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More accountability needed from SLCSD

I’ve been following the ongoing story of Eric Wilson’s transphobic behavior and the Saranac Lake Central School District’s response via Superintendent Diane Fox. As we approach the end of the school year and graduation — with which Superintendent Fox will not disclose anything about the involvement or non-involvement of Mr. Wilson’s company, Good Guy Productions — there are a few aspects of this episode I want to highlight as someone who cares deeply the LGBTQIA-plus community and as a former public school teacher of 11 years. (I attended the June 3 forum and was quoted in the Enterprise’s story about it as a self-identified former teacher.)

First, I am sure I am not the only person who read the apology attributed to Mr. Wilson on social media and his statements to the Enterprise and found him to be focused more on his mistake about the biological sex of a specific student athlete than doing anything to affirm the dignity of LGBTQIA-plus people, and more focused on his enthusiasm for sport and disagreement with state law than on the disturbance in his character that caused him to make public statements about a minor’s genitals and subjecting her to ridicule. We need to demand genuine change from Mr. Wilson in the form of actions that show growth from the toxic mindset that gave rise to his despicable behavior if he is to get the benefit of forgiveness.

Second, decisions made by educational leaders should be child-centered. Superintendent Fox has fallen far short of this standard through the deference she has shown to Mr. Wilson in her refusal to detail the consequences for him personally and with respect to his business. An indication of whether Good Guy Productions will be participating in upcoming district events would give proper priority to the concerns of students and the community, many of whom are certain, as I am, that June is the wrong time for the district to be putting Mr. Wilson in closer contact with students given his conduct in May. If Good Guy Productions will not be involved with upcoming district events, this could have been disclosed without indicating whether this was a consequence of a district policy violation. Unfortunately, now the district’s business dealings with Mr. Wilson are subject to less transparency than they likely would be if he were not at the center of a controversy.

Third, the Enterprise reported that Fox said she could share this information, but she’s choosing not to because it is not typical to do so” in reference to details of its investigation into Mr. Wilson. District policy 1130 (“News Media Relations“) makes no reference to this sort of personal discretion and appears to me to favor as much openness as legally possible: “The Board and Superintendent will make every reasonable effort to cooperate with the media by providing accurate information about district operations, to the extent permissible by statute and regulation.”

I hope that nothing at graduation distracts those attending from the celebrating the achievements of the Class of 2024. I also hope that the district will do more to stick up for its LGBTQIA-plus students, as recent events have shown (and they have told us) that it is often way more difficult than it should be in our schools for them to live their truth.

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Michael G. Ryan lives in Saranac Lake.

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