Rupert Howell column 3-1-13

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 1, 2013

Gender, e-mail, Facebook create ‘perfect storm’

If you didn’t see it coming then you have your head in the sand or at least haven’t been paying attention.

I’m talking about a trans-gender student in South Panola High School trying to not break the school district’s dress code.

The student wants to get a sex change. “The first step in that is really to start dressing according to your gender and today (Monday) was about going to school and being able to be the person that she is,” Mississippi ACLU Legal Director Bear Atwood was reported as saying.

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It’s a two-year process, according to interim superintendent Mike Foster, who is school superintendent until July 1.

And the “process” started a few weeks after Foster was instructed by his school board to study the dress code and school uniforms—an issue that may have come closer to reality with this week’s local controversy.

Foster and school board attorney Colmon Mitchell said after rulings in similar cases, at least one in nearby Itawamba County, the outcome of a challenge of the school’s dress code would be in favor of the ACLU.
Actually, this battle was over years ago. The U.S. government started pumping money into school districts in the 1960s and ‘70s. Soon, we were addicted and could no longer manage without it.

Render unto Caesar

At that point we virtually left local and state control and were forced to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s: submission to the federal government.

Schools consolidated and integrated, but much of the local control was lost and the federal government could not only demand its laws and rules be applied, it then had means to enforce them.

E-mail issue

In the same manner, a recent e-mail circulated to advise school staff and administrators not to use Christian references in school e-mail and communications is again about using Caesar’s computers for personal and/or religious use.

Other Mississippi schools are also facing the issue following a recent state superintendents’ meeting where participants were warned that the ACLU is keeping an eye on this and will hold staff members across the board responsible.

Most likely, not one school board member or administrator would want to go against a prayer request from or for a staff member, but by allowing the acting superintendent to follow the law with an administrative action, a costly legal war may be averted over a battle that has long ago been fought.

In the meantime let’s not forget that there is a teenager, still a child in my book, at the forefront. That child deserves an opportunity for life without being harassed or having to live in fear.