“The family of a 12-year-old who they say sustained a traumatic brain injury after she was restrained by a school security officer is suing the Kenosha police department and school district for damages. “On March 4, 2022, an adult man lost his temper and choked a child until she suffered a traumatic brain injury. Officer Shawn Guetschow violated Wisconsin criminal and civil law when he held his knee against the back of the neck of a twelve-year-old girl at Lincoln Middle School,” read documents shared with Insider by the family’s lawyer, Drew DeVinney. Guetschow is seen in a security video from the school cafeteria breaking up a fight between two students and then kneeling on the neck of a 12-year-old girl for nearly 25 seconds before handcuffing her and removing her from the room. “Officer Shawn Guetschow told investigating officers that he ‘blacked out’ and does not remember pulling Jane Doe to the floor, smashing her head into the hard tile surface, or getting on top of her and choking her with his knee,” the document shared with Insider added in a footnote.”
The Republicans get into office and they return to the racist ways the left tried to retire. Hugs
A Virginia board is considering restoring the names of two schools that were originally named for Confederate generals but were changed in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd.
The Shenandoah County School Board voted in 2020 to change Stonewall Jackson High School to Mountain View High School and Ashby-Lee Elementary School to Honey Run Elementary School.
But in the two years since, community members — especially alumni — have expressed opposition to the name changes, school board member Cynthia Walsh said.
More than 4,000 people have signed a petition to change the names back, Vice Chair Dennis Barlow said at a board meeting, where the issue was discussed at length last week.
Walsh is one of three members who were on the board when the name changes were approved. The current, all-white board is made up of six members.
Some new board members say they feel the decision to change the names was rushed and that it did not consider the opinion of the community.
Barlow — who characterized those who were in favor of changing the names as outsiders who are “creepy,” “elitist” and from “the dark side” — said the school board’s decision was “undemocratic and unfair.”
He added that he regards Jackson as a “gallant commander.”
Walsh, who said she does not think the names should be changed back, argued: “Most people who vote for elected officials then count on them to do the right thing on their behalf.”
“We do have a representative democracy. We don’t have a direct democracy,” she added.
After Floyd’s death, statues, monuments, schools and buildings named for Confederate leaders became a focal point of the racial justice movement around the country. A number of the statues and monuments have come down.
“Times have changed. The makeup of our schools has changed,” Walsh said. “And I sincerely believe that revisiting the name change is not what’s best for kids.”
The board decided at the meeting that it would poll constituents about whether they believe the names should be changed back. But the board could not settle on whether to poll the entire area or only the residents of the areas served by the schools in question.
Kyle Gutshall, a recent high school graduate who was elected to the board this year, argued: “In my opinion if you’re doing it countywide, you might as well throw the students out, because they don’t care.”
But other board members were adamant throughout the night that the decision first has to be what’s right for the students.
“No. 1 criteria: what is best for kids,” Andrew Keller said earlier in the meeting. “The kids we’re going to teach today and the next 25 years.”
They also didn’t settle on what options would be in the survey, which they mostly agreed should have these questions:
- Do you want to keep the names?
- Do you want to restore the original names?
“I suggested a compromise: adding a third” option, Walsh said. “I did not agree to the name change, but I do not think we should change it back, and that’s where we left it that night, but we didn’t vote on it.”
The next school board meeting is June 9.
The board likely won’t vote on the issue then, because it is still hammering out the details of the survey, Walsh said.
If the vote is split, the issue is likely to be tabled for a year or until there is a new board, she said.
Shenandoah County Public Schools declined to weigh in on the matter.
“It is the responsibility of the Shenandoah County School Board to determine the name of schools, school facilities, and areas of school facilities or grounds in the division. We do not have a comment or statement as a division at this time,” the district said in a statement.
The system serves about 6,000 students. More than 75 percent of them are white, and about 3 percent are Black, according to the state Education Departmenr.
But Walsh said the statistics don’t show the full picture. “In one of our elementary schools, there are 10 languages spoken,” she said. “There is diversity.”
I hate canned hunts. Every hunter I know hates them. A helpless animal who is use to humans drawn in to be suddenly killed by a person who has not skill to track or hunt an animal. Every time I hear of these hunts I think of the scene in Jurassic Park where the goat is tied out to bait the T-Rex. These “hunters” are shooting the tied goat, and then claiming they are some great alpha male. Really? To me they are simply the sniveling losers that couldn’t really cut it. Hugs
The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
Utah hunting guide Wade Lemon faces five years in state prison for the death of a Carbon County bear killed during a guided hunt on May 18, 2018. But Lemon, a well-known guide didn’t pull the trigger — Donald Trump Jr. did, according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Trump Jr. is not named in a recent filing against Lemon, but the DNR confirmed his identity as the person named in the felony complaint as Lemon’s “client” on the hunt. Prosecutors have indicated there was no evidence showing Trump Jr. would have known about the alleged baiting that went on during the hunt.
Trump Jr. was in Utah to help launch Hunter Nation, a hunting advocacy group. That group would later launch its own super PAC, Hunter Nation Action, which spent $96,997 in ads against Democrats in the 2020 election, according to the campaign spending transparency site Open Secrets.
Read the full article. “No evidence.” Yeah.
Jr kills endangered animals to compensate for his micro penis. There is no way he didn’t know this was illegal. He should get 5 years as well.
And another crazy spreading hate about people who think or are different from him. And he has a flock. He feels that somehow once the gays are gone all pedophilia is gone also, wow he has some rude awaking coming when he finds out most child molestation are from straight men with little girls. Hugs
“The bible says they are to be put to death. That’s what’s being taught. So it’s your fault, Mr. ‘I’m gonna go down to the voting box and vote for every Republican because they’re Christians.’
“So it your fault. Let me ask you, pal. Let me ask you, Mr. Mocker. Mr. ‘I got a big ole Donald Trump flag out in my yard because I’m all about truth and Elon Musk and I’m gonna buy me a Tesla.’
“Let me tell you something, pal, it’s your fault that all these pedophiles are around. It’s not God’s fault, he told nations how to deal with that. He told the nation that he ruled, ‘Put ’em to death. Put all queers to death.’
“And you know what, when they die, that stops the pedophilia. It’s a very simple process, but of course our reptilian government, they don’t subscribe to that.
“Now here’s the thing, I’m not saying that every reptilian is a sodomite, but all sodomites are reptilians. You’re gonna see that as I go through this.” – Idaho Pastor Joe Jones, in a clip posted to YouTube.
The Bangor Daily News reports:
When no adults would revive the community Pride parade in Belfast, a group of motivated Belfast Area High School students stepped up to make sure that the event — which has been on a pandemic hiatus — happens this year. In Belfast, the city’s first-ever Pride parade and festival took place in 2016, and became an annual tradition. But no adult organizers had come forward this year to keep the tradition going.
The 20 club members secured a permit from the city of Belfast, found sponsors, raised money for banners, flags and other expenses and grappled with the procuring of liability insurance. Ultimately, the high school agreed to cover the event under the school’s policy, a move that surprised and pleased the teens, according to Annie Gray, the club’s co-advisor.
Read the full article. Wonderful piece. The clip below is from their first parade in 2016. Belfast has a population of 7000.
I have faith in this generation of kids. They’re alright in my book.
Many of them, anyhow.
But great numbers of them are actually growing up to be mirror images of christianist, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic parents. (As ever, much fruit never falls far from the tree.)
Still, the Bangor kids give us all some hope for a better future in some places, and that’s definitely cause for rejoicing!
Yes, you wouldn’t know it sometimes to read the news, but Americans are getting less and less interested in religion and being religious. And. at the same time, out and visible LGBT people are more and more common.
Sadly, a certain number do. However, studies have shown that number of younger people growing up in Christian households including evangelical households are not down with the obsession about gay people expressed by church leaders.
Many (not all) religious families are indeed anti-LGBT and racist and pass that on to their children, but religion (despite the loudness of it on the right) has become less and less vital in American lives, with more and more people saying they’re not affiliated with any religion. That’s a good sign.
“Ultimately, the high school agreed to cover the event under the school’s policy”
Good, because it sounds like the students learned a lot from their experience.
This is the other half of the current LGBT story that isn’t being told much these days. (The media, including LGBT media, gravitates toward the horror stories and it is important to know one’s enemies.) Young people are growing up with wide exposure to positive LGBT portrayals. Many of them have the support of their peers and their families. They’re not conflicted about sexuality and gender and they’re not about to let Republican extremists control their lives.
Good work, Belfast youths!
How much can Republicans white wash history to show only what they want it to be? How much can they change so that the maga parents are not made uncomfortable? Please note what the state Republicans have labeled social justice. Why are Republicans against having student learn how to handle their emotions? is it because they want angry young people who become angry adults? Hugs
Florida education officials, in guidance, told publishers that all proposed social studies content must abide by the state’s rules outlawing critical race theory and similar teachings.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s Department of Education is explicitly aiming to keep critical race theory and “social justice” out of social studies textbooks that the state will ultimately adopt for its new teaching standards.
The agency, in recent undated guidance, asked textbook publishers to avoid those topics on top of “culturally responsive teaching, social and emotional learning, and any other unsolicited theories” as the DeSantis administration and Republicans continue to scrutinize what students are learning in public schools, especially on the issues of race and gender identity. Florida already has received national attention after rejecting scores of math books for broaching topics state leaders deemed “impermissible.”
“Instructional materials should not attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a viewpoint inconsistent with Florida standards,” FLDOE officials wrote in its undated specifications to publishers. Bids formally opened March 12 and textbook publishers have until June 10 to submit their social studies proposals to the state education department.
Florida education officials, in the guidance, told publishers that all proposed social studies content must abide by the state’s rules outlawing critical race theory, known also as CRT, and similar teachings.
The state, through a rule passed by the Board of Education in 2021, defines critical race theory as an ideology that “racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.” Critical race theory, along with “The 1619 Project” from The New York Times, are theories that “distort historical events,” according to Florida leaders.
Critical race theory, an analytical framework developed by legal scholars, is generally known as a way to examine how race and racism have become ingrained in American law and institutions since slavery and Jim Crow.
Social studies lessons are also required to follow the “Stop WOKE Act” passed by Republican lawmakers in Florida earlier at the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who made a major push to prohibit schools and companies from leveling guilt or blame at students and employees based on race or sex, taking aim at lessons over issues like “white privilege.” To that end, the guidance to publishers notes that possible critical race theory components could include making someone “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.”
Additionally, the Florida Department of Education wants to avoid references to “social justice” in its textbooks and gave publishers a few examples to help guide them.
Social justice lessons, according to Florida officials, would be “seeking to eliminate undeserved disadvantages for selected groups; undeserved disadvantages are from mere chance of birth and are factors beyond anyone’s control, thereby landing different groups in different conditions; and equality of treatment under the law is not a sufficient condition to achieve justice.”
The state is also targeting social emotional learning, which has recently emerged as another topic under criticism from DeSantis. Social emotional learning aims to teach students how to manage their emotions and develop strong relationships with their peers. This is counted as an “unsolicited” strategy to FLDOE, which told publishers to refrain from teachings on “identity and identity identification concepts; managing emotion; developing relationships and social awareness.”
Florida’s slate of math textbook rejections, along with recent laws passed in the state like the Parental Rights in Education bill, on Thursday were key topics during a congressional hearing on “curriculum sabotage and classroom censorship” led by the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
One Florida Republican on the subcommittee, Rep. Byron Donalds, asked the panel of witnesses, ranging from parents to school leaders and free speech advocates, if they believed the math lessons flagged by the state education department were appropriate. Donalds, a former member of the Florida House, used examples of questions asking students to measure racial prejudice by age and political affiliation.
A representative from free speech organization PEN America agreed with Donalds, acknowledging that there was a “risk that this was going to stoke division, detract from the lesson.”
“If we’re going to talk about history, let’s talk about history,” Donalds said. “But if we’re going to bring subjective material into the classroom, that is the problem that has some parents upset in the United States.”
Democrats frequently criticized Florida’s policies along with others across the U.S. that they say prohibit discussions of race and LGBTQ issues and violate free speech principles, mirroring authoritarian governments. They used last week’s racist shooting at a Buffalo grocery store as a “horrifying” example of what could happen if “ignorance and hatred spread.”
“Gov. DeSantis is bringing a brand of authoritarianism to Florida that Putin, Maduro or Castro would applaud,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
Filing ‘Florida standards’ alongside ‘hot snow,’ ‘dry water,’ and ‘compassionate conservatism.’
Next thing you know they will tell the kids who attempt to read and learn the truth for themselves they will be scared into thinking that it will be an assured way to be kidnapped by a homosexual and sold to an adrenochrome extraction laboratory.
Goes with the Florida staples of “jumbo shrimp” and “biblical morality”.
And who can forget these equally popular and pertinent corollaries.
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength.
Florida is becoming like that unruly child in a classroom you can always depend on to disrupt everything by calling undo negative attention to itself. It’s a childish act that’s getting really old really fast.
As someone who works in mental health, the elimination of “emotional learning” content wholesale from grade school curriculums is a big, BIG mistake.
Kids graduating from FloriDUH high schools will have a hard time being accepted to out-of-state colleges/universities due to the low-standards of education pushed by DeathSantis and the GQP.
The publishers of textbooks need to step up and fight back. Stop caving in to these assholes. Kids in Texas and Florida and other confederate states need to learn the truth, not right wing “Lost Cause” propaganda. Can’t handle the truth? Get some mental health care.
Continuing this culture war at no further financial expense to the state, and I’m assuming that DeSantis will only approve books by the one publisher that publishes the only approved math books…the same publisher owned by VA Republican Gov Youngkin.
In other words, Florida has totally removed itself from actual history, and any attempt to reconnect will be met with total contempt.
Perfect place to raise your kids if you want them to be absolute idiots.
Before you know it, the only grade school textbook allowed to be used in Florida will be the bible.
So teachers in Florida need to instruct students in such a way that it is not clear where they stand on issues like was it right or wrong for Southern states to own humans as property.
Yes Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a religious “anti-LGBTQ hate group,” This redacted email exchange shows that at least one of not more religious bigots on the board wanted to not include the state mandated non discrimination language in the school handbook so reached out to a religious legal hate group to write them a different one they could approve instead. I don’t think it is legal but it shows how far the religious right is willing to go to be able to discriminate against LGBTQ+ and eventually any non-Christians. Hugs
Emails obtained by 8News show that a Hanover County School Board member reached out to a top legal strategist for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) a week before he tried to set a meeting between the board and the organization.
A month later, the school board approved a plan to have ADF, which some have classified as an “anti-LGBTQ hate group,” review the district’s policy regarding the treatment of LGBTQ students.
On March 16, 8News filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking all of the county’s school board members’ emails concerning ADF since Nov. 21, 2021.
Although key details in the conversations were largely redacted – blacked out – by the school district, the emails shed some light on how the board and Alliance Defending Freedom came together.
The emails do not account for possible phone calls, text messages or other communications between the board and organization.
What is ADF and its link to Hanover’s school board?
Alliance Defending Freedom is a conservative Christian legal advocacy and training organization based in Arizona seeking to secure “generational wins that change the law and culture,” according to its website.
These goals include “ensuring the law respects God’s created order for marriage, the family, and human sexuality.”
In March, Hanover’s School Board voted 4-3 to allow ADF to review the board’s equal educational opportunities policy, which concerns the rights of LGBTQ students and more. Board Chairwoman Ola J. Hawkins, Vice Chair Bob Hundley and school board member Sterling Daniel voted against the proposal.
The decision came after the board voted last November not to adopt policies, as Virginia school divisions were required to under legislation passed by the state legislature, allowing students to use bathrooms and school facilities aligning with their gender identity. A month later, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia filed a lawsuit on behalf of five transgender students against the school board.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added ADF to its “anti-LGBTQ hate group” list in 2016, saying the organization has spread “known falsehoods” that demonize LGBTQ people. Among several examples, SPLC points to a national campaign backed by ADF to pass laws that would prevent transgender students from taking part in sports on the teams that align with their gender identity, specifically in Arizona and Idaho.
Ryan Bangert, senior counsel and vice president of legal strategy at ADF, strongly disputed SPLC’s designation and said ADF is one of the U.S.’s most respected and successful U.S. Supreme Court advocates that has worked “to preserve the fundamental freedoms of speech and religion for all Americans.”
He also called the Southern Poverty Law Center “partisan” and “scandal-ridden,” claiming it has presented “false claims and gross mischaracterizations,” citing reports critical of its “hate map” and a federal judge’s opinion in 2019 that argued the list doesn’t “depend upon objective data or evidence.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center declined to comment on Bangert’s statement.
Emails reveal a timeline
Records show that Hanover School Board member John Axselle first emailed Bangert at Alliance Defending Freedom on Feb. 7, 2022. Most of the email, including its subject line, was blacked out by the district when we received the email through a FOIA request.
Hanover schools spokesperson Chris Whitley said the email and an attachment Axselle sent were redacted because they included “attorney-client material,” showing that Axselle had formally reached out to ADF a month before the board’s narrow vote to start considering the organization’s legal advice.
“Thank you in advance for your assistance with this matter,” Axselle writes to Bangert in one of two sentences not blacked out.
The email exchange between Axselle and Bangert — seven emails in total from Feb. 7-8 — is the only one between a school board member and an ADF employee in the records shared with 8News.
In one email, Bangert tells Axselle, the board’s Beaverdam District representative, that he received his message and “will review promptly and revert.” Later that night, Bangert sends another email asking Axselle if they could speak the next day.
Emails show that Bangert set up a call between himself, Axselle and his colleague Jon Scruggs, senior counsel and director of the Center for Conscience Initiatives with ADF, for the afternoon of Feb. 8.
It’s unknown whether the phone call occurred as ADF and the school board declined to discuss the emails and declined 8News’ interview requests. But Axselle sent an email to Chairwoman Hawkins and Vice Chair Hundley less than a week later with the subject line, “Meeting with ADF.”
“ADF contacted me and they can meet with us Friday, February 18, 2022, at 5:00 PM, if that is good for us. This is going to be a Zoom meeting,” Axselle wrote in the Feb. 14 email. “Please let me know if this is good for the Board and I will confirm with them if you like.”
“I’ll work with Ola to notify the board of the plan to conduct a called closed session meeting Friday; our goal will be to confirm that as early as possible tomorrow morning so that the appropriate legal notice can be posted,” Hundley replied 37 minutes later.
According to the school board’s online agenda, a closed session meeting did not take place on Feb. 18 but one was held on Feb. 22 to interview “prospective candidates for employment” and for “consultation with legal counsel pertaining to probable and pending litigation,” including the ACLU lawsuit.
Emails also show that Lisa Seward, the Hanover school board attorney, sent “research” to the school board and school Superintendent Michael Gill on March 2, six days before the board voted to allow ADF to advise it on its policy.
Seward’s entire email, apart from her salutation and “thank you,” was blacked out by the school division. The next day, Chairwoman Hawkins thanked Seward “for the research and update” and “detailed information.”
Hanover residents and parents ask for answers
Hanover County residents critical of the idea of bringing ADF on as legal advisors contacted school board members before and after the vote, the emails show.
Most were thanked for sharing their input but were provided little to no details or answers to their questions, including two residents who received similarly worded responses from Hanover County School Board member Robert May.
May emailed the South Anna District residents that the board voted “to engage Alliance Defending Freedom for legal review of Policy 7-1.2 at no cost to HCPS” and that he believes it “does reflect the ideals of the Constitution of the United States.”
One resident emailed Chairwoman Hawkins twice before the March 8 vote, repeatedly asking her how the school board and ADF came together.
“I certainly hope this School Board, that is also planning to sign a Proclamation of Equity at the meeting tomorrow night, would not go out and ask for their assistance,” the resident wrote in the second of two emails to Hawkins on March 7. “So, I will ask again: How did the Alliance Defending Freedom come to be involved with the School Board? Did they approach HCPS, or did someone from HCPS contact them?”
Hawkins did not respond to the second email, records show, but did reach out to Vice Chair Hundley about the message and told him to let her know what he thought about the email.
“I believe we should get some advice from Mike and/or Lisa on this one,” Hundley wrote on the morning of March 8. “Since it’s a closed session topic, we may not have to divulge that, but we should ask first.”
Not long after that email, Hawkins and school board attorney Lisa Seward exchanged emails that were almost entirely redacted.
Most school board members did not respond to requests for an interview for this story, but those who did declined to speak and pointed 8News to Chairwoman Hawkins for a statement on behalf of the board.
“As you may know, we are actively involved in a lawsuit with the ACLU of Virginia. It is not the School Board’s practice to comment on pending litigation,” she wrote in an email. “Therefore, I do not have anything further to add to this other than what has been discussed and shared publicly.”
Hawkins and Bangert refused to answer questions about whether the board approached ADF or the other way around.
“The Hanover County School Board is committed to carrying out the critical task of providing excellence in education for their students while adhering to the law and advancing a culture that demonstrates dignity and respect for all students and staff who are part of the community,” Bangert said in a statement. “We look forward to serving the board by providing legal advice that accomplishes these goals.”
Christopher Berg, an Atlee High School parent of two, has been vocal about the board’s refusal to adopt the statewide policy last year. At a recent school board meeting, he spoke out against a possible change to the county’s student code of conduct that the district says clarifies its position on protests and walkouts.
After Berg claimed the change would be “unconstitutional” and called it “un-American,” Hanover schools discipline hearing review officer and Seward agreed that as it was proposed the potential change to the code would not violate students’ First Amendment rights. A William & Mary law professor specializing in freedom of speech told 8News that the change could be construed “as a blanket ban on protests and demonstrations,” as it was written, and a potential legal challenge was not out of the question.
In an interview, Berg told 8News that his youngest child, a nonbinary ninth-grader named Em, was suspended earlier this year for three days after taking part in an unapproved walkout protesting the board’s policies on transgender students in the county. Berg said Em has been harassed and bullied at school by students.
He said he believes the possible change to the code of conduct, which the board has yet to vote on, and ADF’s involvement in the school district only makes matters worse for transgender and nonbinary students.
“It really kind of feels like they’re just continuing to push more and more against the trans kids of Hanover County and kind of demoralizing those students,” Berg said. “That’s obviously the reason why the students got really upset and have started protesting. That was just yet another middle finger at the students.”
It’s a safe bet that ADF and similar groups are doing the same thing in school districts around the country.
I thought it was hard growing up gay during the sixties and seventies. I feel sorry for today’s LGTB youth. “The love that dare not speak its name” is now being forced back into the closet with a vengeance and it will require the same herculean effort that it took after Stonewall to repair the damage that’s being done now. LGTB youth have their work cut out for them. I wish them luck. They’re going to need it.
Reference the extermination of the gay rights movement in Germany by the Nazis. It was a movement whose roots can be traced back to 1867.
If things get particularly horrible here, a lot of us will be dead by the time a recovery of gay rights might take place.
The “it can’t happen here” people need to get a serious clue.
Why are some comments redacted? These exchanges don’t concern national security. What are they hiding?
As Beau said the military will pull bases from states that give their people too hard a time. The military is not going back to a time of hidden LGBTQ+. Also military families have LGBTQ+ kids and the air force has already said they will do everything possible to see trans kids get the medical treatment they need including transferring families away from bigoted states. Hugs
A base member wears rainbow socks during the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month Five Kilometer Pride Run at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 28, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)
The Army is circulating a draft policy tweak that would specify that soldiers can request to move if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the plans.
The guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the force amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army does most of its business.
The policy would ostensibly sanction soldiers to declare that certain states are too racist, too homophobic, too sexist or otherwise discriminatory to be able to live there safely and comfortably.
“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrmination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”
If finalized, the new rules would clarify what situations would entitle a soldier to a so-called compassionate reassignment. Right now, those rules are vague but are mostly used for soldiers going through family problems that cannot be solved through “leave, correspondence, power of attorney, or help of family members or other parties,” according to Army regulations.
The updated guidance, which sources said was drafted in response to several state laws but before a draft of a potential Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, would instruct commanders that they can use compassionate reassignment specifically to remove troops facing discrimination from their duty stations.
The tweak came from a MILPER message, which is an internal tool for Army leaders and planners to issue policy clarifications, though the guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders, according to one Army source.
“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring Soldiers and Families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”
According to a 2015 study from Rand Corp., roughly 6% of the military is gay or bisexual and 1% is transgender or nonbinary. Those numbers are likely low, given that the survey was conducted only four years after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and before transgender troops could serve openly. Gen Z troops, the latest generation starting to fill the ranks, are also much more likely to identify as LGBTQ.
It’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.
The sources who reviewed drafts of the potential policy had different interpretations of what the change would mean. In practice, however, reassignment to a new installation wouldn’t happen overnight, and it would be almost impossible for a woman to find out she’s pregnant, have her command approve a transfer, complete the move and then be able to seek different reproductive care during a pregnancy.
Last week, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, the service’s top enlisted leader, told lawmakers that the force is considering some response to the end of Roe v. Wade, though it’s unclear whether that is a separate policy being mulled by Army planners.
“The answer is yes, we are drafting policies to ensure we take care of our soldiers in an appropriate way,” Grinston told a House Appropriations Committee subpanel. “There are drafts if it were to be overturned, but that would be a decision for the secretary of the Army to decide the policy.”
However, the policy tweak shared with Military.com was written in April, weeks before news broke of a draft decision overturning the landmark abortion ruling, according to an Army official with direct knowledge of the situaiton.
At least 13 states have so-called trigger laws that will immediately outlaw abortion if and when Roe v. Wade is overturned. Additional GOP-controlled states are expected to follow suit with similar legislation. Meanwhile, some state lawmakers are considering restricting contraception such as IUDs and Plan B. Some officials, like Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, haven’t ruled out an outright ban on contraception. Idaho State Sen. Brent Crane, who is the state’s vice majority leader, said he would be open to legislation banning some birth control methods.
Currently, Tricare, which covers 9.6 million troops and veterans, covers IUDs, contraceptive diaphragms, prescription contraceptives and surgical sterilization, which could all be severely curtailed if states go forward with banning or limiting birth control as many service members and their families receive medical care paid for by Tricare off base.
The Army’s consideration of a policy to protect soldiers from discriminatory laws is part of a wider Defense Department campaign to start shielding service members from increasingly divisive laws and rhetoric from state-level lawmakers.
Multiple Defense Department and veterans advocate sources have told Military.com the other services are considering similar policies, but it is unclear how far those discussions have advanced.
The closest to a direct challenge from a service to the rise of potentially discriminatory policies coming out of state legislatures occurred in April, when the Air and Space Force vowed to provide medical and legal resources to troops who are impacted by laws “being proposed and passed in states across America that may affect LGBTQ Airmen, Guardians, and/or their LGBTQ dependents in different ways,” according to a press release from those services.
Texas has the highest population of soldiers in the nation, serving as the home to the Army’s largest installation, Fort Hood. It is also the home of Fort Bliss, in addition to having the nation’s second-largest National Guard force. The Army also has major bases in Georgia and North Carolina, as well as a constellation of other smaller bases in conservative southern states including Florida.
Some Republicans have latched onto the culture wars in hopes that new actions will fire up their base ahead of the midterms and the next presidential election.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is largely seen as a GOP front-runner in the event Donald Trump doesn’t run for the White House again, signed what critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”
That policy forbids teachers from referencing sexual orientation or gender identity to students between kindergarten and third grade. Gay teachers fear that means even mentioning their spouses could get them fired or land them in the midst of an ugly political fight in school board meetings that have become a staple of right wing media.
In April, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into a law a sweeping measure to prevent transgender kids from playing on sports teams aligning with their gender identity and limiting schools from teaching about race. Kemp also signed a policy that bans books deemed offensive from school libraries and gives parents tools to file complaints.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called on the public to report parents of transgender kids to child protective services if those children are receiving any gender-affirming care.
“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”