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Grants Pass School District officials will consider terminating employment of educators at the center of gender controversy

Science teacher Katie Medart and assistant principal Rachel Damiano of North Middle School were placed on leave in April after they produced a video championing a campaign for schools to recognize biological sex over gender identity.

Posted: Jun 28, 2021 10:09 AM
Updated: Jun 28, 2021 8:23 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Grants Pass School District board will meet in mid-July to consider whether the employment of two North Middle School educators should be terminated after they launched a campaign proposing their own policy for responding to issues of student gender identity.

North Middle School assistant principal Rachel Damiano and science teacher Katie Medart posted a video on YouTube at the end of March, heralding the launch of their "I Resolve Movement" by outlining their responses to policies on gender identity in schools. Both educators were placed on paid leave by the District in April.

According to a statement from the District, a third-party investigator was previously hired by officials to examine complaints that Damiano and Medart violated District policies. The school board will hold two special meetings on Thursday, July 15, to consider if the employment of the educators should be terminated, which is the recommendation of Superintendent Kirk Kolb.

"At the request of the employees, the hearings will be open, public meetings, with the public permitted to observe via Zoom," the District said in a statement. "Because the record for this hearing will be limited to the documents and information considered as part of the Superintendent’s administrative recommendation, no public comment will be allowed."

Damiano and Medart will have an opportunity to respond to the Superintendent's recommendation for termination and to answer questions from the school board, either personally or through an attorney.

"The hearing and any board discussion will be regarding the alleged policy violations only. The purpose of these hearings is not to discuss or debate the merits of the I Resolve Movement," the District said.

Damiano and Medart have filed a federal lawsuit accusing the District of violating their rights under the First Amendment. They are represented by Ray Hacke of the Pacific Justice Institute.

In the original video produced by Damiano and Medart, the two express consternation about the apparent inconsistency of gender identity guidelines that started at the Oregon Department of Education and have been implemented in slightly different forms at local districts, and go on to make clear their own opinions of what those guidelines should be.

"We recognize that, excepting very rare scientifically-demonstrable medical conditions, there are two anatomical gender presentations, male and female," Damiano and Medart's resolution begins.

Under the resolution, public school restrooms and locker rooms should be changed from "boys" and "girls" to "“anatomically-male” or “anatomically-female” — and may "only be used by persons matching the anatomical designation of the spaces."

"What that then is referencing is what, in essence, what genitalia do you have? Because they're designed in form and function, both of those facilities, for anatomical anatomy," said Medart in the video.

Under the resolution, students uncomfortable with the anatomically-labeled spaces can request access to a private restroom or locker room, if available, although there is no stipulation that those requests be granted.

Transgender students wishing to go by a "a derivative of their legal name" — not a name of their choice — or preferred pronoun can do so with parent permission, and other students or staff are free to either accept or ignore the request.

"If a student's name was Jessica Smith . . . if Jessica was on the journey of their gender identity, and they wanted to identify as male, they could then change their name to Jess," Medart said.

"Jess, Jessie, Smith," agreed Damiano. "Anything that's a derivative, and again, that's to focus on the gender identity piece of it and that journey, not necessarily on name, because I think that can be . . . be a rabbit trail."

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