and dignity of all students in mind.

The district’s goal is in line with the Christian faith, in spite of what the protestors may say, said Chad Belew, pastor of the Arsenal, an evangelical church that meets on the KIPP Cevallos campus. In leading the young church in the heart of SAISD, Belew is concerned with the message being sent by the protests. Jesus spent a lot of time in fellowship with people “whose behaviors he disagreed with,” Belew said.

“LGBTQIA are not issues to be debated, but people to be loved,” Belew told the Rivard Report in a Facebook message, “And in this case, kids to be loved. I mean, the suicide rate of gay teens is off the chart. Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out how to love these kids rather than shunning them and perpetuating their (feeling) of not being accepted?We always need to humanize this conversation, cherishing and celebrating the humanity, dignity, and worth of LGBTQIA people.”

School board trustees also will consider a response to President Donald Trump’s rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

SA Rise, a grassroots organizing group, will hold a press conference ahead of the meeting. The group will call on trustees to provide “Know Your Rights” training, adopt a policy preventing school police from turning over students to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and to “be proactive, responsive, and collaborative,” according to an email from the group.

Even if the district adopts “safe zone” resolutions, board policy cannot override any federal or state policy that goes into effect, according to the National Education Association.

The district has taken extensive measures to ensure that students and families know their rights, as well as other measures to reduce anxiety, Radle said.

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