Activists in Evansville, Ind., caught a school board member on video appearing to dismiss their concerns about safety for LGBTQ kids.
This week, ten members of the Tri-State Alliance — a social service and educational organization serving LGBTQ communities in southeastern Illinois, southwestern Indiana, and western Kentucky — attended a board meeting of the Evansville-Vanderburgh County School Corporation to ask for greater protections for queer students.
After the meeting, the activists confronted school board members, according to posts on the group’s Facebook page.
The Tri-State Alliance says board member Ann Ennis claimed there was no support on the board for addressing suicide concerns among trans students.
On a video posted to the group’s Facebook page, Tri-State Alliance President Wally Paynter can be heard calling Ennis transphobic.
In response, the woman the group identifies as Ennis makes a gesture as if she’s playing a violin and says “cry me a river.”
“Oh, cry us a river about the kids that have died?” one group member asks. Ennis does not respond.
Ennis’ Facebook page has attracted critical comments relating to the incident, including violin emojis. Ennis did not respond to requests for comment from The Advocate; calls to the school board were not returned.
The Tri-State Alliance had hoped to urge the school board to implement policies protecting trans students.
Evansville is about three hours southwest of Indianapolis. Currently, the district bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but not on gender identity.
Current policy also requires students to use the bathroom corresponding with the gender they were assigned at birth. In June, a judge ruled that the district had violated a trans student’s rights by preventing him from using the boys’ bathroom and disciplining him if he tried.
LGBTQ students frequently report mental health concerns, often as a result of harassment or discrimination. More than half of trans and nonbinary young people have seriously considered suicide, according to the Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. Nearly 60 percent say they’ve been discouraged from using a bathroom corresponding to their gender identity, and less than half of LGBTQ respondents say they were out to an adult at school.