PENDLETON, Ind.—An Indiana school district fired a student counselor Thursday night for confirming and condemning the existence of a secret transgender policy that keeps parents in the dark about their children’s “gender transitions.”
Kathy McCord worked as a counselor at Pendleton Heights High School for 25 years before the school board voted unanimously to terminate her contract for speaking to the media about confidential documents that board member Buck Evans claimed were “false.”
Evans did not indicate which statements were false.
McCord previously confirmed in an interview with The Daily Signal that the school district, South Madison Community School Corporation, was using a “Gender Support Plan” to assist students in transitioning to a different gender, including calling those students by a new name and personal pronouns.
In his remarks Thursday night, Evans said:
Mrs. McCord admitted she did not tell the truth about providing Mr. Kinnett with the document or correct misleading statements within his article, although she did read it before she started. Misleading statements in The Daily Signal article, along with editing the document, enflamed the public unnecessarily. You can see on this document there is to be a meeting with the child’s parents and/or guardians. Mrs. McCord has not been dismissed because she gave the document to Mr. Kinnett, but because of untruthful statements she made to the administration.
The South Madison school district’s Gender Support Plan allows use of a student’s “old name” and pronouns with parents to keep them unaware of what is going on with their child.
Emails obtained by The Daily Signal from South Madison parents and teachers who asked to remain anonymous show that student counselors would send out notices of a student’s “gender transition” and, if the student chose, request that teachers only use the student’s “old” name and pronouns with parents:
At several school board meetings, Schools Superintendent Mark Hall has claimed that this secret transgender policy both does and doesn’t exist.
At a board meeting in December, Hall said hiding medical information from parents is required as part of the school district’s nondiscrimination policy. But the superintendent appeared to cite the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nondiscrimination Policy concerning school lunches, which appears on the district website.
Hall repeatedly has refused to provide any comment on or explanation of the secret transgender policy to The Daily Signal or any other media outlet.
Although other medical, counseling, and permission forms are located on the school district’s website, the school district’s Gender Support Plan is absent.
McCord provided a blank copy to The Daily Signal, which confirmed that the form was modeled after a similar form at Hamilton Southeastern Schools in Fishers, Indiana. Here it is:
South Madison school board members have stated both that they were aware and not aware of the policy, that it didn’t exist, and that it was approved by the board in both 2011 and 2022.
School board President Mike Hanna and his immediate predecessor, Joel Sandefur, have refused to comment to The Daily Signal concerning the discrepancies.
Former geography teacher Amanda Keegan told The Daily Signal that she resigned, in part, due to this secret transgender policy.
“When I had to look at that parent, and feel like I was lying to that parent … I was sick to my stomach. I can’t lie to parents. I can’t do that again,” Keegan said.
Parents repeatedly have shown up to voice their support for McCord. School board meetings have been standing room only in November, December, January, and February, with supporters spilling out into the hallway.
After hearing dozens of supportive testimonies and statements from parents and concerned members of the Pendleton community in November, December, and January, the school board adopted a new policy requiring all speakers to sign up before the start of a meeting. This restriction cut the number of speakers allowed at the February board meeting.
When parents gathered again March 9 at a public hearing by the school board to voice their support for McCord, attendance seemed greater than for any previous board meeting since The Daily Signal exposed the transgender policy.
Yard signs reading “Keep Kathy” have been stolen from several yards in Pendleton, and the Pendleton Police Department told The Daily Signal that it is investigating.
The South Madison school district didn’t respond to requests from local parents to move the public hearing Thursday night to a larger venue to accommodate more attendees.
“It’s despicable what this district is doing to her,” one parent, who held a sign saying “We Support Kathy,” told The Daily Signal on March 2. “Everyone in Pendleton loves Kathy [McCord] to death.”
“She shouldn’t be fired for telling parents what Hall doesn’t want us to know,” the parent added, referring to the superintendent of schools.
Two South Madison teachers, saying they wished to remain anonymous for fear of also being fired, told The Daily Signal on March 1 that they plan to leave the school district at the end of the year to work elsewhere.
“I’m not going to keep secrets from parents for some power-hungry a——,” one teacher said. “I just want to teach.”
In late February, the Indiana House passed HB 1608, a bill that would require schools to receive parental permission before using a different name or pronouns for any student.
No state or federal law or ruling appears to give a public school in Indiana the ability to implement any kind of medical or social and emotional learning plan without informing the parent or custodial guardian of the child in question.
The federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act requires schools to grant a parent access to any part of a student’s record.
McCord did not provide a statement to The Daily Signal by publication time.
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