Guest post by Brad Seamer
Over the course of my administration career I have learned that my political views and personal beliefs come second to the needs of my students. Twenty-plus years in education have taught me that every student is unique, and each student carries with them a personal story that defines them. For teachers and principals to be successful in their jobs they must learn these stories and use this information to provide the best learning experience possible for all of their students.
Students should be able to enter school free of judgment from school officials and their peers. Acceptance for who they are or who they are trying to become is what all students want from us. Adolescence is difficult journey for young people, and is especially difficult for our gay, lesbian, and transgender students. Many of these students just want to find their place among their peers and be accepted for who they are. They are not seeking special treatment and simply want the same educational experience as their peers.
I was very excited to see South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard veto legislation requiring transgender students to use the same bathroom/locker room as the sex identified on their birth certificate. This piece of legislation was not brought forth by the education community in South Dakota, and I was not aware of any South Dakota principal supporting this law. This harmful legislation was attempting to solve a problem that does not yet exist in our state and would only serve to bring hardship to the transgender community living within our borders. Not only is this law harmful to students, it also would have placed school officials in a difficult position when trying to meet the needs of all of the young people being served in our schools.
I was pleased to see that our governor trusted the judgment of the dedicated people working in our schools to let them work with the individual students in their schools. The governor agreed that having respectful conversations between our transgender students and their families is the best approach in deciding what the right solution is to meet their unique needs. His veto put local control back into our schools and will let principals continue their work serving all students in South Dakota.
It is possible to find suitable arrangements that make all students comfortable using the bathrooms and locker rooms in our schools. Now is not the time to assume the worst and overreact to ultra-conservative political views that are not in the best interest of our kids. It is time to accept that our society is changing, and it is our job to stay focused on the needs of the students and not on our own political will. Thank you Governor Daugaard for displaying thoughtful and respectful leadership that rises above party rhetoric and restores faith in government. It is time that more politicians follow his example and serve all of our children, not the just the ones they feel comfortable with.
Brad Seamer serves on the NASSP Board of Directors and is the secondary principal of McCook Central Schools in Salem, SD.