SAN ANGELO, TX — Gender identity has officially reached San Angelo just in time for the May school board election. According to a news tip, teachers at Lone Star Middle School received training on transsexuality and gender identity this week.
During the training, teachers were encouraged to define and use their “preferred pronouns.” That is, teachers were asked to identify by what pronoun each would like to be addressed. A male teacher, for example, can identify with the female gender and prefer to be called by “she” or “her.”
Lone Star Middle School Principal Amy Lemaster is accused of having on her email signature a reference her desired gender pronouns. According to the tip, she prefers her birth gender, female, and not “he” or “him.” A Lone Star Middle School counselor is reported to have his gender pronouns listed on his Zoom profile.
The program may have been a prepared faculty syllabus published and administered through GLISTEN. The national non-profit has a mission to “ensure that every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” One of the programs listed on its website is how to model school district policy for transgender and nonbinary students. Nonbinary students are those who do not adhere to only two gender options of male and female. The program identified specifically addresses “misgendering, gender, and pronouns.”
Those who came forward to inform us of the meeting’s curriculum did so on the promise of anonymity fearing they would lose their jobs for doing so. The district did not confirm any of the specifics of the allegations but did acknowledge something involving gender identity ideology happened.
“At a regularly scheduled faculty meeting, a response was provided to questions raised by multiple teachers regarding appropriate strategies to handle the unique needs of individual students,” said San Angelo ISD spokeswoman Whitney Watson Wood. San Angelo ISD has not implemented or changed any new policies. We will continue to follow non-discrimination guidelines in accordance with legal and local policy.”
San Angelo ISD officials were blindsided by the allegations Friday. When we reached Board of Trustees President Lanny Layman, he said he had just heard about the allegation. Layman said although he is board president he cannot speak for the rest of the board, only for himself as a voting member. Gender identity is a wedge issue on the national political scene that was certain to eventually reach San Angelo and Layman’s opinion was that being forced to deal with it distracts the board from its primary objective of providing excellence in educational opportunities for all 13,500 students currently enrolled in San Angelo ISD schools. Personally, he said, he was not in favor of introducing gender identity programs. In the meantime, he said this incident will likely be addressed by the board’s school administration working group.
The May 1 school board election is approaching and early voting for that election starts Monday, April 19. We reached out to some candidates for their position on teaching gender identity in the San Angelo ISD.
Board member Dr. Taylor Kingman, like Layman, said publicly commenting in-depth on the incident may violate school board policy.
“Like many of the parents I was elected to represent, my wife and I strongly believe there are some things we have the exclusive right and duty to teach our children,” Kingman said. “As a school board member, I am fully committed to the well-being of each individual student. An inquiry was made earlier this week, and I was informed of the situation. I immediately contacted district administration and confirmed that the district was addressing the issue in accordance with legal and local policy. The board has not approved, nor has San Angelo ISD implemented any new student policies regarding student [gender] identity ideology. I am not aware of, nor would I be in support of, any efforts to do so. Beyond that I can’t elaborate, adhering to board policy.”
Board Member Ami Mizell-Flint echoed Kingman’s remarks. She has four children who all have attended San Angelo ISD schools and two have graduated.
“As a parent, I would not appreciate the schools replacing my judgement for teaching my kids kinds of things like this,” she said. Flint added that the school district already encroaches on too many areas that should be the purview of the parents. “I want to adhere to just educating our students,” she said.
Superintendent Carl Dethloff was very brief in his reaction. He said only, “San Angelo ISD has not implemented any new student policies.“
Gender identity is also impacting statewide politics. Wednesday, April 14, the Texas Senate passed a bill banning transgender students from participating in public school sports as their gender identity. The bill faced fierce opposition from leftist civil rights groups and Democrats. The measure passed 18-12 and heads to the Texas House.
While some say all politics is local, the choice of keeping transgender policies out of San Angelo’s schools may not rest with the local voters. And many opposed them on religious grounds.
Six years ago, State Senator Charles Perry, a Republican who represents our region, warned that gender identity will become the Democrats’ next issue right after gay marriage was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court that year. He warned that if the Texas Legislature didn’t act in placing new statutes in place, every school district in Texas faces legal challenges, or lawsuits.
“Today, if a school board gets sued, the state of Texas can’t defend them,” Perry said in 2015. “So we’ve got to have statute to make that connection.”
“Here’s the deal. It’s about the money and most school districts don’t have the resources to be involved in these lawsuits. We’ve got to get smarter about how we go about attacking this issue,” Perry said. “My prediction is that Texas will lead the nation on metrics and measures to push back on the federal courts and assert our state’s rights.”