Utah Pride Center, ACLU respond to letter state representative sent to principals

File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 5, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Pride Center and ACLU Utah have responded after Utah Rep. Kera Birkeland reportedly sent a letter, printed on official letterhead from her state office, to Utah school principals, regarding “the transgender phenomenon.”

Birkeland (R-Morgan, District 53) sponsored H.B. 11, which bars transgender athletes who identify as female, but whose gender was assigned at birth as male, from competing on sports teams composed of females. The bill was approved, then vetoed by Gov. Spencer Cox, whose veto was then overridden.

An image of the Birkeland letter was posted to Twitter by Ashley Anderson, who is running for a spot on the Salt Lake City District school board. The letter posted also shares an “executive summary” to “Navigating the Transgender Landscape School Resource Guide” and a link to download the full guide.

The “executive summary” states that students who say they are transgender may declare “they no longer identify as their own sex, but as the opposite sex, a new made up gender,” and may demand access to “opposite-sex privacy facilities (restrooms, locker rooms)” and to compete on “opposite sex sports teams.” It adds that “Such demands have significant repercussions for all students and for girls in particular.”

Poster Anderson took issue with those messages.

It’s not okay that principals in SLCSD received this under the guise of being state guidance,” she wrote in her June 2 tweet“It doesn’t represent the guidance from USBE, the district board, or civil rights law and dishonors the start of Pride month for LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff.”

The statement by the Utah Pride Center and ACLU Utah also criticized Birkeland’s letter and the guide she linked to. The rebuttal appeared in an Instagram post issued Saturday:

“We are alarmed by the harmful and inaccurate ‘guide’ on issues around transgender students written by out-of-state lawyers and provided to Utah Principals,” the statement says.

“Spreading this guide on legislative letterhead does not make it binding on schools. We remind principals of their obligation to provide all students with a safe and nurturing environment. Principals should make well-informed policy decisions with the assistance of actual experts. We invite all schools to disregard the damaging ‘guidance’ they received and seek professional guidance on making schools safe and welcoming for transgender students.

“We remain vigilant of any further attempts to undermine the civil rights and dignity of transgender students in Utah.”

Birkeland’s only Twitter message since the letters were posted did not indicate it was directly related to the incident.

“Politics 101: What are you hearing? Is it truth or is it what you want to hear?,” she wrote, above a photo of economist Thomas Sowell with the following quote:

“When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, tell them what they want to hear.”

Images: @ashley4slcboard/Twitter; Utah Pride Center/Instagram

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