OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Students and parents in the Blue Valley School District shine the spotlight on a school board member’s recent tweets, calling them transphobic.
A petition is now collecting signatures calling for his censure and impeachment, and families are speaking out.
Leo Connelly came out as a transgender man last year.
“It was a huge turning point for Leo in terms of mental health and Leo’s self-esteem,” Connelly’s mother Wendy Connelly said.
The coming out process for LGBTQIA+ youth is not easy for everyone.
“It’s really hard to come out and know that people are trying to stop this from happening, and there’s so much hate out there, [it] scares us for our future,” Connelly said.
This fear stems from what some transgender students in Blue Valley call a climate of hate.
This includes another student who spoke to KSHB 41 on the phone and asked to remain anonymous to protect his safety.
“The fact that a member of the school board is obviously transphobic is certainly a little concerning,” said this student.
That council member is Jim McMullen, who was elected five months ago, winning his race in November by just 51 votes.
The petition, which includes screenshots of McMullen’s tweet, has over 1,000 signatures.
In the tweet, McMullen says he “will continue to talk about the poison that is gender ideology.”
“It’s hard to imagine a school board member making those remarks and still keeping their job,” Wendy Connelly said.
McMullen sent KSHB 41 a detailed statement which can be read below:
In recent days there have been demands that I resign as a member of the school board. Why? The 1st of Aprilst, I posted a tweet very critical of President Biden’s statement the day before (which was Transgender Awareness Day) because the President gave his support for “gender affirming care” for young people, and I then had a follow-up exchange. I think gender ideology harms children; it is one of the most important societal issues that we must be prepared to address even in the face of extreme criticism. These are my personal political views. I don’t speak for advice.
I also have important non-political opinions. Our public schools should treat everyone the same, regardless of who they are or where they are. I started my career as a teacher in a public school. You treat everyone as you meet them, and you do so with empathy. In addition, all students should be able to attend school in a positive and uplifting educational environment; However, as a community we have different ideas about what that means and how to achieve it.
In the days following my tweets, respected lawyer and writer Abigail Shrier wrote this article which addresses in a long article some of what I said in a few tweets. This author also links to empirical studies highlighting the harm done to children by this ideology. I suggest everyone read it. Long essays are a far superior medium to short tweets.”
Board of Education President Patrick Hurley also sent a statement to KSHB 41:
“At the heart of Blue Valley’s strategic plan and enshrined in board policy is Blue Valley’s commitment to providing safe and inclusive environments for all. We want every student and staff member to come to school knowing that it is in a learning environment that cultivates social awareness and fosters an appreciation for the growing diversity of our school communities. The ideals and behaviors of individuals, regardless of position, that promote discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, have no place here.Everything means EVERYTHING.
Students say they want their identity to be respected.
“Queer people are human and trans people are human and we want the same things as everyone else,” the anonymous Blue Valley student said.
They say they also want acceptance, the kind that Leo Connelly has at home.
“My parents accept me, that’s why I’m where I am now, being happy and feeling the best in my life,” he said.
KSHB 41 Reviewed Blue Valley School Board Member Conduct Policy, which you can read here.
When asked how this policy relates to McMullen’s social media posts, a district spokesperson told KSHB 41 “the application of Policy 1305 to the conduct of a council member is a matter which is being dealt with by the school board and its legal counsel”.
The next Blue Valley School Board meeting will be May 9 at 6 p.m.