By Brady Extin | The Times-Post
PENDLETON — The long-awaited decision on Pendleton Heights High School guidance counselor Kathy McCord came to a close on Thursday, March 9, at a special meeting.
South Madison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees voted unanimously to terminate McCord from her position, and from the district in which she had been employed for more than 20 years.
The decision came following a three-hour executive session of the board earlier in the week that included administrators, McCord and her union representatives.
McCord had been on administrative leave since January after sharing documents about the district’s gender support plan with the site The Daily Signal, which later published a story about the plan.
The story, written by Tony Kinnett, led to some interpreting the plan as asking district personnel to not let parents know about a student’s gender transition decision whenever a student says their parents are not supportive of the decision.
The plan states that students questioning their gender identity can state if parents are aware of and/or supportive of their decision, as well as who within the school may be aware of the student’s gender identity.
“This plan allows for students to feel like themselves at school, to feel accepted,” Reece Axel-Adams, a former SMCSC student, said. “That’s all these students want. They just want to feel like they belong, and that they have a place.”
Following the decision, board member Buck Evans read a prepared statement to the crowd stating that “(i)t is never the intent of the board to keep anything from parents. I personally have been frustrated with the amount of time that due process takes, especially when I know there was no wrongdoing on the part of this board.”
Community members in support of McCord have been vocal over the past few months about the board’s lack of clarity on the policy.
At a regular board meeting on March 2, parents and community members asked the board repeatedly if the plan was being used, or if one had been created that could be viewed by the public online, and President Mike Hanna’s response was that the plan was “a work in progress.”
McCord supporters have shown up to meetings during the past few months wearing shirts that state “Keep Kathy,” have brought posters stating the same message, and have placed signs in their front yards throughout town, with many community members calling her actions courageous.
In his prepared statement, Evans said McCord admitted to being untruthful about whether she provided The Daily Signal with a blank copy of the gender support plan and, according to Evans, did not “correct misleading statements within the site’s article, although she did read it before it was published.”
He added that the story and the resulting backlash had harmed the school district’s reputation and “inflamed the public unnecessarily.”
“Mrs. McCord has not been dismissed because she gave the document to Mr. Kinnett, but because of untruthful statements she made to the administration,” Evans said. “I do not believe Mrs. McCord is a bad person, but she did make a poor decision and did not try to correct it.”
McCord could not be reached for comment by press time.