Board members of Missouri’s largest school district voted 4-3 to adopt a “gender identity and sexual orientation” policy while rejecting the ability to opt out under freedom of religion protections.
Members of the Springfield Public Schools board who voted against the adoption of the change decried the new language, say it is the thin edge of a wedge progressives are using under President Joe Biden to radicalize sexual and gender identity at schools.
Under the revision, the word “sex” – meaning biological sex at birth – would be changed to “gender identity and sexual orientation.”
At issue is a directive from Biden’s Agriculture Department (USDA) saying school districts must change the language in anti-discrimination wording to quality for free lunch programs.
One school board member who voted against the gender identity language said that because Biden ran into trouble with his executive order changing “sex” in Title IX cases to mean “sexual and gender identity,” the administration is simply using the USDA as a backdoor to make the changes.
“And so this ‘regulation’ is essentially being backdoored through the USDA,” Springfield School Board member Dr. Maryam Mohammadkhani told The Lion. “And it’s all under the guise of a threat of audit or withholding of federal dollars, which is simply a fallacy, which I think we established that as well.”
The board had previously rejected the adoption of the new language in a tied vote, 3-3, while one board member, board president Danielle Kincaid, was on vacation, reported the Springfield News Leader.
Members who voted for the sexual identity language change said they were compelled in part by threats that the federal government would take some sort of legal action against the district if they didn’t comply with the request from the USDA to change the language.
“An audit by the USDA would be very time-consuming and very costly in terms of manpower. Whether or not you agree that $7 million is at risk or not, putting us in a position where we would be out compliance to me is not worth the risk,” school board member Judy Brunner said during discussions on the vote, according to the News Leader.
Phone calls to Brunner by The Lion asking her specifically who advised her of possible action by the federal government went unreturned.
Mohammadkhani, however, is dubious of the claims that the federal government will take action.
The retired pathologist, who earned her medical degree from the University of Southern California School of Medicine, said that she’s talked to dozens of school boards and hundreds of school board members around the state who have no intention of complying with the edict from the USDA.
Critics have contended the push for new sexual identity policies is coming from the Missouri School Board Association’s progressive members who aren’t thinking about the welfare of kids.
“Being on the board of education, I need to ensure first and foremost that student’s safety and welfare is important to me and that we preserve that for our children, and it doesn’t matter what race they are, or what type of lifestyle that they may choose,” Springfield School Board member Steve Makoski told The Lion. “The bottom line is I have to make decisions in order to protect these children and I don’t think the sexual orientation and gender identity is the way to do that.”
Makoski, like Mohammadkhani, opposed the policy changes that included gender identity language.
Makoski said he was deeply disturbed by the exclusion of a freedom of religion clause that would have allowed parents to opt out of the policy because freedom from discrimination on the basis of religious identity is already part of the policy at the district.
“That was very disturbing. I think it’s very easy to be inclusive to add religion to this policy,” Makoski added. “I think that the board members have determined that was already in the overall policy of the Springfield Public Schools that we would not discriminate against religion. Well, if that was the case, then why don’t we just go ahead and include it in this vote? But no, they wanted to make sure that it was not included.”
Mohammadkhani said that she believes that Americans agree that sex, references to sex, and sex curricula are inappropriate inside schools.
She said that there are no activities inside of schools that have anything to do with this language change.
“I don’t see what, on any level, this has to do with the students. And so I’m quite genuinely perplexed and confused” as to why the change had to be made, she told The Lion.
Mohammadkhani said she has yet to meet a person who doesn’t think that children’s innocence must be protected at all costs.
“And when you let sex in the door of the schoolhouse, you’re, in effect, threatening their childhood,” she added. “Now I get that a lot of parents might have different ideas about what is developmentally appropriate for their child. But nevertheless, they all want their children to have a childhood. And I guess what I’m saying is, I think most people at their core are conservative when it comes to children. And that’s really all that matters.”
For the district, however, a sexual identity policy should be an issue decided by voters, both agreed Makoski and Mohammadkhani.
They both said that the proper response to an ideological push by progressives is a political response by voters turning up at the ballot box.
Mohammadkhani is up for reelection in 2024, along with two other members who voted for the gender change, including the president of the board.