GUEST POST: Eric Moore’s Ideas About Students and Teachers Destructive, Hateful, and Beyond Absurd

Miles City, MontanaMiles City, Montana

by Morgan Pett

Morgan Pett teaches science at Custer County High School in Miles City, which is in Sen. Moore’s district

I am writing to make it clear to any transgender students that may come into my classes, that I am not afraid of having you in my classroom. My sense of my own sexuality is not under threat from you. The safety of both the male and female students in my classes in not under threat from you. You and your parents should know that the idea that was recently submitted as a “Guest Opinion” by State Senator Eric Moore to the Billings Gazette, that the students and teachers of the public schools of Montana and the United States are not capable of finding a place for you is destructive, hateful, and beyond the levels of absurdity that we should have to put up with in 2016.

In his most recent letter Sen. Moore put forth a position that the most recent action by President Obama, interpreting current law regarding the civil rights of students in public schools as meaning that transgender students can use the bathroom of their identified gender, put at risk not only every female student in every school in America but also the fabric of of our country. Ignoring the obvious fact that it is the job of the executive branch to interpret and implement the law, Sen. Moore’s childishly peevish way of name calling the President should be beneath our elected representatives. This political cycle has seen a degradation of the way we refer to people of opposing viewpoints and Sen. Moore seems to have no problem taking advantage of the moment. His way of describing our elected representatives would not be tolerated if the President was a member of his own party, so he should not engage in it himself.

I’ve spoken with Sen. Moore and know him to be an intelligent man, so I must assume that his argument is based more on the cynical view of politics that seeks a wedge issue to drive turnout in elections rather than on a view of LGBTQ issues that is grossly ignorant of the facts.

Based on his Op-Ed, Sen. Moore seems to also have a very low opinion of public school teachers. He believes we are so stupid that we would not be able to create a nuanced process that helps a transitioning student get the respect they deserve while also preventing the unlikely event of a student trying to take advantage of a school policy. He seems to believe that instead we would simply allow a student to walk in one morning, say that they are a new gender today and be allowed instant access to locker rooms or bathrooms of the formerly opposite gender. While I do not speak for my school or the district, and so cannot speak to the exact form that procedures would take here, in districts that have formal rules the process of officially changing a person’s gender identity is not simple procedure. It it involves conversations between student, administrators, parents and teachers. Just as the process of changing one’s gender outside of school is not a decision that people make capriciously, neither is that process in a public school. It is also not the disrespectful process that Sen. Moore describes, where a student would be asked to strip in front of anyone. Sen. Moore insists that transgender students strip away a part of who they are and fit into a box that he prescribes to them.

Among the most troubling of boxes that Sen. Moore seems to want to assign to people, are those that he has constructed for teenage boys. Sen. Moore portrays the situation as one where the passions of teenage boys are so uncontrollable that they could be expected at any moment to try and walk into any bathroom and rape someone. Ignoring the fact that aside from having a toilet, bathrooms are the same as every other room, his argument begs several questions. Are our young men not capable of learning to respect and value members of the opposite sex? Does Sen. Moore think that young men should not be expected to control themselves all the time? Does all of the responsibility to rebut unwarranted sexual advances rest on the girls? This is the kind of viewpoint that perpetuates climates where sexual harassment is common and 43% of women will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes (National Sexual Violence Resource Center). In his view young men are not capable of controlling themselves and are simply looking for any opportunity they can to get into a bathroom so they can be with a member of the opposite sex. In the world as presented by Sen. Moore, the only thing people do in bathrooms is stand around and look at each others’ genitals.

Sen. Moore asks what stress the act of making decisions about transgender students puts on me as a teacher. He may be shocked that the answer is none. In fact, it gives me a sense of security that when I need to help protect vulnerable students, students going through some of the most difficult decision making of their lives, that I have the law on my side. He argues that we should take that protection away. He argues that these students who are already marginalized should not be sent a message of compassion and tolerance, but one of fearful division.  He argues civil protections for individuals should extend only until someone can imagine a scenario where those protections could be misused, no matter how absurd or far-fetched. He also seems to live in a world where teenagers are so unsophisticated as to be unable to handle discussions of sexuality in mature ways that include respect for all. Sometimes people sit on the wrong side of history. Laws that outlawed blacks and whites using the same bathrooms fell. Laws that prevented interracial marriage, under the guise of protecting women, fell. Laws that prevented the LGBTQ community from being given the respect they deserve fell.

I would ask Sen. Moore to reconsider and not support any legislation that would oppose the Obama administration’s interpretation of this law. But even if he does not reconsider his Quixotic mission against the tide of history, I want to make it very clear that in my classroom everyone will be treated with the respect that they deserve as students and human beings. The mission of the public schools is to provide a place for everyone to feel safe and gain an education that will help them to succeed. Why would we treat transitioning students any differently?

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13 Comments on "GUEST POST: Eric Moore’s Ideas About Students and Teachers Destructive, Hateful, and Beyond Absurd"

  1. Thank you.

  2. Geoff Badenoch | May 25, 2016 9:32 PM at 9:32 PM |

    See? This is why I respect teachers. Part passion, part reason, part caring–just the mix our children should be entrusted to.

  3. Well said. Thank you for articulating what many of us believe.

  4. Richard Miller | May 26, 2016 8:15 AM at 8:15 AM |

    I asked my 17 year old grandson about this issue. His comment was and it is very accurate: “It is you adults that have a problem with this, not us kids.” Perhaps we should start this conversation by listening to our kids rather than a bunch of uptight sexually repressed idiots.
    Thank you teachers for your dedication to children and putting their futures first.

    • Well said, Richard. Each younger generation has a history – even an obligation – to examine and question the previous generation’s facts and foibles, and make up their own minds about what is, and should be, important to themselves and to the world they’ll have to inherit. It has always been thus, and that’s the way it should be, in spite of their parents’ fear of change and the unknown. It’s a healthy thing, and insures progress for our society and for the world.

      This latest generation is making grand progress in dismissing the remnants of many of their parents’ fears and prejudices, and I applaud their doing so.

      The younger generation is carrying on a grand tradition of thumbing their noses at our outdated mindsets – fear of LGBT differences, reliance on planet-killing fuels and pesticides, and other things important for insuring their own survival – something that many of our generation have been failing miserably at doing FOR them. It’s no coincidence that they’re rejecting, in droves, Trump’s fascist jingoism as well as Clinton’s 1% corporatism in favor of a more caring system as described by Bernie Sanders.

      The younger generation has turned off Faux News, and turned on to making up their own minds and – if it’s not already too late – will succeed where we have failed in making the world a better place for themselves and, coincidentally but fortunately, for us as well. We should get out of their way and let ’em do it.

  5. Jean & Floyd Dahlman | May 26, 2016 10:10 AM at 10:10 AM |

    We applaud Morgan Pett’s excellent LTE…. but
    Need to add that” Miles City High School” does not exist.
    It has always been Custer County (District) High School.
    A former cowgirl and cowboy.

  6. Dale Stewart of Dillon is running for senate district 36. Last year he led the fight against a nondiscrimination ordinance. He packed the city hall chamber with people from his church, who were uniformly homophobic. A big part of his argument was the men-in-women’s-bathrooms fantasy.

    He doesn’t seem to be campaigning on homophobia, but he should definitely give it a try. Maybe the voters of Madison and Beaverhead counties will reward bigotry the way Dillon’s city council did.

  7. Dale Stewart might not be homophobic, but he lives his life a lot like the Bundy co-heart that got shot by the FBI in the Maher/Bundy escapaide. Dales the kind of guy who wants to drown state and federal government in the bathtub. take away help for older folk and children while still snatching a lot of money for fostering 5 kids, from state and federal government.

    its okay if he gets money, but not okay for anyone else?

    Then there is the complaints I have heard from the river guides and their employees that Dale is just letting those kids at his bible camp onto the water without proper training about how to use boats. Thank goodness most parts of the Beaverhead there are not to swift or deep, a child can stand up in the river after he crashes into river guided tours and flips his canoe. I am just waiting to hear how a child drowned at his camp because chuldren didn’t have an Idea how to row.

    No thank you Ill take Jeff Welborn any day of the week. You sit down with him on any issue you know is gonna come to the house. and he will listen and help. We dont need a male version of Debbie Barrett!

  8. I really don’t understand why conservatives are so hung up on bathrooms and sexuality. In my 60 some-odd years on the planet I only recall a few transgressions in bathrooms and lorckerrooms and they were all conservatives. I guess they’re so paranoid because they have these barely controlled urges and feel this will push them over the edge? I think they all need some Conversion Therapy to convert them to compassionate humans-or civilians NOT in government office, one or the other.

  9. I also don’t agree with some very specific comments made by State Sen. Frederick “Eric” Moore, R-Miles City — Senate District 19.

    “… the most recent (of many) executive orders by President Obama now dictates that if a boy wants in the girls’ locker room with our daughters, we as parents, trustees and teachers are powerless to stop it, less we risk the federal blackmail of the loss of much-needed funds.” … “King Obama waves his scepter and expects his will shall be carried throughout the land.”

    1 ] President Obama did not issue an executive order.
    2 ] The Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and its implementing regulations prohibit sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance. Federal Guidance on this issue is appropriate.

    QUESTION:
    IS IT APPROPRIATE – for the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Education to issue GUIDANCE regarding the 1972 law and with respect to GENDER ISSUES at the forefront of today’s political issues?

    YES. Criticism of “guidance” letters such as this is expected. We should criticize our government. Criticism on this particular issue should be forthcoming from lawmakers and administrators and government officials of every political stripe.

    Ignorance and misinformation are not welcome.

    The Letter from DOJ / DOEduc provides carefully considered guidance; and if you are a legislator or a school administrator or a public official… You need to read the damned thing ! Plenty of time then to Trump our mouths off.

    Representative Democracy at the State level – is not a spectator sport. That goes DOUBLE for State legislators.

    May 13, 2016 — The “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” — jointly issued from Department of Justice and Department of Education.

    https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/850986/download

    What did the Letter from DOE / DoEdu actually say?

    In response to increasing questions from parents, teachers, principals, and school superintendents about civil rights protections under Title IX sex discrimination:

    The ” letter summarizes a school’s Title IX obligations regarding transgender students and explains how the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) evaluate a school’s compliance with these obligations. ED and DOJ (the Departments ) have determined that this letter is significant guidance. The guidance does not add requirements to applicable law, but provides information and examples to inform recipients about how the Departments evaluate whether covered entities are complying with their legal obligations.”

    Examples of inappropriate responses from States:

    1 ] “Ignore the guidance” — Republican Governor Ricketts of Nebraska
    2 ] “This is another Obama Executive Order – Government Overreach – Big Government telling us what to do”
    3 ] Sue the Federal Government before carefully considering State responsibilities under Title IX – a knee-jerk lawsuit

  10. Thank you, ALL. I learned more from this posted LTE and the follow-up comments about this topic than I have since all the bathroom law stuff started.

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