Locals press School Board to protect transgender students

A local transgender teen’s father has asked the board to look at policies and procedures.

Locals turned their backs during the board meeting when a pastor took the mic and belittled a transgender teen. Photo by Jonathan Simmons
Locals turned their backs during the board meeting when a pastor took the mic and belittled a transgender teen. Photo by Jonathan Simmons
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Locals rallied at a Jan. 21 School Board meeting to support a local transgender boy, urging the board to enact policies to protect trans students. A group of meeting attendees simultaneously stood and turned their backs, facing the rear of the board chambers, to support the teen when a local pastor took the mic during the meeting’s public comment period and began to belittle the teen and denounce what the pastor called “transgender ideology.” 

About a dozen other people spoke — all in support of transgender students.

A handful of people had attended the meeting in order to support the teen and his father, Randy Bertrand, but other meeting attendees who spoke about trans issues during the meeting said they hadn’t planned to speak, but were moved to do so after hearing others’ comments. 

Bertrand has attended the last several board meetings to press the board to develop policies and procedures supporting transgender students’ rights.

His son recently transferred to Flagler Palm Coast High School after a teacher at Matanzas had resisted using his new name.

Entering the building, meeting attendees had passed by the pastor, Charlene Cothran of Zion Baptist Church, who was standing outside with a sign that said, “I stopped lying to myself” and passing out handouts that said that children who experience “gender confusion” need spiritual guidance, not gender transition. 

She’d spoken at a previous meeting after Bertrand had appealed to the board. She identified herself as a former lesbian and said that the boy and his father were “confused,” and she called the boy a “beautiful girl.” 

When she addressed the board Jan. 21 and again called the boy a girl, board member Colleen Conklin stopped her, and the board instructed her not to speak about an individual student.

Jennifer Bertrand, Randy Bertrand’s wife, said her son has felt much more supported since his transfer to FPC. But, she added, “Our ultimate goal is still for the county, the board, the district to adopt procedures.” 

The teen said that support from teachers, in particular, is critical for many trans students.

“They’re the people we see the most, besides our friends, and that support is so important,” he said.

Conklin said she believes the district's policies already cover everyone, but that the board could look into its procedures and training and should be prioritizing student safety.

Abbey Cooke, a sixth grade teacher at Belle Terre Elementary School, said she had been upset to hear that the actions of a teacher had led to a student feeling unsupported.  

“The fact that a teacher can do that and have no repercussions is the problem, not that the teacher did it,” she said. “The fact that that child had to go home, had to transfer schools to get a fair shake, literally sickens me.”

Savanna Dacosta, a junior at FPC, said that trans rights at school are “not a political or religious issue. This is a human issue, and it is also a safety issue.”


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