NYC Parent Council Seeks Trans Sports Policy Change, Condemned by Chancellor

Outrage over possible limiting of trans kids’ in sports, a move many believe is the latest political ‘stunt’ by conservative parent leader Maud Maron

A rally to maintain protection for transgender people outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City on Feb. 23, 2017. (Getty Images)

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An education council in one of New York City’s largest and most liberal districts has passed a resolution urging the Department of Education to reevaluate gender guidelines for athletes, which could restrict trans students’ participation in school sports.

In a move condemned by advocates and lawmakers as an attack on trans students who fear any change to inclusive guidelines set in 2019 could also increase bullying and violence, the resolution passed 8-3 Wednesday evening. 

“We know sports build self confidence and a sense of belonging, which is especially critical for this group of students. Rather than excluding our trans students we ought to be working together to wrap our arms around them. They need love, encouragement and support, not political attacks,” said NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks Wednesday evening. 

After citing statistics that one in three trans youth are suicidal and one in three are survivors of abuse, Banks called the resolution “despicable” and, in an exasperated tone, posed a question: “Would you just leave the kids alone?” 

At a packed District 2 community education council meeting, ACLU civil rights lawyer and District 2 parent Chase Strangio pointed out the current gender guidelines align with state law. “So this resolution does nothing but target trans young people,” Santiago said. 

“I will not sit idly by and see the same misinformed efforts be pushed in my own school district. I will not let NYC, the birthplace and home of some of the most powerful trans people in history, be yet another testing ground for rhetoric that expels my community,” said Strangio, who is trans.

The resolution urges that a reevaluation committee be formed to include female athletes, parents, coaches, medical professionals and evolutionary biology experts, and claims current guidelines “present challenges” particularly to girls. The resolution’s primary sponsor, Maud Maron, said the resolution is in essence asking to hear from all “impacted voices,” according to Politico

Given the Chancellor’s condemnation and that community education councils are advisory, it is unlikely DOE leaders will follow the council’s recommendation. 

In December, Banks also used the word “despicable” to describe comments made by Maron in a private chat, which included “trans kids don’t exist.” Parents and advocates have grown increasingly frustrated with the Chancellor’ broken promise to “take action,” made more than three months ago. 

In the time since Banks made his pledge, Community Board 2 issued a resolution demanding the DOE acknowledge and require parent leaders adhere to respective guidelines on bullying and fostering a safe learning environment for all students, particularly LGBTQ students. The late February resolution also encouraged penalties for parents found in violation of Chancellor regulations, including verbal and written warnings and/or suspension of involvement.

Separately, several District 2 CEC members wrote in a February email to Banks that went unanswered that parents’ and students’ rights and protections “continue to be unabashedly violated.” 

In the district which includes hyper-liberal neighborhoods like Chelsea and Greenwich Village, the resolution and restricting LGBTQ student rights doesn’t hold broad public support, parents say. 

“There really wasn’t a debate in our community,” said district 2 parent and CEC member Gavin Healy. “It was very much like ‘we don’t like this, we don’t want this.’”

Dozens of community members spoke out against the gender resolution with only one expressing support. All but two of 175 emails received by the council in advance of its vote were against its passage. 

At least 25 states, concentrated in the south and midwest, have introduced bans that do not allow trans youth to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity. 

But the resolution’s introduction and passage in New York City is unsurprising, given parent leaders with conservative-leaning education desires endorsed by Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum make up 40% of community education council seats. The group, known as PLACE, was co-founded by Maron. 

“I think they really want something that they can take back to Moms for Liberty and use it as a PR stunt — look, even in Manhattan there’s this concern,” said Healy. “It has to do with that national, moral panic that they are fueling. It’s fodder.”

Conservative parent voices have been rising in the city. Moms for Liberty, which advocates for parental rights and is categorized as an extremist hate organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, opened its first chapter in NYC last year. Maron spoke on a local panel the group held in January. 

This particular gender resolution is “legally unenforceable and dangerous,” said David Bloomfield, Brooklyn College education, law and public policy professor. A legal firestorm is currently underway in suburban Nassau County, New York, where a county order attempted to ban trans women and girls from public athletic facilities. 

Bloomfield said Maron was “…exercising her rights as an individual and as an elected official to state her policy preferences, which have been no secret. She’s following through essentially on what her voters asked for,” adding in the past, chancellors such as Richard Carranza have not removed CEC members for alleged bigotry.

The gender resolution passed on the same night the council passed another seemingly at odds, one affirming support of LGBTQ students and families. Maron was the only council member to abstain from voting on the resolution in support of LGBTQ students. 

Since December, a petition to have Maron removed from the Stuyvesant High School leadership team has garnered over 700 signatures. It circulated after she was quoted in a NY Post article calling an anonymous student author a “coward,” accusing them of “Jew hatred,” calling for their name to be public for their op-ed in the student newspaper.

Many parents and students feel her actions constituted bullying and threaten free speech at the school.

“The mission is the kids. Getting through the classes. Keeping them safe … They just don’t need this added pressure,” said one parent speaking on condition of anonymity. “[Maron] politicizes every situation she can and I feel like any statement she makes is for her own personal gain. It’s not for the school, it’s not for the students.” 

Reem Khalifa, a junior at Stuyvesant, said recent events have been disheartening and made her “fearful for the people around me. Do they recognize and hold the same beliefs?” 

Maron did not return a request for comment. 

“The DOE is trying to shield themselves from liability,” said Healy, “even if that means leaving people in the community vulnerable.” 

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