July 20, 2024

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Kansas 4-H declines to answer questions about controversial transgender housing policy

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Kansas State University Research and Extension is refusing to say whether a controversial transgender housing policy remains in effect.

As the Sentinel reported in late 2022, the housing policy at Rock Springs 4-H Youth Camp (which is not owned by K-State but upon whose board state 4-H board members sit) had a housing policy that caused at least one biological boy to be housed with girls — without informing parents.

Indeed, the Manhattan Mercury in June of 2022 reported: Housing is assigned based on gender selected at the time of registration,” said Kansas 4-H Foundation president and CEO Jake Worcester in an email to The Mercury. “This has always been the process of assigning housing at Kansas 4-H camps.”

It is unlikely, however, that this has “always been the process” as the national policy, which 4-H in Kansas follows, was adopted in 2019 and 2020.

Moreover, 2023’s Senate Bill 180, the “Women’s Bill of Rights,” requires the use of biological sex — rather than “gender identity” in state law and specifically requires that: “Notwithstanding any provision of state law to the contrary, distinctions between the sexes with respect to athletics, prisons or other detention facilities, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, locker rooms, restrooms and other areas where biology, safety or privacy are implicated that result in separate accommodations are substantially related to the important governmental objectives of protecting the health, safety and privacy of individuals in such circumstances.”

While the camp does use a “two-deep” supervision policy, meaning at least two counselors — generally between the ages of 18 and 25 — sleep in the cabins with the campers, and there are individual, locking bathrooms and showers; the policy is also that to “prevent discrimination against transgender individuals, their sexual orientation will not be questioned at camp.”

The policy also prevents parents from even being informed their child might be bunking with a camper — or counselor — who is transgender.

The Sentinel reached out to Dr. Gregg Hadley, who is the state director of extension, to ask if K-State Extension believes that SB-180 does not apply, that transgender biological males may be housed with biological females based on “gender identification,” and that parents need not be notified, or if the policy had been changed.

Hadley was also asked what the housing policy is in regards to other overnight trips, such as state shooting competitions in which 4-Hers stay in motels.

Hadley did not respond, but had K-State Spokeswoman Michelle Geering reply in his stead.

Geering said simply, “Kansas State University, which include (sic.) Kansas 4-H,  complies with all applicable federal and state laws, including nondiscrimination laws.”

The Sentinel then asked if the policy of housing transgender biological males with biological females without parental notification or consent was still in effect and, if so, under what authority K-State was ignoring state law to the contrary.

As of publication, Geering has not responded.

Requests for comment from Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach also have not been returned.

K-State, Hadley have a history of minimizing and ignoring transgender policy concerns

In 2022, Dr. Kurtis Gregory, a veterinarian and member of the Cherokee County 4-H board reached out along with others to Hadley to express their concern.

As the Sentinel reported at the time, Gregory said in a meeting Hadley essentially minimized their concerns. In an email obtained by the Sentinel, Hadley said he’d reached out to an administrator at the national level regarding the concerns expressed by Cherokee County residents.  He says he was told that the unnamed administrator doubted “the perspectives of his organization and those of the concerned citizens will align with one another.”

 

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