Indiana school board member comments on gender identity spark walkout

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A non-binary student taking notes in class.(Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly's Gender Spectrum Collection)

A non-binary student taking notes in class. (Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection)

FISHERS — Students and parents walked out after Hamilton Southeastern School Board Vice President Sylvia Shepler made comments about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Indianapolis Star reported that Shepler had said “rapid onset dysphoria,” apparently referencing the decision to become gay or transgender, is often “seen in clusters” and influenced by students’ peers, social media and media in general during a meeting about a new anti-harassment and discrimination policy.

“Why wasn’t this condition acceptable in the past and is now?” she reportedly asked. Some people walked out of the meeting while others groaned at the comments. Shepler hadn’t responded to a request for comment from the Star as of Thursday afternoon.

According to the newspaper, Shepler said that she had seen studies that showed parents had said their child had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or “other underlying issues” before claiming “dysphoria.”

The school board in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis was considering adding specific identifiers to its nondiscrimination policy, including race, sex, disability, age or religion. The Star reported that the policy’s author, board member Julie Chambers, said that sex included orientation and gender identity.

The newspaper reported that the board voted 4-3 to move forward to a second reading with only some of the language: “The school corporation will not discriminate in its educational and employment activities on any basis prohibited by applicable federal or state laws.”

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