As a low-level correspondent, over the last several years I’ve sent in something in excess of 600 submittals to the Observer. Not necessarily wedded to my words nor swell-headed about my writing ability, I’ve readily accepted title changes and occasional tweaks as a normal editorial process. The editing performed by Matt Winters on last week’s article entitled, “Naselle board postpones action on transgender policy,” brought that acceptance to a halt.
Some might say I should thank Winters for the additional words since I get paid two dollars an inch and, as my wife says, “four bucks is four bucks.” However, from his more liberal vantage point, he viewed the decision by the board to continue discussion on a policy proposal sent down by the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) as an affront to all transgender individuals. In his rush to demonstrate his liberal bonafides, he gives a negative impression of a Rosburg resident who dared to come before the board and express concern about potential impacts of the proposed policy. Worse yet, from my perspective, is that he failed to identify his words as his own while, at the same time, listing me as the author of the article. I mind it even more since he mistakenly described a policy already adopted by the board and not the proposed policy developed to replace it.
The stated goal of the proposed policy is to foster an educational environment that is free of discrimination for all students. All would agree that is an admirable goal. As a board member, I was concerned it smacked of “all men are created equal, some are just more equal than others.” All, in this case, should mean every student, regardless of their gender identity. That should include the heterosexual majority as well. The proposed policy, however, mandates that birth-gender boys who identify as girls be allowed to use the girls’ restrooms. That may free the LBGTQ student from discrimination, but what about the heterosexual girls who now are forced to have another student, who is physically a boy, walk in on them in the bathroom. Where is their ability to feel free within the educational environment? Reportedly, heterosexual girls from other parts of the country have wet their pants as a result of fearing to enter a bathroom shared with a gender identity student.
That same type of concern exists in regard to sports. A birth-gender boy who self-identifies as a girl must be allowed to compete against girls. Does that create a feeling of freedom within the educational environment among heterosexual girls?
Federal civil rights legislation is being interpreted to support this. Washington state law requires this and instructs the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and WSSDA to develop policy guidance that mandates this. Funding can and will be withheld from schools that don’t “toe the line” and adopt such guidance. The deck is clearly stacked, but, in the interest of all of the kids, isn’t it worth a few minutes of time to look into it to see if there is some opportunity to better ensure freedom from discrimination applies to all students? I think so and asked the board to hold the policy over so we can have that discussion.
I recognize I’m not “woke.” Heck, at 73, I’m happy to be awake. But, I have no beef with the LBGTQ community. Over the years, I’ve counted many members of that community among my friends and co-workers. I can claim that in 1984 I marched in the Gay Pride Parade along with some 300,000 participants in San Francisco. Actually, I was trying to get across the street but, hey, I ended up walking a block or so in the parade in the process. Levity aside, this is a serious issue and one which deserves serious attention. Our schools should be safe havens for all kids, but all should mean all.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I have greatly appreciated Nick Nikkila's contributions over the years. When after some time as our freelancer covering Naselle and Western Wahkiakum County he joined the Naselle-Grays River Valley School Board, I recognized that his writing about board actions would inevitably create the potential for conflicts between his new role and news judgment, but felt that adding a note to those stories indicating his dual role would suffice to signal to readers that board-related stories might be influenced by this factor. In the case in point, Nikkila's story as submitted delicately skirted around what the citizen was objecting to in the proposed policy that Nikkila and other board members tabled. It was not the editor's "liberal bonafides," but the necessity of clarifying what was at the heart of the matter that led me to research what WSSDA proposes and add that to the story. I will now make other arrangements for covering the Naselle school board, but continue to welcome Nikkila's contributions on other subjects.