Parent objects to ‘cross dressing’ by substitute teacher

Milford. School board president defends the right of teachers and students to dress the way they like, but said parents can ask the superintendent to transfer their children to other classes.

| 17 Jun 2021 | 02:07

Parent Craig Kelstrom objected to what he called “cross dressing” by a substitute who taught his son’s kindergarten class.

During the Delaware Valley school board’s June 10 work session, Kelstrom said young children should not be exposed to gender dysphoria because they are at a too-early stage of development.

He said he is concerned about the kids, who are like prisoners in their school, and that the teacher should be called out for being a “cross dresser.”

To cross dress is to wear clothing typical of the opposite sex. Cross dressing is not the name as being transgender, whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be at birth. This is referred to as “gender dysphoria.”

Bringing up another topic in the culture wars that have been roiling schools nationwide, Kelstrom asked the board to ban critical race theory from the school district’s curriculum. He said the board could put it off until the following week, but urged them to ban such teaching that night.

Critical race theory is, according the Encyclopedia Britannica, is an intellectual movement “based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color. Critical race theorists hold that the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.”

School board president Jack Fisher said the board did not want to discriminate against any teacher based on the way they dress. What someone wears is an individual decision, he said.

Fisher added, referring to critical race theory, that it takes a year to change the curriculum.

Fischer said the school board could not stop a biological male from cross dressing. Clothes that are appropriate to wear in school, whether worn by a male or female, are permitted, he said.

He said the school board had “people at the meeting a few months ago who were cross dressing, if that’s the appropriate word,” and that he learned a lot that night. He said board members are learning as they go along.

“Perhaps if there is an individual way in the future if you’d like to remove your child from that class, you can talk to Dr. Bell (the superintendent), and just for that day, take your child out,” Fisher told Kelstrom. “But we’re not going to be removing people for sexual expression or sexual identity, gender expression and gender identity.”

Fischer said any child who is afraid can talk to their teacher or administrator. He said LGBTQ people have done wonderful things for the school district.

Fischer talked about “age appropriate” subjects. At an older age, he said, “We all are exposed to different cultures.”

He said the school board, through the administration, will view each individual case on its merits.

He thanked Kelstrom for his attendance, saying the board doesn’t get a lot of parents at meetings.

The school recently formed its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in response to community outcry after school board member Dawn Bukaj posted and promoted transphobic comments on social media. The Milford-based TriVersity Center for Gender & Sexual Diversity wrote a letter to the school board in March asking Bukaj for a retraction.

The committee, headed up by school board member Cory Homer, has been meeting regularly since March.

In a letter to the community, Superintendent John Bell said he would review the school’s “policies, procedures, practices, curriculum, instruction and student mental health initiatives” with “input from faculty, staff, help make DV more welcoming and inclusive.”

Editor’s note: Please see related story “Vernon school officials say they support LGBTQ students after teacher comes under fire.”

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous shared the following email written by school board president Jack Fisher with the Courier:
“Thank you for your email.
“Perhaps you were unable to hear Mr. Kelstrom in the audience. He referred to the substitute teacher as ‘a cross dresser’ in his opening remarks. It was not up to me to debate him as to definitions. He chose the term ‘cross dresser.’ I was addressing his specific complaint regarding his child. He does not want his child ‘exposed to sexual dysphoria.’ The fact that the substitute may be transgender was and is unknown to me. I do not even know the name of the individual to which the complaint was addressed. Had Mr. Kelstrom mentioned a name of a DV employee the conversation would have immediately ended as we do not discuss personnel matters in public. As for DV Policy to which I am responsible I politely told him he has the choice to remove his child from DV at any time, for any period of time, for any reason, if he chooses but in no way is DV banning people who work for us do to their chosen dress attire as long as it meets DV’s standards for all employees.
“So please note for the record that I did not call a transgender person a cross dresser. I spoke of a person defined by the audience member as such.
“The use of terms and definitions and their meaning is always open to discussion and debate in my world. This has nothing to do with political correctness is true. It has to do with the First Amendment.
“Those who subscribe to PC language attempt to force others in the discourse to discuss issues under the terminology they have constructed. Thus using PC language results in a win all the time for PC crowd. They either force or coerce their verbal opponent into using their definitions or they mock them as uninformed, uneducated or lacking in sophistication.
“As for me I have been on an educational journey for forty five years. I am not uninformed, uneducated or lacking in sophistication. My journey is both practical, sexual and spiritual and continues to this day. I will be on this journey until my savior Jesus calls me to his home. At DV we are ‘EDUCATING FOR LIFE’S JOURNEY.’ It is inclusive of everyone’s journey, sexual, spiritual, practical, etc.
“I have copied this to my Executive Leadership Team. In turn it will be sent to the rest of the entire board as you requested so they may have greater knowledge of where I stand.”
“In no way is DV banning people who work for us do to their chosen dress attire as long as it meets DV’s standards for all employees.” Jack Fisher, school board president