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Central Missouri School District pulls Trans affirming policy

The Assistant Superintendent said there’s been zero incidents of sexual misconduct in school bathrooms since the policy has been in place

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Blair Oaks High School Gymnasium (Blair Oaks High/Facebook)

WARDSVILLE, Mo. – The Blair Oaks School Board in this rural area of Central Missouri, located south of the state capital city of Jefferson City, voted unanimously Tuesday to rescind a policy that protected transgender students, replacing it with a blanket discrimination policy.

The local newspaper, the News-Tribune, reported that the former policy, Policy 2115, allowed transgender students to choose a name and pronoun by which to be identified and to dress according to their gender identity. It also allowed all students to use restrooms that are gender-neutral, aligned with their “biological sex” or aligned with their “self-identified gender.” It also outlined Missouri State High School Activities Association rules for transgender athletes.

The board, in voting to rescind the policy, approved a plan to work with legal counsel to make sure existing policy and procedure complies with federal and state law regarding transgender students.

Columbia, Missouri NBC News affiliate KOMU-TV News 8 reported that despite being one of many mid-Missouri districts with a transgender student policy, Blair Oaks’ policy particularly became a topic of discussion after the News Tribune published an opinion piece online in May. The piece disapproved how the district’s policy was introduced to the public and voiced concerns about “biological males” using the restroom with “biological females.”

KOMU also noted that schools Assistant Superintendent, Kimberley Walters, said there’s been zero incidents of sexual misconduct in school bathrooms since the policy has been in place.

She added that while she is not allowed to disclose the identities of the transgender students in the district, around 1% of Blair Oaks students identify as transgender.

Jason Paulsmeyer, the Blair Oaks Board President, was quoted as saying: “I personally find it disappointing that there’s been so much focus on this issue at Blair Oaks. Ultimately, this is an issue that goes far beyond Blair Oaks, or Jeff City, or Columbia Public Schools or anywhere else. And I really want to readjust the focus on the great things we’re doing at this school, school district and the great things our students do.”

He then pointed out that in his opinion actions by the school board in regard to the issue were limited: “The crux of the issue is how transgender students are treated under Title IX, and that’s a federal law issue,” Paulsmeyer said. “And ultimately, this is an issue that’s gonna be resolved by authorities way beyond the Blair Oaks School Board, most likely by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

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Missouri

Missouri high school faculty ordered to remove Pride flags

Removal of LGBTQ+ Pride flags and classroom materials that denote safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students has become a flash point of heated debate

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Photo Credit: Kickapoo High School, Springfield Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Teachers at the largest high school in this southwestern Missouri city were ordered to remove LGBTQ+ Pride flags from their classrooms last week by the principal and according to the local newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader, all complied.

“I’m writing today in regards to the Pride flag each of you has in your classroom,” wrote Kickapoo High School Principal Bill Powers in an email message obtained by the News-Leader. “It was recently brought to my attention that we should not be displaying the flags.”

The News-Leader reported that Powers cited a school board policy that was approved in 2014 and updated in 2019 which reads in part:

The faculty told the News-Leader that Powers wasn’t being seen as being adversarial, one teacher telling the paper; “All I will say is that I believe our principal to be an inclusive person and inclusive leader in the SPS community,” the teacher said. But the teacher also expressed frustration with the decision.

Powers initiated a dialogue with the employees while urging them to review the school board policy.

“Conversations have begun and will continue with the individuals in question,” confirmed Stephen Hall, chief communications officer with Springfield Public Schools in an email to the News-Leader. “His door remains open.”

Removal of LGBTQ+ Pride flags and classroom materials that denote safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students has become a flash point of heated debate around the nation. Recently in Wales, Wisconsin, the Kettle Moraine School District Board voted to uphold a policy that schools Superintendent Stephen Plum had interpreted as banning displays of political or religious messages, including LGBTQ+ Pride flags, and Black Lives Matter and We Back the Badge signs.

Three months ago, the Carroll County Board of Education in Maryland adopted a policy that prohibits Pride flags from being displayed in schools under its jurisdiction.

Students in a suburban Newark, New Jersey city in the metropolitan Tri-State area of New York City walked out of classes from three schools, protesting a new school board policy that bans the LGBTQ pride flag and most other flags from being flown outside schools.

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Out Missouri candidate for local office campaign banner defaced with slur

If elected, Justice would become the first openly Out Jackson County Legislator, as well as the first Black representative of the district

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Photo Credit: Justice Horn/Twitter

KANSAS CITY – Over the July 4 holiday weekend an oversized campaign banner for community activist Justice Horn, who is running for the Jackson County Legislature, District 1, was vandalised with the homophobic slur ‘FAG.’

Horn, who announced his candidacy for Jackson County’s first district in May last year, tweeted Saturday about the vandalism:

Horn did not file a police report. In an interview with the Kansas City Star on Monday he said:

“I don’t know how much more blatantly that this was a hate crime. It was specifically targeted at me because of my sexual orientation.

“What bothers me the most is that it happened in broad daylight. They were so emboldened to do this. It was specifically a defacing to attack me not based on my policy or my candidacy but on me personally. It was the same as calling me the N-word.”

Horn was set to hold a press conference on Tuesday morning but prior to its scheduled time the banner was ripped down and stolen. Horn then tweeted:

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a Washington D.C.-based group that supports LGBTQ+ candidates reacted in a statement sent out from its president & CEO Mayor Annise Parker:

“Recent anti-LGBTQ attacks from officials serving at the highest levels of government empower bigots across the country to espouse hate openly. The reality is that out LGBTQ candidates of color bear the brunt of much of this animus. We stand firmly with Justice and unequivocally condemn this homophobic attack. Hateful acts like this make it abundantly clear that progress is not linear and should never be taken for granted. This is a reminder for the LGBTQ community and our allies that the fight for equality is far from over and that we must enter this election with urgency and strength. The stakes could not be higher.”

If elected, Justice would become the first openly LGBTQ+ Jackson County Legislator, as well as the first Black representative of the first district. Justice is also of Pacific Islander and Native Blackfoot heritage.

Justice is a former Student Body President of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he recently graduated with his Bachelors of Business Administration. He rose to notoriety after his role in the Black Lives Matter movement in Kansas City as a lead organizer, which concluded with a list of demands recommitting the City to the safety of the public through police reform, signed by Mayor Quinton Lucas. This resulted in body cams for police officers, which has recently been put into practice, as well as elevating the issue of local control to a top state legislative priority.

Throughout the past year, Justice has been the author behind multiple pieces of legislation to pass out of city council, including the creation of the first LGBTQ+ Commission in the state. Subsequently, he authored the Trans Inclusive Healthcare resolution, which directs the City Manager to ensure health insurance contracts initiated by the City are inclusive of all gender identities to prevent discrimination.

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Out Missouri lawmaker blasts GOP author of anti-Trans amendment

“I think every day about the kids who are still there who haven’t made out, who haven’t escaped from this kind of bigotry”

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Photo via Missouri Department of Transportation

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In a video on social media that went viral, viewed 700,000 times plus on Tik-Tok alone, openly Out Democratic Missouri State Representative Ian Mackey, blasted an amendment to legislation designed to audit the state’s voter rolls and tweak elections laws that gave local school districts the ability to ban Trans youth from playing sports.

The Springfield News-Leader‘s capital bureau and politics reporter Galen Bacharier noted the House approved the amendment by an 89-40 vote after almost three hours of “fierce and emotional debate.” Democrats called the measure discriminatory and designed to invoke fear.

Mackey confronted the amendment author, Republican Rep. Chuck Basye who had characterized his amendment as an attempt to “save women’s sports.” 

“This isn’t about hate, this is about fairness,” Basye said.

“I was afraid of people like you growing up and I grew up in Hickory County, Missouri,” Mackey, who is from St. Louis and openly gay, said to Basye. “I grew up in a school district that would vote tomorrow to put this in place.” 

Shouting on the House floor, Mackey called the amendment “bigotry” and said to Basye, “Thank God I made it out […] I think every day about the kids who are still there who haven’t made out, who haven’t escaped from this kind of bigotry. Gentlemen, I’m not afraid of you anymore- Because you’re gonna lose. You may win this today, but you’re going to lose.”

“We have spent nearly three hours talking about this issue and why?” said Democratic Minority Leader Crystal Quade of Springfield. “Members on the other side of the aisle have said directly to my face that they spoke on this issue because of their primary elections. Because they need to win elections in a redistricting year.”

The Springfield News-Leader also noted the amended bill would also require the legislature’s joint committee on education to study the impact of barring trans athletes and produce a report for the entire legislature by Jan. 1, 2024.

The House needs to take another vote on the bill before it is sent across the building to the Senate with just a few weeks of this year’s legislative session remaining.

Similar measures have failed pass in the last two legislative sessions.

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St. Louis groups launch ‘banned book program’ to distribute challenged books

“If you look at most of the books that they are trying to ban, they are the stories of people from historically marginalized groups”

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Several books which have been challenged by parents based on their content are pictured at Left Bank Books in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood last November. (Photo: Brian Munoz/St. Louis Public Radio)

By Kate Grumke | ST. LOUIS (St. Louis Public Radio) – Two local organizations are partnering to distribute free copies of controversial books in response to the recent increase in attempts to remove titles from school libraries.

In Purpose Educational Services and the St. Louis bookstore EyeSeeMe will deliver free copies of “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison to Missourians who request it.

The organizations raised more than $3,000 in the first few hours after launching the book program, said Heather Fleming, founder of In Purpose Educational Services.

“If you look at most of the books that they are trying to ban, they are the stories of people from historically marginalized groups,” said Fleming. “We have to grapple with some of the things that have happened in our society. Number one, to make sure that they don’t happen again. But then number two, because we need to learn how to live with one another.”

Brian Munoz/St. Louis Public Radio
Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is photographed in this photo illustration last November at Left Bank Books in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood.

St. Louis Public Radio analysis of the books being challenged in the area in November found two-thirds were written by authors of color or authors who identify as LGBTQ. “The Bluest Eye,” was the book with the most official requests for removal from libraries. It was the first book by Toni Morrison, who would go on to win a Nobel Prize in Literature and a Pulitzer Prize.

The Wentzville School Board voted 4-3 at its Jan. 20 meeting to remove the book from school libraries. That’s after a committee voted to recommend keeping the book, writing, “committee members believe that removing the work would infringe on the rights of parents and students to decide for themselves if they want to read this work of literature.”

A committee in the Francis Howell School District voted to retain the book this month and a review of “The Bluest Eye” is still underway in the Lindbergh School District.

The organizations that are planning the “banned book program” have a form for people to fill out if they are interested in receiving free copies of the book. The books will be distributed to people in Missouri and the groups plan to pick a new book each month, Fleming said.

These conversations and these types of book bans, they’re placing our students at a disadvantage,” Fleming said. “Whether people want to admit it or not, we are becoming an increasingly diverse society … students who are not culturally competent are not going to meet with as much success.”

There has been a national increase in attempts to remove books from school libraries, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

“We’re just really stunned by the fact that there seems to be this campaign to erase certain books, certain topics from school libraries and public libraries across the country,” said director Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

The people challenging the books say they contain sexually explicit material and are not suitable for children.

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Kate Grumke became St. Louis Public Radio’s education reporter in October, 2021. She grew up in St. Louis but spent more than five years covering politics and policy in Washington, D.C., most recently as a producer for the PBS NewsHour. Kate has covered two presidential elections and has reported from Cuba, El Salvador and Mexico. She won a 2019 National Murrow Award for her coverage of Oklahoma’s teacher walkout.

See stories by Kate Grumke

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The preceding article was previously published by St. Louis Public Radio and is republished by permission.

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Missouri LGBTQ+ book ban advocate arrested for molesting a child

Utterback spoke in November against LGBTQ+ books in North Kansas City school libraries that showed sexual acts

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Ryan Utterback (Screenshot via KMBC ABC 9, Kansas City, Missouri)

CLAY COUNTY, Mo. – A man who spoke in support of banning LGBTQ+ and other books depicting sexual acts, citing specifically the book ‘Fun Home,’ which won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book, in North Kansas City school libraries is now facing a felony count of child molestation and two related misdemeanors.

Ryan Utterback, 29, appeared in a Clay County courtroom last week to face those charges.

Screenshot via KMBC ABC 9, Kansas City, Missouri

According to KMBC ABC 9 investigative reporter Matt Flener,  in the first case, a probable cause statement alleges Utterback laid down on a bed with a child less than 12 and fondled the child in December of 2020. A separate case alleges Utterback started showing videos sexual in nature on his cellphone to a young child around the time the child was 4 years old.

Utterback spoke in November against books in North Kansas City school libraries showing sexual acts KMBC reported. He was also present at an October North Kansas City School District board meeting holding enlarged drawings of sexual acts depicted in the book ‘Fun Home’.

Utterback was standing beside Northland Parent Association president Jay Richmond as Richmond spoke against keeping that specific book in school libraries.

Richmond on Friday told KMBC:

Ryan was an attendee at the board meeting, I needed help holding a presentation and he helped. I can’t comment on the alleged charges against him because I have no knowledge about them and they have nothing to do with me or the Northland Parent Association.”

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Missouri Trans student awarded $4 million in lawsuit against school district

The lawsuit states the district’s reason for denying him access was because he was transgender and “is alleged to have female genitalia”

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Photo Credit: Blue Springs R-IV School District

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – A Trans male student was awarded more than $4 million in damages for sex discrimination against him by the suburban Kansas City Blue Springs R-IV School District. A jury in Jackson County delivered its verdict Monday.

In documents filed in court, the lawsuit noted that the student had legally changed his named in 2010 and had successfully petitioned the Jackson County Circuit Court in 2014 to amend his birth certificate to reflect his gender and new name, NBC News affiliate KSHB 41 News in Kansas City reported.

The student was denied use of the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms at Blue Springs R-IV School District’s Delta Woods Middle School and the Freshman Center.

“Defendants again denied [the plaintiff] access to the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms even though he is recognized as a boy under the laws of the state of Missouri,” the suit stated. “Defendants continue to deny [the plaintiff] access to the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms as of the filing of this Petition.”

The student participated in boys’ P.E. and athletics in middle school, including the eighth grade boys’ football team and track team, and he had to use a “separate, single person, unisex bathroom outside the boys’ locker room because Defendants refused to give him access to the boys’ locker rooms.”

The student “chose not to participate in fall sports for the 2014-2015 school year at the Freshman Center due to being denied access to the boys’ locker room and restrooms,” the lawsuit’s filing stated.

KSHB News 41’s Katharine Finnerty noted:

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 after the defendant filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in late 2014.

The lawsuit filed for the student states that the district’s reason for denying him access was because he was transgender and “is alleged to have female genitalia.”

Upon information and belief, Defendants do not speculate, inspect, or otherwise inquire as to the genitalia of other male students,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants have discriminated and continue to discriminate against Plaintiff R.M.A. based on his sex.

The school district released a statement that it intends to appeal the jury’s verdict.

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