The Monroe County Community School Corporation passed a resolution Tuesday in their regular meeting committed to helping LGBTQ students seek resources and support and creating policies that prohibit bullying and harassment against them.
The board heard public comments in support of resolution 2023-07, “Re-Commitment to Serving LGBTQIA+ Students,” from community members, MCCSC students and educators. The resolution was passed unanimously.
The resolution addressed anti-LGBTQ policies in the Indiana statehouse and responded to a recent incident at Bloomington High School North, which was the target of outrage and concern by community members on March 20 after social media posts began circulating of a sign posted on a teacher's classroom door.
"LITTERBOX NOW AVAILABLE IN ADAMS'S ROOM," the sign read. "ALL ANIMAL-IDENTIFYING STUDENTS WELCOME."
Photos of the sign were coupled with a photo of a litter box allegedly inside of the classroom. Bloomington North principal Matt Stark condemned the incident in an email to parents, according to the Herald-Times, and said the project was part of a social experiment by students analyzing how misinformation goes viral. The project was pre-approved by the teacher but not approved by administration. While there was no expectation for the litter box to actually be used, community members expressed concern about the possible effects.
[Related: MCCSC adopts anti-racism policy during school board meeting Feb. 28]
The incident is being investigated by MCCSC administrators.
Sam Clarke, a nonbinary student at Bloomington North who spoke during the meeting said the urban myth of schools making litter boxes available for students who identify as cats is a bizarre lie meant to call policies that protect transgender and nonbinary people into question.
"I'm speaking on behalf of myself and others who are not able to,” Clarke said. “I want to make it clear to everyone here that whatever action is taken or not taken about the situation will have a deep impact on the trans community."
Clarke said the litter box experiment spread misinformation and resulted in transgender students at North being harassed, meowed and barked at. They said teachers are expected to participate in the education and safety of their students, and it was disturbing to see the activity and spread of misinformation backed by a teacher.
Chad Landrum, a teacher at Tri-North Middle School, said as a member of the LGBTQ community he was outraged upon hearing of the litter box incident.
"My first thought was 'Here? How? Why?' and then my mind went to the LGBTQIA+ students,” Landrum said. “Don't they have enough to deal with already?"
He applauded the administration for what he said appeared to be a swift and serious response.
"The myth of the litter box in schools has been used two decades now as a transphobic dog whistle,” Landrum said. “These imaginary stories about schools being too inclusive or too supportive have been used to stir up fire towards and fear of the trans community. It saddens me to see it coming from Bloomington, but I'm glad action was taken and that we're moving forward."
Landrum said he wants to know more about how the children harmed by anti-LGBTQ actions at school are being supported and asked the district to continue to push for more resources following this amendment
"Are they being offered schedule changes, counseling, appointments, anything?" he said. "What happens when the statehouse makes it illegal to use students' preferred pronouns or preferred names? Will you protect teachers from prosecution? I think this re-commitment is a place to start, but we have to be willing to go further."
[Related: Indiana legislature passes ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth]
MCCSC board member April Hennessey said as a part of the LGBTQ community herself, she knows MCCSC still has more work to do but hopes the resolution will be a step toward making students feel heard.
MCCSC administrators said the board strongly opposes bills proposed by lawmakers such as House Bill 1608 that limit discussions on LGBTQ identities and require parents to be notified when students request name and pronoun changes, according to a press release. The Board said they want MCCSC to be a safe place for students, free of discrimination.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to specify that Clarke was meowed at.