HSE school board member under fire after comments about gender identity

Local

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — A Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting turned heated Wednesday night after a school board member made controversial comments related to transgender students.

Members of the school board were discussing making changes to their non-discrimination policy when the remarks were made.

Some said the new policy, that does not include language to protect students and staff based on gender identity or sexual orientation, is too vague.

The comments that came after the discussion of the language is what turned the conversation into a heated argument.

“Now it seems like being straight is less acceptable almost,” said HSE School Board Vice President Sylvia Shepler.

Wednesday night, Shepler made what many called one controversial comment after another while discussing what type of protections the new policy would provide, specifically referring to the LGBTQ community.

“It is now becoming more and more acceptable that it is cool, it’s popular. It is having a gold star in the eyes of their peers. Why wasn’t this condition acceptable in the past and it is now,” said Shepler.

Jace is a student at Fishers High School and he identifies as transgender. 

“Hearing someone say the reason I am trans is because I am on social media too much or I am trans because of my previous mental illnesses that I am diagnosed with, that is just part of the identity and coming out with it and all that,” said Jace. “It hurt coming from someone that holds power over me.”

The comments fired up parents, students and other school board members at the meeting who were advocating for more protection in the schools for specific groups.

“They are not really interested in what the public has to say because I honestly do not believe that the public and the community and the business community in Fishers feels this way,” said Gwen Keller-Lusk, a parent at Fishers High School.

Many students spoke out at the meeting pleading for more specific protection to be added into their school district’s policy.

“As someone who is really close with friends in the LGBT community I want them to feel just as safe as I am when I go into school and I want to do what I can to make that happen,” said senior Logan Faircloch.

One board member suggested adding in specific language that would protect students and employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We can’t further progress if we are not further educating ourselves on topics that we are maybe not comfortable talking about,” said Jace.

“It doesn’t matter how many trophies we have, if we don’t have these policies, what is the point of it? What is there to be proud of?” asked Gay-Straight Alliance member Jason Njuyen.

The policy was approved after a 4-3 vote without the specific language to protect groups based on  gender identity and sexual orientation.

There is still time to add that in, the board has to vote on the policy again in May.

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