Last Thursday, the school board at Fairfax County School Public Schools (FCPS) voted 8-4 to increase penalties for students who misgender or “dead-name” transgender-identifying students. This will now be classified as “discriminatory harassment,” which means offenders “could face weeks-long suspensions and referrals to local law enforcement,” according to the Washington Examiner.
The most charitable interpretation anyone could make of this move is that the school board is trying to cultivate a kinder environment by removing hateful language and attitudes from campuses. This would allow transgender students and their allies to feel safer and happier while those who oppose transgenderism have an opportunity to reflect on their intolerance and make better choices.
However, like most leftist gimmicks in education, all of this is based on false premises and will only create more dysfunction in an already dysfunctional school system. Specifically, there are three major problems with this new policy, two of them concern the idea behind it while the third has to do with its implementation.
Not an Expression of Hate
The first problem is that the school board conflates the refusal to accommodate a transgender student with an expression of hate. However, the two things are completely different. In the case of accommodating transgender classmates, a student is refusing to betray his own senses and reason to conform to the classmate’s fabricated reality; in the case of expressing hate, a student is actively seeking to harm and demean a classmate with hateful language.
Of course, the usual rebuttal to this is asking what the big deal is. After all, if objective reality (otherwise known as truth) is as relative and meaningless as transgender activists suggest, then why not humor people who live by a different truth? Professor Patrick Grzanka’s defensive interview with Matt Walsh in “What Is a Woman?” reflects this sentiment perfectly, as he asserts, “You keep invoking the word ‘truth,’ which is condescending and rude.”
On the contrary, it’s the exact opposite. Forcing someone to abide by another person’s arbitrary truth is “condescending and rude.” Empowered by the school faculty, trans-identifying students in FCPS can force every other student to lie and go along with the delusion. This isn’t much different from a big kid putting a smaller kid in a headlock and asking him to say “uncle,” and if he doesn’t — in this case, he will face severe consequences from a school administrator.
Is Transgender Identity on Par with Race and Sex?
This brings up another more fundamental problem with FCPS’s new policy: how should one properly view transgenderism? Is it really fair or accurate to say that transgender identity is on par with one’s race or sex? Shouldn’t it matter that race and sex are based on biology while transgenderism is based on feelings?
It most definitely matters because sometimes people’s feelings can be wrong, and if those feelings aren’t corrected by reason, they can become harmful. Researcher Jared Eckert argues this point in The American Conservative with the example from two decades ago of young people suddenly developing Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID), the belief that there is something wrong with one’s body.
They would go online and read blog posts about others seeking to amputate healthy limbs because they felt like they didn’t belong — and then these young people started feeling it too. The same thing happened with young people developing eating disorders because they felt like they were overweight.
Fortunately, as Eckert explains, social media platforms censored material that promoted these disorders because of the harm it was doing to young people. Unfortunately, in the case of transgenderism, censorship goes the other way — anyone who dares to question the idea that feeling like a woman makes one a woman will be censored. It’s the equivalent of punishing people who tell an anorexic woman she’s not fat, or an able-bodied man that he shouldn’t dismember himself.
Finally, there’s the problem of implementing and enforcing FCPS’s new rule. It’s all fine and well for district leadership to virtue signal on the issue of transgenderism, but this becomes incredibly burdensome when faculties are tasked with disciplining kids who use “he” instead of “she” with their newly transitioned classmates. Already, administrators and teachers are stretched thin with current problems that have arisen because of the school shutdowns, but the FCPS school board thinks it wise to add another thing to their plate.
Like any other hate speech measure, it’s more than likely that the students who will be punished will be from conservative Christian families who oppose transgenderism. Considering that these are the parents who regularly protest the school board’s incompetence and woke politics, it’s entirely possible to see the school board retaliate by threatening to punish their children under the pretext of promoting a more tolerant environment.
In other words, this could be another instance of cancel culture. Instead of deplatforming users online, dissenting students at school will now be suspended and possibly charged with a crime. To make this even worse, families in Fairfax County who lack the resources to pay for private school or to homeschool will be forced to comply, because public schools continue to have a monopoly over K-12 education and charter schools are discouraged in Virginia.
Hopefully, parents can appeal this decision since it clearly infringes on students’ first amendment rights. While school leaders have the authority to prohibit certain kinds of speech (such as profanity or obscenity), they cannot compel students to violate their conscience by accommodating transgenderism. They are entitled to their views just as much as transgender students are entitled to theirs.