Rejecting Guidelines on Transgender Students Puts All Students at Risk

May 20, 2016 /

South Kern Sol, Commentary, Dean Welliver

School board trustees are bound by federal and state law to ensure quality education in a safe and welcoming school environment for all students. All students. Sadly, one member of the Kern High School District Board of Trustees is not fulfilling those duties.

In a May 13 Bakersfield Californian article KHSD Board Trustee Chad Vegas stated that he would not comply with the Obama Administration’s recently issued federal guidelines requiring that schools allow transgender students to use restroom facilities that corresponded to their gender identity.

“I have no intention of complying with this law,” Vegas said. “I will do everything in my power to fight letting males walk into our girls restrooms or girls showers or girls locker rooms or play on a girls team.”

Vegas’s hurtful misgendering of transgender students – asserting that transgender girls are in fact boys – is one of many reasons why he is unfit to be on the Board of Trustees. His description of the push for transgender rights as “stupid” and “laughable” is yet further proof of his prejudicial view against students in his own district. Students he is entrusted with protecting!

On Chad Vegas’s Facebook page he cites his religious beliefs as a reason for his opposition to laws protecting transgender students. But there is such a thing as separation of church and state in our country. He is perfectly entitled to his religious views, but as a member of the Board he is also required to perform his duties as mandated by the state.

At the end of the day, the Obama administration’s guidelines and California’s School Success and Opportunity Act – passed in 2014 – are not about politics or gaining political advantage. They are meant to ensure that all students, including transgender students, experience a safe and welcoming environment at school so they are free to focus on their education rather than fearing for their mental and physical well being.

Sadly Vegas is not the only member of the Board to express disdain for transgender students. Trustee Mike Williams has said that while he opposes the guidelines on “moral” grounds the school district will always obey the law.

Community residents and the district should consider carefully the connotations that their words and behavior carry. Not only are Vegas and the other board members re-victimizing already vulnerable transgender students, they are also putting at risk the education of all students in the Kern High School District. Failure to comply with the guidelines could result in a loss of federal funds to the district.

As for Vegas, if he cannot say truthfully that he has the best interest of all students at heart, as his position requires, then he should resign.

Dean Welliver, 19, is a youth reporter for South Kern Sol and a community activist.