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Parents raise concerns about gender support policy at New Prairie schools

Gender support plan in Indiana sparking controversy, concern
Gender support plan in Indiana sparking controversy, concern 01:07

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A new support plan for students who identify as transgender or nonbinary is creating an uproar for many parents in LaPorte County, Indiana.

Emotions were high at a recent school board meeting for the New Prairie United School Corporation.

Under the district's gender support plan, students in kindergarten through 12th grade who identify as transgender or nonbinary can sign documents informing their school of their preferred identity, which would not have to be disclosed to parents or guardians.

The policy also allows students to access to restrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identity.

The plan was first introduced at a school board meeting in August.

But some parents are upset, saying the policy allows the district to withhold information about their children.

"There is a way to protect these kids, and love them, and care for them through these issues that they might be dealing with, without putting everyone else at risk, and without further abusing them by buying in to whatever their confusion is," said New Prairie parent Joe Emerick.

The district's superintendent has said fewer than 1% of New Prairie students have identified as transgender. He also said studies have shown transgender students are four times more likely to die by suicide.

Backers of the plan have said that's why it's important to provide transgender students with the proper support.

"Gender-affirming language and environments is suicide prevention. As children are growing and becoming who they are, we want to give them the opportunity to thrive and feel full of life, not hopeless," said social worker Erin Jenkins.

District officials have said, to ensure safety, they will be installing privacy stalls around all restrooms and urinals in every bathroom from kindergarten to 12th grade.

School officials also say there will be consistent discipline for any student that makes fun of other students, and for those who fake gender identity to access a restroom.

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