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Bathroom issue underlies Stillwater school board race

By Ray Carter

 

On the surface, the race for Stillwater School Board Ward 4 is based on typical school issues, such as academic rigor, community engagement and support for teachers.

But a key issue in the race is the opposite stances taken by the two candidates on allowing males to use girls' bathrooms in Stillwater Public Schools.

One candidate, former Stillwater Superintendent Gay Washington, is among the most high-profile supporters of allowing boys to use the girls’ bathroom if a boy claims to identify as a transgender female.

The other candidate, medical professional Shelia Means, has sided with parents in the community who urged that school bathroom access be based on sex.

When parents first became aware that the district was allowing boys to use girls’ bathrooms in 2022, and many voiced concern, Washington sent an email to parents stating that students “have been using the restroom of their gender identity in SPS for many years,” saying the policy had been in place since 2015.

Washinton cited federal guidance from the Biden administration as justification and referenced “several legal provisions and court decisions.”

The court decisions Washington referenced included rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the third, fourth and seventh circuits. None of those courts has jurisdiction over Oklahoma.

Washington’s email also referenced a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and a related ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which does have jurisdiction over Oklahoma.

But Bostock dealt with employment issues and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Tenth Circuit ruling was also related to discrimination in an employment context, not education.

In her email, Washington criticized parents for raising concerns, declaring that “these community conversations have been hurtful to many of our students.” She included a list of “crisis support services for LGBTQIA youth.”

But critics warned the school’s bathroom policy was causing emotional distress for many young girls who found themselves potentially having to share a bathroom with male students. At the April 2022 meeting of the Stillwater school board, several parents spoke out, including several mothers and a sexual-assault survivor.

But the board ignored those pleas and went on to issue a statement declaring the district would not alter its bathroom policies.

The board’s resolution stated that “no binding authority has been issued, promulgated, rendered or adopted in this State that requires the district to direct transgender students to use the restroom that aligns with their biological gender.”

The resolution, adopted unanimously, also stated that “the Board of Education intends to continue the District’s practice of permitting transgender students to use students restrooms that align with their gender identity unless it has no choice but to alter its practice because of binding authority directing otherwise.”

The Oklahoma Legislature soon passed a state law banning Stillwater and other schools from having mixed-sex bathrooms.

Washington recently received the endorsement of Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn.

Osborn has publicly derided lawmakers’ efforts to require that patients be at least 18 before undergoing sex-change procedures.

In a public meeting, Osborn called for voters to defeat lawmakers who support such restrictions.

“Have you pulled up the voting records of your state rep and senator? Are they the ones running anti-trans bills, gay-bashing bills, abortion bills, gun bills? If that’s what you want, great. That’s not what I want out of government,” Osborn said. “Are they the ones always voting for a tax cut? We have to get to the point where we educate ourselves and start putting people in that have the same priorities we do unless we want to stay stagnantly, exactly where we are.”

Until recently, Osborn was also a member of, and one of six officers on, the board of directors for Honestly, an Oklahoma City organization focused on “youth sexual health.”

The group has drawn scrutiny for publishing the “Honestly Youth Sexual Health in Color Coloring Book,” which asks children to designate their place on the “Six Spectrums of Sexuality.”

Honestly’s website also directed children to the Adolescent Medicine Roy G. Biv Program at OU Children’s Hospital and to Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP), an affiliate of the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Until forced to stop by changes in state law, the Roy G. Biv Program provided puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to underage children, along with some sex-change surgeries and referrals for other sex-change procedures.

Washington’s opponent, Shelia Means, served for 21 years in the military before becoming an Advanced Practice Nurse – Nurse Midwifery (University of Alabama, Birmingham) and a Women Health Nurse Practitioner (University of Cincinnati).

Means has worked as a women’s health director and chief executive officer of a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and also helped established a health center that provides affordable health care to residents of Pittsburg County.  She has served as vice-president of Shiloh’s Place Inc., Maternity & Parenting Home, which assists young women experiencing unplanned pregnancies who do not have a support system.

If elected to the school board, Means said she would “focus efforts on students’ safety, academics, arts and sports; promote parent’s rights and involvement; and support teachers and staff.”

The Stillwater school-board election will take place on April 2.

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REPUBLICAN

Shelia Means
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DEMOCRAT

Gay Washington

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