SRN editor note – this article was submitted by a guest author who would prefer to remain anonymous
Across the nation, we are witnessing an unprecedented, coordinated attack on trans youth. We’ve become the target of hateful rhetoric for conservative politicians to rally their supporters around. Trans youth across Nebraska are being threatened by bills like LB574 and LB575, but trans youth in rural Nebraska are especially vulnerable. Kearney Public Schools (KPS) has begun the process of passing a policy that would ban trans youth from playing sports, saying “participation in athletics at the 6-12 grade levels will be restricted to a student’s biological sex, at birth as stated on the student’s original birth certificate.”
This policy violates the Kearney school district’s nondiscrimination policy which explicitly states that they do not discriminate on the basis of gender identity. It also violates the already extremely restrictive policy of the Nebraska School Activities Association which requires trans youth to apply and prove they are “bona fide transgender students” in order to be considered for participation in athletic competitions. More broadly, it violates student’s federal Title IX rights, which public schools must comply with to receive federal funds. To enforce it would interfere with teachers ability to comply with professional ethics. In other words, this policy and policies like it have no place even being considered by school districts.
But that has not stopped local republicans from mobilizing in support of this policy. At the first meeting on March 6th, one woman compared trans youth to combs trying to be brushes; another board member suggested that trans youth simply wake up one day and decide to switch genders. For those who attended the meeting to oppose the policy, the experience was traumatic and dehumanizing. The policy passed the first of three readings in a 4-2 vote. Board members Gifford and Brandt voted no in the initial vote, wanting to learn more about the implications of the policy.
One of the board members who voted in support of the policy, Paul Hazard, is also a member of the hate group, Protect Nebraska Children. At the meeting, Hazard commented on the relationship between this policy and LB575, saying that rather than wait for the legislature, he wants to “get out in front of it” to ensure that KPS can maintain their ban on trans youth’s participation in sports, whether or not the legislature passes LB575.
That is the insidious reality of LB575. Even if it doesn’t pass in the legislature, it has empowered school districts across Nebraska to create their own policies to attack trans students.
According to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition (PCSFN) Science Board and the Trevor Project, exercise and team sports can lower rates of anxiety and depression, stress, encourage self-esteem, reduce the risk of suicide and provide many other psychological and physical health benefits. Given that trans and nonbinary youth face significantly higher rates of mental health issues and suicide due to a lack of acceptance, LB575 and the KPS policy represent a coordinated attack on the mental health and social wellbeing of trans children.
There are still two more readings of this policy at the school board meetings on April 10th and May 8th. If passed, it would likely go into effect next school year, and will remain in effect, impacting trans students for years to come. However, despite the fact that it has not been passed, trans kids are already being removed from KPS teams, violating their civil rights and creating climates of social isolation. Trans youth in Kearney and across rural Nebraska need support. Now is the time to fight back. The work to defend trans youth doesn’t end in the legislature. It doesn’t end in urban areas, and it doesn’t end with trans youth and their families. Attacks on trans rights anywhere are a threat to trans lives everywhere. All Nebraskans must stand up for trans kids. Contact the Kearney School Board and tell them to let trans kids play!