The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 9, 2013

VIDEO | Richland to mull policy

Randy Griffith

JOHNSTOWN — Eligibility for homecoming court ballot designation will be reviewed, but Richland school board leaders warned they want to consider all ramifications.

The promise for re-evaluation did not please Richland senior Kasey Caron, the transgender student who was born female but wants to be listed on the homecoming king ballots.

“I am disappointed,” Kasey told reporters after the discussion at Monday’s school board meeting.

“I thought they were going to have a change of heart. I am still hoping for one.”

Kasey’s recognition on the homecoming court was one of two controversial issues that brought about 100 people to Monday’s meeting. The second contingent wanted some answers about a new drug policy affecting athletes and others who participate in extracurricular activities.

Surrounded by several dozen supporters wearing blue, Kasey repeated his public appeal to the school board members, with additional remarks by John DeBartola, president of the Keystone Alliance-Gay Life Newsletter.

“I want to point out how important it is that as we are educating our young people, it is important that we teach them the aspect of non-hate,” DeBartola told the board. “It is important that we respect their rights of choice – the rights for them to be the person that they are.”

The school must consider the full effect of any policy change, board Solicitor Timothy Leventry said.

“There is a legal side of this issue and there is a practical side,” Leventry said after hearing from Kasey, DeBartola and other supporters. “The school board has looked at the legal side. Tonight, the practical side is coming forward.

“The board wants to fully look at these issues and take this matter under further advisement.”

Kasey said he was told he could not be listed on the male ballot because his driver’s license identifies him as female. He presented documentation showing the license has been changed.

But Leventry said the legal standard is higher, noting that there is no question Kasey is female.

“Mentally and emotionally she believes she is male,” he continued.

“The law defines whether a person is male or female. If you want to change legally to be a male in Pennsylvania, you have to have be certified by a physician who is qualified, and you have to have your birth certificate changed.”

That doesn’t mean Kasey will have to complete the legal change to be listed on the male ballot, however, Leventry said.

“Administration, based on advice of counsel, believes as a female, you have to be on the female ballot,” he said. “If the school board wishes to change that, they have the right to do that.”

Although she didn’t speak at the public meeting, Meghan McKnight of Geistown sought out The Tribune-Democrat reporter during a break to say she has a different view than Kasey’s supporters.

“No person should be excluded from the rules,” McKnight said. “I don’t want my children exposed to that type of lifestyle. It is not that I am not accepting, but some of us just believe in that.”

McKnight said she will consider putting her children in private school if Kasey is allowed to be on the male ballot.

Board President Michael Bodolosky said he expects the board to discuss the issue in executive session and make a decision in time for the Oct. 5 homecoming game. A public vote on the matter could come at the Sept. 23 meeting.

It was the same answer for those voicing opposition to the new drug policy. Bodolosky told the group board members have heard numerous concerns about the drug testing policy and will evaluate changes.

Matt and Michele Yagodich asked why students in extracurricular activities and those with parking permits are the only ones who have to agree to random drug tests.

Leventry said the groups of students are the only ones permitted under a state Supreme Court decision. Those students’ actions can put others at risk, Leventry explained.

Michele Yagodich also questioned the ramifications of false positive tests, which could exclude students from participation for 20 days until a retest is done – at the parents’ expense.

Doug and Theresa Lengenfelder asked about the administration of the testing – especially the possibility of blood testing.

Bodolosky pledged that the board’s policy committee will revisit the issue, but Leventry reminded those attending that the policy is in effect and parents must sign consent forms for their children to be eligible for activities.