Tempers flared at a public hearing Wednesday to address the Buffalo Public School District's proposed gender policy. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the Merriweather Library on Jefferson on the city's east side was packed for the second of two hearings.
“I was not allowed to use the men’s restroom. I was not allowed to change in the men's locker room,” said a transgender citizen.
The public hearing started out quietly with a panel discussion to inform the public about gender identity. It included two transgender citizens. A man, who was born as a girl, explained there was no transgender policy when he attended school.
An African American woman, born as a man, asked the public to open their ‘hearts and minds’ to gender identity.
“We’re slowly getting over our homophobic feelings. Now the next step is understand our transgender or gender variant families and members,” stated the transgender woman.
But then some of the parents attending became outraged as the moderator, Jessica Bauer-Walker with Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo and Health Chair of the District Parent Coordinating Council, tried to coordinate the conversations asking if they felt the policy addresses the need of students and families. Some shouted 'no' agitated, at the format and the outbursts began.
“You’re saying let’s not isolate, let’s not separate, let’s not divide our children based on their gentrification, but now you’re telling us to isolate,” shouted one parent.
Some of the parents are very concerned about transgender students using school bathrooms and the safety of all students.
Parent Byron McIntyre, vice president of the Parent District Coordinating Council, was extremely concerned and became emotionally explaining he has a son who just 'came out'.
“It’s a game changer, so now how does my child go in protected,” stated McIntyre.
Others say they believe the district is 'rushing' the policy forward, but Assistant Superintendent Will Keresztes says that's not the case.
“There’s no rush. The board and the superintendent have not made a decision if and when they are going to entertain the policy. They may do so quickly and then, at that point, it sits at two board meetings with a week in between,” stated Keresztes.
Keresztes worked to calm participants and shifted the format, allowing them to share their concerns. He tells WBFO News he believes the session ended with a 'very good spirit' and citizens left in an ‘amicable’ place.