By ELLIE DEGEORGE and LAUREN CHIPDEY
On June 6, 2022, the Board of Education voted against adopting the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Student Policy. In response, three months after the vote, board member Nick Kapoor sent out his letter of resignation.
“There was a lot of good stuff in there…There was stuff about dress code, bathroom usage, there were items about…overnight field trips, and there was a student who was transgender, how to think about room assignments, stuff like that. There was also information about how we would abide by the CIAC rules, and transgender students playing on the sports teams of the gender in which they identify. There was also information in there about student parents not having to be notified [about one’s gender identity].”
Other board members considered the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Student Policy redundant. “If we pass a transgender policy, to protect transgenders, well they’re already protected under Title IX, they’re already protected under the bullying policy,” said David Ferris, Chairman of the Monroe Board of Education, “if there’s something that comes up that these policies haven’t covered, we told the superintendent let us know and we’ll figure it out. Why do we need an entire policy that simply regurgitates state law? State law right now says that students can go to a bathroom of their choice, it’s already law.”
Though admittedly a redundancy, Kapoor considered the vote a chance to make a strong statement of support. “A lot of times what the Board of Education does is we reiterate through our local policies things that have already been adopted at a higher level- either at the state or federal level. And so, it’s an opportunity for us to say ‘… we know the state government up in Hartford has told us we have to abide by this anyway, but we think it’s really important to have it on the books locally.’ So, you know, it’s emphasizing to students who are LGBTQ+ that we’ve got your back, that we support you, your board supports you, and we’re here for you.”
Ferris believes that rather than instating concrete policy, the board should take issues on a case by case basis. “If a student has that need, let’s solve that need, and make an accommodation…I want every student to know that they’re valued and they are welcome in this school, and that we will protect them under the policies we have. They should never be bullied or feel unwelcome.”
This latest disagreement in direction was enough for Kapoor to make the decision to resign from the Board of Education: “I was elected in 2019 for a four year term, and my first two years … the chairperson was Donna Lane…when she was the chair, the Board was very different. There was mutual respect across the aisle, Democrats, Republicans. I had a lot of ideas that I offered and I felt that they were acknowledged. … it felt like we were one Board. I knew who was a Democrat and who was a Republican when we sat around the table…but rarely did we have party-line votes… I think the Board has certainly become more partisan since that time.”
Ferris agrees that the polarization of the board hindered productivity, stating, “The issue is that it became so political, and there were such tempers on both sides and people got really mad, really offended by it, that people made the decision to just say no. But the door’s not closed, if something comes up, if Swenson or Cobza come to the board and say ‘Hey this situation came up and it’s not handled under policy, we need to figure out how to do this’ then hey, let’s have that conversation.”
The growing partisanship of the Board and in Kapoor’s eyes, the lack of cooperation meant it was time to move on.
Kapoor knew his ability to impact the Board had dwindled, and someone else needed to fill his spot: “Over the summer I thought about it a lot, and if the role of a Board of Education member is to be an advocate for the students, teachers, and staff members of the district, if my Republican colleagues weren’t gonna listen to anything I was gonna say, then why was I sitting there? So, it was a really hard decision for me. I really, really enjoyed the work… but I lost my ability to be a good advocate for the students and for the teachers so I thought it would be better for someone else to be in my seat, who hopefully the Republicans will listen to.”
Ferris, however, does not fully agree with this statement: “I’ve met Nick at Starbucks for coffee, I’ve talked to him, we’ve texted, so to say that there’s been no communication is just wrong. I can’t force anyone to talk at a meeting. People chose not to talk, I think because it was very controversial… And it’s too bad, because things should be for you guys, and not get all political like this.”
While he no longer holds a board position, Kapoor still cares deeply for our community, with a parting statement of, “…All I would say is I don’t want my resignation from the board to be seen as me giving up, it certainly wasn’t… But as a student if you want to keep this going, go to board meetings … if there’s something you want to see done at Monroe Public Schools you have got to tell the people…keep fighting, stand up for what you believe in, and just do whatever you can to make the world a better place.”