Missouri school district walks back controversial transgender policy after backlash

A Missouri school board voted unanimously on Tuesday to rescind its controversial transgender policy after a published letter raised suspicions about how it got passed in the first place.

The Blair Oaks schools district near Jefferson City, Missouri, had unanimously approved a transgender policy in Nov. 2020.

That policy, known as Policy 2115, sets out procedures for name changes, allowing students to change their name unofficially (up to once per year), allows restroom use according to gender identity, and sets up rules about sports participation depending on status of hormone therapy and biological sex.

Backlash against the policy followed a letter published in the News Tribune in May, titled “Blair Oaks allows boy to use girls’ restrooms.”

In the letter, Wardsville resident Frederick Forck describes part of the policy and the circumstances of its approval: 

The agenda for the Nov. 10, 2020, meeting in which this was approved, did not apprise district tax payers and voters that the “Transgender” issue would be discussed, but merely stated “Review/Approve Revisions to Board Policies and Regulations.” There was no mention of “Policy 2115” specifically or of “Transgender Students” specifically. 

The minutes of that meeting also avoided using the term “Transgender” and merely stated “Motion by Jason Paulsmeyer seconded by Doug Moeller to approve the following revised Board Policies and Regulations: Policy 2115…”.

According to a report from local KOMU 8, the board tabled a discussion of the policy at its August meeting because not all board members were present. 

On Tuesday, the board reportedly discussed the issue for 15 minutes before voting. 

“The crux of the issue is how transgender students are treated under Title IX, and that’s a federal law issue,” said Jason Paulsmeyer, the Blair Oaks board president. “And ultimately, this is an issue that’s gonna be resolved by authorities way beyond the Blair Oaks School Board, most likely by the U.S. Supreme Court.” 

However, the board ultimately voted unanimously to rescind the transgender policy – a decision that was “met with applause from some members in the audience,” according to KOMU 8.  

Although the board reportedly said on Tuesday it will meet with a lawyer to formulate a new policy, on Wednesday the board released a statement simply saying it will comply with its general discrimination policy: 

Last night, the Board voted to repeal Policy 2115. This means that the Board will comply with its general non-discrimination policies and with federal and state law as it relates to equal educational opportunities for all students. Furthermore, the administration will address the needs of transgender students on an individualized basis.