December 05, 2013

An Open Letter to Katherine Svenson, Delta County, Colorado School Board Member

Dear Ms. Svenson,

I was stunned to hear your recent comments about transgender students during a school board meeting. Your suggestion that transgender students be castrated before using a restroom that aligns with their gender identity is inhumane, inappropriate, and potentially dangerous to the students in your school district.

In the 2011 National School Climate Survey, GLSEN found that more than three-quarters of transgender students experienced verbal harassment based on their gender expression or gender identity. In addition, 3 of 10 transgender students report having been physically harassed as well. By publicly suggesting that transgender students should be castrated, you are reinforcing this dangerous and unjust trend. 

As a fellow school board member, I know that this role has many responsibilities. Chief among them is to act in the best interests of the students. However, your comments suggest a prejudice against transgender and gender non-conforming students, rather than a stance designed to help the students in your district.

Your responsibility to act in the best interests of your students includes ALL of your students, including transgender and gender non-conforming students. Whatever your personal views may be, they need to stay away from your role as a public official. You should know that when you speak publicly, your words can ripple throughout your school community, and could lead to even more bullying and harassment against transgender students. Your comments dehumanize transgender and gender non-conforming students, and they could endanger students in your district.

In your comments, you derided recent successes in Massachusetts and California to make schools safer and more welcoming to transgender and gender non-conforming students. As a school board member in Massachusetts, I implore you to give these policies a serious look, and consider taking a proactive approach to supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students. When we create healthier school environments, we’ll be in a much better place as school board members to accomplish what we originally set out to do: help students learn.

Alex Pratt

Alex Pratt is a co-founder of GLSEN’s Transgender Student Rights and a member of the Littleton School Committee.

Add your name in support of Alex's open letter to Katherine Svenson, the Delta County Colorado School Board Member.

Ikaika Regidor

About Ikaika Regidor

Ikaika is the Youth Programs Associate at GLSEN. His focus areas are: Ally Week, Day of Silence, heritage months, Transgender Student Rights, Jump-Start and Students of Color Organizing student leadership teams, and GSA engagement. // @_politikai // pronouns: he/him/his & they/them/their

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