Monday, March 15, 2004

Taking over this Orange County school board

Quote of the day:
    "It's amazing how much we've eroded our society," said trustee Judy Ahrens, who describes herself as a devout Christian. "Everyone always wants to fix things tomorrow. Well, I'm saying the time is ripe now. I might take a lot of heat for it today, but the rewards are going to be great in heaven."

My title to this article : Pod people take over school board to destroy public education.
    Citing their Christian principles, trustees of a small Orange County school district are defying a state anti-discrimination law that allows students and school staff to define their own gender.

    A refusal by a three-trustee majority of the five-member school board to reverse its position could ultimately jeopardize as much as $40 million in state and federal funding, two-thirds of the budget for a district that serves 10,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

    It is a risk, said the defiant trustees of the Westminster School District, that they're willing to take if the alternative is to compromise their morals.

    "It's amazing how much we've eroded our society," said trustee Judy Ahrens, who describes herself as a devout Christian. "Everyone always wants to fix things tomorrow. Well, I'm saying the time is ripe now. I might take a lot of heat for it today, but the rewards are going to be great in heaven."

    At issue is the wording of a state law that requires schools to protect certain groups from discrimination, including transsexuals and others who embrace unconventional gender roles. The three trustees say the law allows grade-school students and staff to immorally redefine their sexual identity.

    By refusing to comply with state law, the three have pitted themselves against fellow board members, parents and school administrators. Their critics accuse them of inappropriately imposing their own beliefs while ignoring their responsibilities to uphold state law.

    "We do not see this as a moral issue," said Trish Montgomery, a district spokeswoman, speaking for the superintendent and other administrators. "It is a matter of complying with the law."

    The debate over gender definitions has polarized the board like no other issue. It was triggered in January, when district administrators informed trustees that Westminster's policy for handling discrimination complaints was not in compliance with state regulations.

    In listing groups that are protected from discrimination, the district makes a nonspecific reference to "gender" and no reference to "sex" and "sexual orientation."

    The omissions are significant in light of an anti-discrimination law signed in 2000 by then-Gov. Gray Davis to protect transsexuals and others who do not fall into common gender categories, and gays on school campuses.

    The law requires schools' anti-discrimination complaint procedures to reflect the state's definition of "sex" as male or female, and "gender," as "a person's actual sex or perceived sex and includes a person's perceived identity, appearance or behavior."

    But where lawmakers saw equal rights, Ahrens and fellow board members Helena Rutkowski and Blossie Marquez-Woodcock saw an assault on morals and ethics.

    "I can't, with a clear conscience, … vote for this trash," Marquez-Woodcock declared at an early February board meeting, during which she and her two allies voted down the state's wording.

    A review by California Department of Education officials later in the month found the district out of compliance. State officials advised the board to make the required changes at a Feb. 26 emergency meeting. The board convened, but the three trustees refused to reconsider.
And it continues:

    If the district remains in violation beyond an April 12 deadline, it will be exposed to formal complaints from anyone challenging the policy, according to Michael Hersher, an attorney for the Education Department.

    California law, he said, allows the department to withhold some or all of a district's state and federal funding if it refuses to comply with state mandates. Westminster receives $40 million — nearly two-thirds of its $68-million annual budget — from state and federal sources. The department could also sue to force the district to adopt the state regulations.

    The three board members' unbending stance has angered and disappointed the board's two other members, district Supt. Barbara DeHart and scores of parents, who, at a March 4 board meeting, protested the early-February vote to reject the state's wording. Of 10 who spoke on the issue, nine criticized the board majority's position.

    "They are going to risk our children's education for their own personal convictions," said parent Patricia Ashcraft, who spoke at the meeting. "They're trying to fight a morality issue … but they're doing it in the wrong arena."
    Ahrens, Rutkowski and Marquez-Woodcock said they had no intention of changing their minds and do not believe the state will impose financial sanctions. They insisted that they are opposed to discrimination against anyone, but that providing special protection for transsexuals offended their Christian beliefs.

    "It's totally anti-family," Ahrens said. "It's not protecting the kids. If we include this identity-crisis language, looking down the road, we could be in some real trouble…. If we have done this right, this will cause people to take a look at what's going on and ask why three brave women had to take a moral stand."

    Ahrens said she fears that the state law would allow young boys to become "peeping Toms" in girls' bathrooms and encourage cross-dressing. "The possibilities are endless," she said.

    Montgomery, the district spokeswoman, dismissed such concerns. Principals have always prohibited students from entering bathrooms they shouldn't, she explained, and they would continue to do so.
If one of the strategies of the theocrats is to take over local school boards, then this must be one example here in Orange County. With a 3 out of 5 majority, the theocrats are in control and show no signs of budging. They'll even sacrifice the education of 10,000 kids because of the money they'll lose for noncompliance of the anti-discrimination law. The reasoning behind these guys is that they believe that their higher law, one based on their morals, usurps state law. The school administrator argues that the offended school board members try for legislative change. I'm sure that an attack is being made on the level already. But one of the issues here, among many, is about the separation between church and state. This is a public school board, not a Christian private school board.