In the small town of Elida, Ohio, a transphobic group called Elida Parents Against Bathroom Policy has successfully persuaded residents to vote against a $300,000 school-rebuilding levy because the school board refuses to prohibit transgender students from using the bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The campaign conducted by the group involved spreading false information and fear-mongering about transgender students, referring to the school’s pro-trans policy as “demonic” and propagating stories about students behaving like animals in school.
The organization created a private Facebook page in February, claiming that the Elida School Board was implementing federal standards set by President Joe Biden, which require schools to allow transgender children to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. The group argued that allowing trans bathroom use could lead to dangerous situations and claimed that many schools and states were not following this policy.
The Elida Parents Against Bathroom Policy
The group distributed leaflets in the community, raising concerns about the school’s bathroom policy and accusing parents and the community of being kept in the dark about what goes on inside the schools. They urged voters to reject the $300,000 school improvement tax levy and invited them to join their secret Facebook group, which had over 1,500 members as of May 10.
Within the secret Facebook group, members made derogatory and discriminatory remarks, referring to transgender identity as a mental illness and suggesting that trans students should wear diapers if they want to feel different. Some parents even encouraged their children to engage in violence against transgender students. The group shared misleading information from sources known for spreading anti-vaccination propaganda and scaremongering stories about gender-affirming care.
Members of the group attended a presentation sponsored by The Church at Allentown to prepare for the school board meeting on April 18. During the meeting, speakers expressed their opposition to the school’s policy, using language that demonized transgender identity and claimed it was harmful to children. Some even made threats or suggested indecent behavior to make their point.
ELIDA SCHOOL BOARD
The Elida School Board clarified at the meeting that their policy on transgender bathroom accommodations is determined on a case-by-case basis, ensuring equal access for all students while considering their safety, comfort, and privacy. The board provided informative material but faced significant opposition from attendees who held extremist views.
The Elida Local School District has approximately 2,117 students, and if they lose federal funding for failing to comply with transgender-inclusive policies, the district could face a loss of more than $2.5 million. Despite the potential consequences, some attendees expressed their willingness to forego federal funds to prevent transgender students from using the bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
The Elida Parents Against Bathroom Policy group is regarded by opponents as a solution in search of a problem. The town of Elida, predominantly consisting of maize and soybean fields, has a limited number of transgender students, and there have been no reported incidents related to bathroom use. However, the group is now considering recalling the school board members or supporting candidates against them in the upcoming election.
This situation in Elida reflects a broader trend of “parents’ rights” organizations emerging across the country, opposing transgender bathroom access and LGBTQ+-inclusive policies in schools. Similar strategies to the Elida group have been used, causing potential harm to LGBTQ+ students in various communities.
In early May, local voters in Elida rejected a school levy that would have provided funds for necessary school maintenance and improvements. The debate surrounding the school’s bathroom policy played a role in this decision. The district may now face financial challenges, such as suspending bus purchases and improvements to school technology and safety measures.
Despite the opposition, community members like Arienne Childrey, a local trans woman who founded Northwest Ohio Trans Advocacy, are determined to shed light on the tactics of the parents’ group. Supporters like Jesse Francis, a
local gay man, have also attended school board meetings to advocate for trans students. They recognize the importance of providing support and standing up for marginalized individuals, even if it means traveling from neighboring towns.
It is crucial to address these discriminatory campaigns and ensure that all students feel safe, supported, and included in educational environments. By challenging misinformation and promoting understanding and acceptance, communities can foster a more inclusive and compassionate society for everyone, regardless of their gender identity.