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In a recent meeting of the Westford School Committee, Chris Saunders motioned that the committee vote in favor of ballot question #3 to preserve the so-called “Transgender Law.” He told the committee that preserving this law is critical to protect a particularly vulnerable group of kids in Westford Schools. I am deeply troubled by the assumption behind this motion.
The transgender issue is contentious and has become a political issue, with some believing we must reinforce gender dystopia and others believing it to be harmful. That’s a useful debate to have, it’s unfortunate it has become a partisan issue. In reference to school children the two sides disagree on how to help our kids, but both groups surely do want to help; the debate is about the proper method to ensure healthy and whole kids who feel accepted in our community; not just one group of vulnerable kids, but all of our kids.
The premise of Saunders assertion that I find deeply troubling is that we, as a community, are unable to protect a vulnerable group of kids unless there exists the force of law — that without a law these kids are in constant danger from their friends and mentors and teachers. And perhaps more importantly, without this law the courtesy that enables civilization will disappear and kids on the margin will either be crushed or be radicalized to fight back. I don’t believe that is true, not here. I strongly believe we are better than that.
Requiring a law indicates we are powerless without help from the state. Either we are unable to protect this group without authoritarian intervention, or we are unwilling to find common ground with our friends and neighbors to solve an issue so we need an outside authority to tell us what to do. I have lived in Westford for more than 20 years, and “helpless” is not how I would describe our community.
Westford, like many communities in the Merrimack Valley, has done well for hundreds of years and been through many difficult situations, I believe we are up to the task of protecting our own kids.
There are always vulnerable groups of kids and most of them don’t have support from powerful political movements. Meeting their needs and helping them become well adjusted members of our community is something we all have a stake in. The schools cannot become surrogates for parents, but they can certainly ensure the safety of all kids and encourage civil behavior towards all. Having a law on the books does not relieve us of this responsibility, and in fact may make it harder to provide for the safety and well being of all of our kids.
Please, vote your conscience on ballot question #3. But have a little faith in the parents, friends, and teachers of your town.