The Nampa School Board approved a policy Monday night that restricts conversations and classroom instruction relating to gender identity and sexual orientation. After around two hours of public testimony and discussion, the policy passed on a 3-1 vote.
Policy 2050 prohibits classroom instruction on and discussions about gender identity, sexual orientation, transgender identity and gender expression. Conversations about these topics, according to the policy, should be left between a student and their parent or legal guardian. If a student wants to talk about gender identity or sexual orientation, they’ll be referred to a counselor, who will direct the conversation to the parent or guardian.
The policy also fulfills a law from the most recent legislative session, which requires students to use the bathroom, locker room or dressing facility that corresponds with their gender assigned at birth. That law goes into effect July 1.
Monday’s meeting extended into the late hours of the evening; public comment on the policy lasted just under an hour.
At least 10 district patrons spoke out against the policy, and at least nine patrons spoke in favor of it.
One opponent — a mother of a nonbinary student who attends Skyview High School — said the policy will “erase” her child. She’s concerned that under the new policy, her child will no longer be able to make art relating to LGBTQ+ themes in their art class, or talk about their gender identity openly at school.
Nampa patron Mindy OldenKamp said policy 2050 could exacerbate suicide rates, which are already higher among LGBTQ+ youth than other demographics. Other opponents said the policy would erode safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, and create opportunities for harassment and bullying by “othering” students.
“By not allowing the discussion of gender and orientation topics within schools, you’re no longer creating a safe environment for our kids,” said OldenKamp. “This quickly becomes a life and death issue for some.”
Many supporters said the new policy helps reinforce parental rights.
Some argued that the policy would work to prevent harassment and bullying based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Some alleged that their children are dealing with problems at school for being straight, white and cisgender.
Others said the policy would help educators get back to the basics: reading, writing and math. Two patrons, originally from California, commented that they moved to Nampa to get away from conversations about gender identity in the classroom.
“I’ve seen where this goes,” one man said.
Trustees deliberated the policy for about an hour.
Mandy Simpson, a Nampa trustee and Boise School District teacher, opposed the policy. She expressed concerns that the policy would make some students feel marginalized and unsafe.
“I know from firsthand experience, that if kids don’t feel safe in a classroom, they will not even begin to try to learn the reading, the writing, the math,” said Simpson.
Simpson agreed the Nampa district needs a policy that protects parental rights and provides guidelines around topics like gender identity and sexual orientation. But policy 2050, she said, would leave students and staff silenced.
Trustee Jeff Kirkman suggested that district staff make improvements to the policy to balance it equally for both sides. But later, Kirkman voted in favor of the policy.
Board chair Brook Taylor emphasized the importance of parents’ rights. In support of the policy, Taylor told the audience that she was voting yes because she recognizes the rights of parents to make their own decisions, and raise their kids with their own “core values.”
The board took a vote around 9:30 p.m.. Simpson was the only trustee to vote against the policy. Trustee Tracey Pearson was absent.
District superintendent Gregg Russell said the policy will give the district guidance.
“We need clarity in this district,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to wrestle through…I know that is going to not be enough for some it’s going to be enough for others…I would like to have clarity so that when we go the next school year, our staff knows what to expect.”