As New Law Takes Effect, Kentucky’s Largest District Prioritizes Transgender Inclusivity Trainings

School Board creates provisions counter to SB 150

As New Law Takes Effect, Kentucky’s Largest District Prioritizes Transgender Inclusivity Trainings
A teacher walks through an empty classroom during a period of Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) at Hazelwood Elementary School in Louisville, Ky., on Jan. 11, 2022. Jefferson County Public Schools, along with many other school districts in the United States, have switched to NTI in response to severe staffing shortages caused by the prevalence of the omicron variant of COVID-19. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
Masooma Haq

Kentucky recently joined other Republican majority legislatures across the U.S. to ban permanent transgender medical treatments for minors. In the wake of Kentucky passing a bill banning discussion of sexuality and gender in schools, one of the state’s largest school districts is offering a variety of transgender inclusion training to teachers.

Each month, the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS) offers its teachers professional development opportunities, including trainings from the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Poverty (DEP). Starting in September, the JCPS DEP office is offering a variety of trainings on topics like equity, diversity, and transgender inclusion, among others.

The trainings have names like LGBTQ and a Sense of Belonging, LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Classrooms, Transgender 101: Terminology and Allyship and Shared Language, and Inclusive Spaces, all in some way examine how language can be used to make gay and transgender students feel welcomed and included.

These trainings are offered each month to teachers despite the fact that Kentucky’s new law prohibits using a child’s preferred pronouns and discussing gender ideology.

“Any child, regardless of grade level, enrolled in the district does not receive any instruction or presentation that has a goal or purpose of students studying or exploring gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation,” states the SB 150.

The DEP office’s other teacher trainings include Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network; Transgender Intersectionality; Mental Health and Non-binary; Best Practices Serving LGBTQ+; Religion and Sexuality (LGBTQ+).

The trainings listed on the website are not mandatory. Adam Thomas, a JCPS teacher with an 18-year history with the district, told The Epoch Times that teachers can sign up for the ones that interest them.

Thomas also has years of experience training teachers on behavior management, in his role as a special education resource teacher. He believes that transgender trainings are a part of a larger national phenomenon.

“The big push in the culture is this acceptance of all sorts of beliefs of gender and sexuality, and so that just trickles down into states and localities in school districts,” said Thomas.

Thomas said he and most other teachers he knows are fine with these transgender-focused trainings, if it helps the students they are serving.

“We do have a lot of students who are questioning who they are,” said Thomas. He also said teachers go along with many of these trainings because they are afraid of being singled out if they object.

“Regardless, they're so worried about a confrontation either with a staff member or a student leading to some sort of accusation of a label,” as racist, homophobic, or transphobic, said Thomas.

 Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a bill signing event in Louisville, Ky., on April 9, 2021. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a bill signing event in Louisville, Ky., on April 9, 2021. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

In August, the JCPS School Board voted 5-2 to approve the provisions for how the district will implement SB 150.

The final version of the school district's transgender policies includes the disclaimer that JCPS thinks the bill is discriminatory and causes harm, along with a statement saying that it may violate Title IX protections.

In addition, the JCPS adoption of the new transgender policy includes several new provisions. The policy states that students who have an official gender dysphoria diagnosis can get an accommodation, which means they "may have a disability under Section 504 or IDEA," and can use the bathroom that matches their chosen gender.

The school board also added a provision about misgendering a student, intentional, repeated, and ongoing misgendering of a student may violate the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) Code of Ethics and constitute sexual harassment under Title IX," and the teacher may be subjected to disciplinary action by EPSB.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 150, which the Kentucky GOP turned around and overrode, saying the bill would protect children by preventing minors from accessing life-altering sex change surgery and drugs.

Meanwhile, Gov. Beshear defended the veto.

“Senate Bill 150 allows too much government interference in personal healthcare issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children,” said Gov. Beshear in his veto message (pdf).

Regardless, the Republic majority legislature overturned Mr. Beshear’s veto and passed S.B. 150 into law, making transgender procedures for minors illegal.

The law bans children younger than 18 from getting transgender treatments like puberty blockers, cross-sex hormone therapies, and surgeries.

The measure also prohibits school district staff members from using a student or teacher’s preferred pronouns and requires that students use the bathroom matching their biological sex, not their gender identity.

Masooma Haq began reporting for The Epoch Times from Pakistan in 2008. She currently covers a variety of topics including U.S. government, culture, and entertainment.