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Idaho School Board Meeting Erupts in Chaos Over LGBTQ-Inclusive Policy

Senator Chris Trakel and Caldwell School Board
Senator Chris Trakel speaks before the Caldwell School Board

Several residents of Caldwell, Idaho, said the policy would go against God's laws, and a state senator threatened board members with litigation.

A school board meeting in Idaho to consider an LGBTQ-supportive policy devolved into chaos Monday night after a state senator threatened board members with litigation.

The Caldwell School Board presented a draft of the policy for public comment. It uses language from the Idaho School Boards Association and is one of 22 policies under consideration, Idaho Ed News reports. But it was the LGBTQ+ policy that attracted the most attention.

It would allow students to use the restrooms and locker rooms aligning with their gender identity, assure they would be addressed by their preferred pronouns, protect the privacy of their personal information, and assure their right to participate in overnight trips, dances, or other activities without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The meeting drew an overflow crowd, with about 90 people packing the board room and more standing outside. The public comment period quickly became unruly, with most of the commenters speaking against the LGBTQ+ policy and many "speaking out of turn and yelling at the board," TV station KTVB reports. "At one point when three Caldwell students went up to speak in succession, people began complaining."

Those three supported the policy, while one other student opposed it. One of the supportive students, Nicholas Mendez, offered this comment, according to Idaho Ed News: "We should be fighting for the rights of all people, even people that are different from yourself. Allowing LGBTQ+ students to use a bathroom that fits with their gender, be treated how they want to be treated, and be shown basic respect is not something I should be standing here fighting for. That should be something that is already established."

Many of the adults who spoke said the policy would endanger children, go against their religious principles and the will of God, and even "hasten the destruction of the United States," KTVB reports.

"Imagine you are a young female, shy and feeling awkward about your growing body ... and your school has allowed a biological male to undress in the same locker room as you, exposing all his parts to you," Brittany Gish said, according to Idaho Ed News. "How incredibly uncomfortable." It's unclear how the board responded, but most schools with inclusive policies have privacy measures in place.

Another commenter, Brian Festa, who has a son in the Caldwell schools, said that allowing the use of students' preferred pronouns would amount to teaching "a religious belief that is in opposition to my own beliefs."

The meeting got completely out of control when Sen. Chris Trakel, a Republican who represents Caldwell (the city is near Boise), began speaking. He said he was speaking in his official capacity and that the policy would endanger students' "moral health and safety."

"You will face litigation ... You call that a threat, I'm telling you that is what will happen," he said, according to KTVB. "It's already happened in several states and there's already been rulings on it. So before you waste taxpayer money, before you put a kid in harm's way, you better throw this policy out."

Board Chair Marisela Pesina tried to respond, but Trakel said he had the floor and continued speaking. She then moved for a recess, but he still wouldn't stop. Other board members then moved to adjourn the meeting, and then "the room exploded into commotion," KTVB reports. Attendees yelled and booed at board members and called them names. Police shielded the board as the crowd left the room.

Board Vice Chair Travis Manning denounced Trakel in a Tuesday tweet.

Caldwell School District spokesperson Jessica Watts gave a statement to Idaho Ed News, saying, "It was disappointing that some attending refused to follow the rules, which prevented others from sharing their thoughts with the Board. Caldwell School District welcomes and encourages feedback on its work. What we do not welcome are those who refuse to follow the steps necessary for a civil, courteous, and respectful environment for that feedback to occur."

"We will be working with the Board Chair and Trustees to identify the next steps in gathering feedback from the community on this policy," Watts added.

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