A courageous mom in Tennessee stood up for her nonbinary child and all transgender and nonbinary students after a member of her local school board proposed a policy that would require teachers to out students to their parents.
During the public comments portion of Monday night’s meeting of the Wilson County School Board in Lebanon, Tennessee, Lindsey Patrick-Wright blasted board member Joseph Padilla for proposing the policy. Patrick-Wright stood at the lectern wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Wilson County Values,” designed by her 13-year-old child, Pippy.
“If I’m not here in person, I’m watching these meetings at home with my 13-year-old that goes to Wilson County Schools and we repeatedly see our zone representative, Joe Padilla, make bigoted comments and propose discriminatory policies that target LGBTQ students and say that he’s just representing Wilson County values,” Patrick-Wright said.
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She went on to say that she created t-shirts, stickers, and buttons featuring her child’s “Wilson County Values” logo so that queer kids and their families in the county would know that the majority of the community does not support what she described as Padilla’s “bigoted” take on “Wilson County values.”
She also slammed attempts to ban books, accusing right-wing members of the community who do not have children in Wilson County schools of “cherry picking” incendiary passages chosen by anti-LGBTQ+ group Moms for Liberty to read at school board meetings. She went on to contrast what conservatives have characterized as “harmful” books with the barrage of vile anti-LGBTQ+ harassment her child has been subjected to by fellow students while attending West Wilson Middle School in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, this year.
“Where do you think these kids are hearing it from?” Patrick-Wright asked. “Not from these books.”
“The kicker is, my kid’s lucky,” she continued, addressing Padilla directly. “When they go home, they have a family that loves and supports them, a family that doesn’t believe their identity is a mental illness, Joe. Not all kids have that support at home, and you all know that. How dare you propose taking away the one lifeline that a kid might have with a trusted teacher? How dare you propose taking away the ability for a teacher to be that lifeline? Shame on you.”
As The Daily Beast reports, during the July 6 working session in which Padilla proposed the school policy requiring teachers to notify parents in writing within three days of learning that a student identifies “as a gender that does not align with a child’s sex on their birth certificate,” he compared trans and nonbinary identity to both mental illness and disciplinary issues. Only one of the six Wilson County School Board members, Carrie Pfeiffer, opposed Padilla’s proposal.
“Your colleague proposed the forced outing of trans students and only one of you stood up to him,” Patrick-Wright said at Monday’s public meeting. “These books aren’t dangerous. Your rhetoric is dangerous. Your proposed policies are dangerous. We are not asking you all to understand our kids. We are asking, we are begging you, if you will not support our queer kids, leave them alone. Shame on you. Do better, all of you.”
Later in Monday’s meeting, Padilla defended his proposed policy, again comparing trans and nonbinary identity to mental illness.
“To me, informing parents of their child having a possible mental health condition – that’s not political at all. It’s not political. I’m not outing a child to their parent. I’m informing,” he said.
Padilla’s proposed policy was up for discussion but not for a vote on Monday night. Other school board members pushed back during the discussion.
Pfeiffer, who was wearing one of Patrick-Wright’s t-shirts, once again challenged Padilla’s rhetoric. “Continuing to insist that gender nonconformity is mental illness is bigotry,” she insisted.
Dr. Beth Meyers, who represents Wilson County’s Zone 2, argued that while parents have the right to know what’s going on with their children and teachers have a responsibility to inform parents, instituting an official policy requiring teachers to out students would be a “procedural mess.”
Board of Education chair Jamie Farough added that such a policy would be unenforceable and went on to argue that it should not fall on teachers to inform parents about everything that is going on with their students and that parents themselves should take the initiative by communicating with teachers and showing up at parent-teacher conferences.
During the Monday meeting, the board also voted unanimously to remove Allison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home from school libraries, a motion proposed by Padilla.