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Stokes and Abbotts Suppress Information Prior to the School Board Election
They must be held accountable if we win control of the Board
On August 1, I reported that HSE Schools ran a secret gender transition support program. In this program, the district would work with students on transgender issues while keeping secrets from their parents. For example, they would provide a social worker to counsel students on transgender issues, while requiring staff to keep this from parents, stating that “staff should not disclose info that reveals a student’s transgender status unless allowed by gender support plan.” The district also required that “parents are not notified unless outlined in gender support plan” when they begin granting the student access to opposite-gender facilities such as locker rooms and restrooms.
When I reported this information, I could not provide you with all of my evidence—which was absolutely sufficient to conclude that the story was true—without exposing my anonymous sources. So I subsequently continued investigating to find independent evidence that I could report publicly.
Six weeks ago, on September 20, my investigation led me to submit a public records request that I believed would provide such independent evidence. The request was for a single email from Fall Creek Junior High Principal Stacey Swan, as well as an attachment to that email.
The email was addressed to staff who worked with a student who had expressed a desire to transition. My request provided the date, sender, recipient, and language in the email. I felt that six weeks was an unreasonable amount of time to wait for a single email that had been so specifically identified. So I emailed HSE Superintendent Dr. Stokes, and I copied Emily Abbotts, the “Director of School and Community Relations,” who is charged with handling these requests. In the email, I noted that, unless they fulfilled my public records request, I planned to inform the public that they were suppressing information prior to the election.
They responded by finally sending me the email from Principal Stacey Swan, but omitting the attachment to that email. Here’s the email they provided:
Thank you for meeting this morning. Attached is the powerpoint as promised. Again, our school attorney is Church, Church, Hittle and Antrim. Our Equity Coach is Nataki Pettigrew and our Title IX Coordinator is Ryan Taylor. They are great resources if you have additional questions. There is also language in Board Policy and the Teacher Handbook that provides guidance as well. Please let me know if you have other questions. If you do have questions, please ask them in person.
Note that Ms. Swan wanted questions asked only in person rather than by email. Emails are of course subject to public records requests.
The attachment mentioned in the email is called “Gender Support Guidelines”. It is the file that I shared in my previous report, which tells district employees to keep secrets from parents as they develop a plan to help students transition to a different gender, use restrooms and locker rooms of their new gender, and stay with children of their new gender on overnight trips. And if they weren’t planning on telling the parents of the transitioning child, you can be sure that they weren’t going to tell you that your daughter might be changing in a locker room, or spending the night, with a student who is biologically male.
Dr. Stokes and Ms. Abbotts are choosing to withhold this attachment. I believe this is because they know it would affect the election.
I followed up letting them know that it was absurd that they chose to withhold this attachment. I also asked them to comment on the contents of the document—something they have now repeatedly refused to do. They have not responded.
Early voting is going on now, and November 8 is Election Day.
If our candidates win, let’s ask them to investigate this suppression of information, and to address the fact that keeping secrets from parents on these kinds of topics is evil.
Those who participated in this darkness, from the secret counseling to the cover-up, must be held accountable. They have broken faith with the public and can no longer be trusted with our children.
See Swan’s email for yourself here (I redacted the names of recipients):
Update (11-26-2022): HSE finally fulfilled my public records request for the attachment. They waited until after the election to provide it, and sent it only after I threatened to submit a complaint to the public access counselor.
Here is the email from HSE providing the document:
Here is a pdf of the ppt file that was attached to that email:
As reported, HSE was pursuing a policy of, in some cases, keeping secrets about the mental health of junior high school students from their parents. Staff involved in this situation must be held accountable by the new school board.