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HSE School Board decision on non-discrimination policy is creating controversy

The issue was with an amendment that would add language protecting students and employees including sexual orientation and gender identity.

FISHERS, Ind. (WTHR) — At the Hamilton Southeastern Schools board meeting Wednesday night, consideration of a non-discrimination policy quickly turned to controversy.

It started with Sylvia Shepler, a board member since 2000, who began by voicing that she did not want to list specific groups for protection because it would make other groups feel less important.

Board member Julie Chambers then asked for a motion to amend the non-discrimination agreement to include wording that listed protections such as sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The problem is that federal law doesn't cover sexual orientation and gender identity in employment discrimination. Indiana does not have laws that prohibit discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity in employment discrimination nor in school settings," Chambers said. "These students that identify as LGBTQ are at higher rates of harassment, depression and suicide and we should be doing everything in our school district to protect those students."

Later in the discussion, Shepler said she wanted to pose questions, but didn't need answers:

  • "Why is this happening so much more in these recent years?" She went on to say "it has risen to a loud level."
  • "What happens to children, even families, who embrace and accept whole-heartedly that gender-dysphoria is normal in an individual."
  • "Is there something we, parents, educators, policy makers, communities are missing? Could there be other influences outside of ourselves that have ulterior motives? Could we be pawns?"
  • "Why are we so afraid of voicing truth?"
  • "There is a growing trend, from what I've been reading, about rapid onset dysphasia and it shows up before, during or shortly there after puberty. Often they're seen in clusters even. There's great influence from peers and social media, even media in general. Is now becoming more and more acceptable that it's cool, it's popular. It's having a gold star in the eyes of their peers."
  • "Why wasn't this condition acceptable in the past and is now? Now, it seems that being straight is less acceptable almost."
  • "There are a lot of studies that show parents said their child had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder before claiming this gender dysphoria and there may be other underlying problems."

During those questions, other board members, students and parents in the audience spoke out.

Board member Chambers then commented, "The fact that we're even discussing if this was a choice or if these students who are here begging for our protection have mental health issues is a perfect example of why we need this policy and this language."

The board then voted on the issue of adding language protecting students and employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Those who voted for it were Julie Chambers, Janet Pritchett and Michelle Fullhart.

Those who voted against the language adding protections included Mike Bottorff, Sylvia Shepler, Brad Boyer and Amanda Shera.

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