U46 official suggests new rules on public comments after long meeting
Opponents and supporters of Elgin-area School District U46's recent decision to allow transgender students access to locker rooms spoke for hours during this week's school board meeting, and some school board members are calling for changes to rules that allow public comment.
Board president Donna Smith, noting that the length of the public comment section delays the board's ability to effectively address other school-related business, said there must be a middle ground.
"Public comment is very important," she said. Our work is also very important. … Again, here we are at a quarter after 10, just starting our work. I'm wondering if we can find a balance between the public comments and the work."
Smith said she and board member Sue Kerr would like to gather guidelines for public comment to present at the next meeting.
"I did look at a number of other districts in Kane County and four of the districts in the surrounding areas," Kerr said.
Board member Jeanette Ward said she wouldn't support a measure that limits the public's ability to voice concern.
Smith said she's not asking for the change to affect all meetings, only those times where the public comments section is deemed to be very long.
"What I'm saying is we do have options," Smith said. "Other districts do limit more than I would ever advocate for, but I do think we need to get some balance."
During the public comment session, Rozzie Decker, a Wayne resident, said the definition of tolerance has changed in her lifetime.
"Initially, tolerance did not mean that you had to agree with one's stance, but you were to respect each other's right to their stance — no more, no less," Decker said Monday. "Tolerance now means that one is required to accept another stance, to accept it as just as legitimate as yours — an alternative-correct assumption."
Decker said she respects the rights of others to hold differing opinions but does not want her rights trampled.
Elgin High School Senior Aidan Heydt said despite concerns raised by opponents, rights to privacy and safety are protected under the board's recent decision.
"Biology, psychology, sociology and any other science that has to address sex differences all support the idea that sex is a spectrum and by extent, gender," Heydt said, adding that envisioning a world where every individual conforms to gender is unrealistic.
"Just for example, before I started speaking, how many of you thought I was male?" Heydt asked. "Raise your hands. How many of you thought that I was female? How many couldn't tell? How many still can't tell? The bottom line is there's no way to enforce what you're trying to accomplish, and there's no reason to."
Board member Cody Holt said the conversation and debate is important.
"Just to kind of show you where we're at right now, we have a presidential administration and a Department of Education that will take $37 million away from our district if we do not adhere to their administrative and executive activism," Holt said. "I think that's wrong. I think that if we want local control and if we want a president and a Department of Education that will stand up for local control and empower local board members without threatening them for taking away funds, I think change starts on the federal level with regard to that."