By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com January 07 2003 12:00 AM ET
A member of the St. Charles, Mo., Francis-Howell school board is attempting to enact a new policy restricting parent chaperones to wear "gender-appropriate" clothing while on school trips, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The new policy debate was sparked after some parents complained about a father who chaperoned his fourth-grade daughter while dressing in women's clothing.The students took a trip last October to Missouri's state capital, where they learned about state history. Another chaperone found the father's presence disturbing and called several others to complain.
Officials say they were contacted the next day by a few distressed parents who felt their children should not be "exposed" to the man, who was dressed in jeans and a sweater while on the trip. Close friends of the father acknowledge that he has been attending his daughter's events dressed as a woman for almost six years.
School board member Lisa Naeger says introducing children to adult themes, such as transgenderism, is not a good idea. "I don't think it's fair to the kids or to the parents," Naeger said. "Parents have a right to make the decision about how their children are to be exposed to these issues. It's crucial that we make a stand."
Special eduction teacher Karen Finch, who attended the field trip with the father, says the ordeal has been overemphasized by some members of the community, adding that staff members at the school support the father.
"It's a free country," Finch said. "We're just a Midwestern, conservative, middle-class white neighborhood--this isn't San Francisco, you know--but the staff at the school is supportive of this man. The teachers accept him. A few parents just freaked out, and now it's blown up out of proportion."
Supporters of the father point out that the new policy might infringe on people's constitutional rights. They also remind opponents that the district has already adopted a policy where teachers may remove chaperones who distract students during field trips.
Several members of the school board as well as school administrators and teachers support the father and his right to wear whatever he chooses.
The father's name has not been released by the school district.