One of the hardest, yet most valuable, lessons for new legislators is to gain perspective before making the tough decisions. There are times when the answer to a bill or question before a committee seems obvious, until you are presented with more information. Unfortunately, more often than not, critical decisions are reduced to little more than knee-jerk reactions to emotional testimony. Rather than making decisions while they are down in the weeds, experienced policy makers take the time to climb up to 30,000 feet so they can gain perspective, surveying the issue in terms of its history, current need, and long term ramifications. Only then, are the best decisions made for the good of the greatest number of people.
One recent example was the push to allow boys who think they are girls to play on girls’ high school sports teams. Those on the left said, “What can it hurt?” They painted it as a local Montana issue, until it was pointed out that this is a top-down push by national organizations and Montana was just the latest target. In states like Wisconsin that already have these policies, boys are specifically allowed to use girls’ bathrooms and showers and they are allowed to room with female team members when the team is traveling. This is what we mean by perspective. It’s important to know where these policies come from, how they are playing out in other states, and what the long-term goals are of the groups that are pushing them.
Back in January, when the issue was front and center in Montana, we ran a poll and found that 83% of Montanans oppose the policy. It was then shelved by the Montana High School Athletic Association, but the story doesn’t end there. On February 27th, the Montana Senate killed Senate Bill 179. Section 9 of that bill specifically allowed people to use lavatory, bathing and dressing facilities based on their perceived gender identity. That language, coupled with other parts of the bill, would have forced transgender athletes to play on opposite sex teams, even if 83% of Montana parents thought it was a bad idea. This is what we mean by long-term ramifications.
Thank goodness the legislature killed the bill, but that’s still not the end of the story because the other side doesn’t give up. Running concurrently with the transgender high school athletic push was an effort by the Montana School Boards Association to implement transgender and nontraditional gender identity policies in school districts across the state. These would begin in elementary schools and would also impact high school gym class and athletics. Many districts, including the Laurel School District, had refused to implement these policies, but in other districts, they are still being considered.
One of those is Kalispell, where the school district will take up the issue once again at this afternoon’s subcommittee meeting. If you think this is a bad idea, then it’s time to speak up. Perspective shows that this isn’t just a local school district issue, it begins at the national level and is pushed down through the state level and finally to the district level. This afternoon’s meeting (April 8, 2015) takes place at 4:00 pm in the Kalispell School District’s offices at 233 1st Ave East. It’s time for Kalispell residents to show up in person or inundate the school board with phone calls and emails, because as the saying goes, “The world is run by those who show up.”