Indiana School Counselor Fired in Dispute Over District's Policy to Hide Gender Transitions from Parents
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An Indiana high school guidance counselor was fired Thursday night by a local school board, accused of making false statements while leaking the district's gender transition plan for students, and its policy to conceal that information from those students' parents.
The South Madison Community School Corporation board terminated the teaching contract of Kathy McCord, a former counselor at Pendleton Heights High School in Madison County, Indiana.
McCord had worked at the school for 25 years until the board voted unanimously to terminate her contract for speaking to the media about confidential documents that board member Buck Evans claimed were "false," according to The Daily Signal, the news arm of The Heritage Foundation.
Evans did not indicate which statements were false. McCord had been on administrative leave since December, according to WXIN-TV.
The Daily Signal reports Evans declared on Thursday night: "Mrs. McCord admitted she did not tell the truth about providing Mr. Kinnett with the document or correct misleading statements within his article, although she did read it before she started. Misleading statements in The Daily Signal article, along with editing the document, enflamed the public unnecessarily. You can see on this document there is to be a meeting with the child's parents and/or guardians. Mrs. McCord has not been dismissed because she gave the document to Mr. Kinnett, but because of untruthful statements she made to the administration."
The board also told those attending the meeting that the district's gender support plan is not technically secret because parents can request a copy of the plan.
The Daily Signal's investigative columnist Tony Kinnett attended the board meeting. As the board adjourned, he asked from the press area: "How was the document edited? Can you claim how the document was edited at all? Can you cite how the document was edited—since you leveled the claim that it was falsified?"
Board President Mike Hanna then asked Pendleton Police Department officers to remove the journalist from the meeting, according to The Daily Signal.
"At no time did I ever edit the Gender Support Plan or the counselor-to-teacher email, as Evans claims," Kinnett wrote and also showed that none of the documents sent to him were edited.
The South Madison Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees released a statement on Friday, providing its basis for terminating McCord's contract. The board gave three reasons:
- Ms. McCord lied/was untruthful in answering questions from the administration regarding Tony Kinnett's access to the district Gender Support Plan that was published online on December 5, 2022.
- Ms. McCord violated Board Policy 3310 by providing statements known to be false or made without truth or accuracy to Tony Kinnett, who with her knowledge and consent, published those inaccurate statements online, causing severe, unwarranted reputational damage to the school corporation.
- Ms. McCord's actions constitute insubordination and gross misconduct for purposes of Board Policy 3139.
The Daily Signal broke the story in December when Kinnett wrote the email was sent by a counselor last August at Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton, Indiana. It told teachers about a student who had changed genders, provided new pronouns, and said teachers should not inform the student's parents because they were "not supportive."
In a photo of a printed copy of the email published by The Daily Signal, the counselor said that the individual "prefers the pronouns He/Him," and that the "family is not supportive of this decision so any correspondence home or in reference to the student should remain as '______.'"
"____'s go to person is me or ________ in the event he needs to speak with someone," the email continued.
The student's real name was blacked out on the document.
McCord confirmed to The Daily Signal over the last two years, dozens of "Gender Support Plans" with guidelines not to notify parents have been sent to teachers across the South Madison school district. The former counselor provided a blank copy of the school district's Gender Support Plan which was published by the outlet.
The Daily Signal noted it's not clear what grades or ages in Kindergarten through 12th grade apply to the school district's policy.
McCord said she assumed the policy was approved by the school board since the counseling staff was told by Assistant Superintendent Andrew Kruer it was "board-approved."
The Gender Support Plan also doesn't appear on the district's website.
No state or federal law or ruling appears to give a public school the ability to implement any kind of medical or social-emotional learning plan without informing the parent or custodial guardian of the child in question, according to The Daily Signal.
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Kinnett, the author of the article, tweeted in December: "Funny how all of the other medical and counseling forms and policies are posted on a public school's website—but they always forget to post the 'Gender Support Plan.'"
Kinnett also tweeted that the school district's "administration has chosen radio silence over legally-required transparency."
In a video of December's school board meeting posted to YouTube, Superintendent Dr. Mark Hall said in a prepared statement that the district has a non-discrimination policy that can be found on the district's website and will honor a request from a student to be called a different name at school without notifying a parent.
According to several media outlets, numerous community members have been attending school board meetings over the past several months to voice their concerns for or against McCord.
"Her record is completely spotless. She has helped more students and students have come here to speak up for her. She told the truth and she should not be fired," Kaye Wolverton, a community member, told WTHR.
The McCord family told WXIN-TV Thursday night they are speaking with an attorney and had no comment.
Kinnett also released a statement, saying: "I was provided the Gender Support Plan from both parents and staff in the South Madison school district. I have never edited it—save cutting off the blank remainder of the 3rd page when placing it as a source in my reports."
He also told the outlet the board's claims were "grossly dishonest."
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