As a Cumberland County commissioner, I keep up with various news information and sources regarding the elected officials who serve our wonderful county. Recently, I read about the actions of Cumberland County state Representatives Dawn Keefer and Barb Gleim with disbelief and disappointment.
Our lives and livelihoods have been upended by a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on our beloved county. Our children, our schools and our livelihoods have suffered. Yet, two of our state reps, who are supposed to serve all residents of Cumberland County, are actively pursuing state legislation and policies that indiscriminately hurt children, public schools and ultimately Cumberland County taxpayers.
Early in April both representatives, Keefer and Gleim, introduced House Bill 972 touting it as legislation that will keep “women’s sports fun and fair.” But, there’s nothing fun or fair about HB 972 or their sponsorship of the same.
The three-page bill calls for discrimination against children and young adults and encourages lawsuits against public schools. It forces our educators to discourage, label and deny children opportunities in the name of “fairness.” The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference spoke out against the bill stating “we want an inclusive and fair path for transgender athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics,” further adding, that the bill could jeopardize opportunities for athletes on the regional and national level when those competitions are held in Pennsylvania.
Scientific American recently ran a piece by Jack Turban, child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at Stanford University Schools of Medicine, in which he states, “Attempts to force transgender girls to play on the boys’ teams are unconscionable attacks on already marginalized transgender children, and they don’t address a real problem. They’re unscientific, and they would cause serious mental health damage to both cisgender and transgender youth.”
HB 972 if passed, will unleash cruelty and mental anguish on children and put educators in an impossible, uncomfortable position. I don’t understand why Rep. Gleim and Keefer would pursue this objective.
Rep. Gleim and Keefer doubled down on their attacks on Cumberland County’s children and public schools earlier this month when they voiced objections to Cumberland Valley School District’s prom visitor COVID vaccination policy. I believe that Rep. Gleim went as far as to threaten financial retaliation against the district for requiring prom guests who are not students at the school to provide proof of COVID vaccination. She called the policy “un-American.”
You know what’s un-American — ruining prom for students who already endured a year of virtual schooling, the inability to socialize with friends and generally being a teenager. The school found a reasonable, safe way to allow students to bring outside dates to their senior prom. We all know prom caps off the final year of high school. However, instead of celebrating our students and their accomplishments, Rep. Gleim threatened to cut school funding over a prom attendance policy.
On Jan. 25, 2020, Rep. Gleim and I, among others, attended a presentation by CV School district officials of the Cumberland Valley School District Enrollment Forecast Report 2020. The report painted a picture of a district facing increased enrollment and inadequate state funding. Rep. Gleim’s threatened funding cut over a prom visitor COVID vaccination policy could result in the loss (according to the presentation for 2019-20 funding) of $32,428,130 (yes, that’s millions) in state school funding for the CV district.
It seems to me that the burden to replace those funds would fall squarely on the shoulders of the school district property taxpayers who already contribute (according to the presentation for 2019-20 funding) $76,945,300 to the district. I am all for holding taxes in check and assuring we get our money’s worth, but let’s be realistic; this would devastate many Cumberland County property owners. Holding students and taxpayers hostage over a prom policy is extreme and accomplishes nothing good.
I hope moving forward Representatives Keefer and Gleim will focus their endeavors on policies and legislation that help Cumberland County residents. We need adequate and equitable funding of public education not ideological thinking that hurts people. We need adequate funding of mental health and addiction services. We need preventive care for a host of human ailments. We are a third-class county and we are growing.
It’s time to change the decades-long focus from what we can’t have to what we can. Let’s ensure that Cumberland County acts and is portrayed as we are, the best county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. That starts with our elected leaders.
Jean Foschi is a Cumberland County Commissioner.