This story discusses suicide and mental health issues. If you're in crisis, help is available: Call the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or chat online.
If you or someone you know needs trans peer support, you can call Trans Kentucky at 859-448-5428 or visit their website. Nationally, you can call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or visit their website. LGBTQ+ youth can also get support from the Trevor Project by calling 866-488-7386 or visiting their website.
Virginia McKay Nelson couldn't hold back her tears Tuesday night while speaking to the Jefferson County Board of Education, warning of the dangers that are likely to come if the district complies with a newly passed state law that targets trans students.
Speaking with urgency and with sorrow, McKay Nelson said it was clear how harmful Senate Bill 150 will be.
"We know trans children exist," the teacher said. "Even more so, we know that they deserve to exist. ... They exist, they are real and they are in pain, asking for us to stand with and protect them."
Her voice began to crack and the tears started to fall when she brought up a trans student of hers, who wrote life would "'just get worse from here,'" after the bill became law, she said.
"I don’t know any student who celebrated the passage of SB 150 but I know many who mourned it," McKay Nelson told the board, one of 10 people who addressed it on the topic following a rally of more than 150 people outside the district's central office.
Despite a veto by Gov. Andy Beshear, SB 150 was passed in this year's legislative session and immediately went into effect at the end of March.
The law bans schools from giving lessons "studying or exploring" sexual orientation or gender identity. It also delays when students can be taught about reproductive body parts and about the social and emotional changes that occur during puberty.
Other aspects of the law include:
Allowing teachers to misgender their students by using pronouns they do not use;
Requiring districts to create bathroom policies that forbid trans and nonbinary students from using the school facilities they identify with;
Banning gender-affirming medical care, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgical changes, for trans youth;
Requiring doctors currently caring for patients who are receiving such care to detransition them.
In the aftermath, the Kentucky Department of Education provided districts with guidance that pointed out that they could run the risk of violating federal laws in their attempt to abide by the state law. The ACLU of Kentucky filed a lawsuit seeking to block the laws' ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.
Beshear said the bill would turn educators "into investigators that must listen in on student conversations and then knock on doors to confront and question parents and families about how students behave and/or refer to themselves or others."
The risk of breaking a law - either state or federal - was brought up by multiple teachers who addressed the board Tuesday, wondering aloud if the district would protect them in the face of prosecution. More so, though, speakers voiced the consequences they believe enforcing the law will bring. They pointed to statistics that show LGBTQ+ teens experience a far higher rate of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts than their binary peers.
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"We risk further endangering them if we out them, if we refuse to use their pronouns, if we refuse to see them," one person told the board.
For some trans students, abiding by the law would bring an end to "the only safe place that student previously knew," another said. That sentiment was shared by one Male High student before the meeting, who said, as a trans student, she was "already mocked and called slurs."
"My school already doesn't protect us so I wonder how much worse it will get with this law," she said, adding that SB 150 "is dangerous and detrimental to kids like me in my community."
Superintendent Marty Pollio addressed members of the media following the board meeting about the law, saying it "puts us in a tough spot," referring to the confusion regarding state and federal compliance.
Pollio said he hopes more guidance will be given by the state department and by the federal government but added that district policy and procedure will be in place before the start of the next school year.
When asked if JCPS would comply with SB 150, Pollio said, "As an entity we can say that but each principal and teacher, according to SB 150, has some responsibility in this. It's not as simple as is JCPS going to comply ... It's a difficult road to navigate."
Contact reporter Krista Johnson at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: JCPS leaders urged to defy SB 150, Kentucky's new anti-trans law