GASD Engages in Lavender Scare to Target Transgender Staff
GETTYSBURG, Pa. — The Gettysburg Area School District (GASD) board last night voted for the second time to remove cherished head tennis coach Sasha Yates from the regular reappointments list as proposed by the school administration. Gettysburg Area students will start their first day of school today without a tennis coach. With the school board indicating nothing publicly about a substantiated allegation on personnel matters and no formal information that they will consider her reappointment again in the future, the district is effectively terminating her continued employment by attrition. Following the meeting, however, GASD Board Vice-President Michael Dickerson who presided over the meeting told PennLive that “In my opinion, given the gravity of what’s before the board, we owe it to everyone to give it the due diligence and respect to make sure we have all of the information available before we make a decision either way.” Sasha has become a beloved coach positively impacting the lives of many students over the past five seasonss.
At the GASD School Board meeting on Monday, August 7, 2023, Board member Michelle Smyers, who has identified herself as the chair of a local chapter for the Moms for Liberty organization, was successful in introducing a motion to separate Sasha from the dozens of other appointments. The school board unanimously approved all the other coaches together in one motion, but deadlocked on approving Sasha’s reappointment in a separate 3-3 vote. No material reason was stated at that school board meeting why this was happening. School Board member Smyers has posted anti-transgender messages on her social media. In the weeks before the school year was to begin, the tennis team would have no coach to train them back into the season.
In response to this outrageous action, scores of GASD community members mobilized into action to contact the school board in favor of her reappointment. At the school board meeting on August 21, 2023, the district had to move the meeting to the Middle School auditorium to accommodate the large crowds. A supermajority of the attendees were supporters of Sasha, with a smaller crowd against her rehiring in the back of the room. A video of the school board meeting is available on the GASD YouTube page here. Approximately 30 students, alums, parents, healthcare professionals, and community members spoke in favor of Sasha retaining her position as coach, with only three explicitly against.
Nell Matthews, who runs a local tennis program said, “I am appalled and flabbergasted that her contract is in jeopardy because some of you feel ‘uncomfortable.'”
Dr. Sonya Del Tredici, a parent of a student on the tennis team said, “The existence of trans people does not hurt our children. What hurts our children is discrimination against trans people.”
“I moved to Gettysburg because this is the home of emancipation, not discrimination…By all accounts this is a wonderful coach…I’m confused why we are even having this discussion. ‘Liberty’ is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views. Since I’m a mom, I guess I’m one of the true ‘Moms for Liberty,” said nurse Jennifer Nalright.
Dr. Angela Zimman, a former board president of a county-wide school district in Ohio (and previous President of the Northwest Region for the Ohio School Boards Association), and parent of a former tennis player under Coach Yates, said, “The role of a school board member is clear. On the executive side, board members are responsible for the hiring and if necessary, the removal of one employee: the superintendent. On the legislative side, we bear responsibility for setting policy. If we didn’t approve lists of employees as presented in their entirety, it would have been a reflection of our mistrust of the person we hired as superintendent. The role of a school board is to hire and fire the superintendent, and set policy…and that’s it. Anything else is nothing more than egregious government overreach. I encourage you to trust those you have hired to make recommendations for staffing. Let’s keep Coach Yates as the tennis coach, and taxpayer dollars out of the legal courts, which is where this unfortunate situation is likely headed.”
Paul Kennedy, a sophomore at Gettysburg Area High School and a member of the tennis team, said, “I believe there is no person better qualified in Gettysburg to coach [our] tennis teams than Sasha Yates…I believe that terminating her would be wrong in the eyes of all the tennis players, the ones this decision really affects.”
Jason Landau Goodman, Board Chair of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress — Pennsylvania’s only statewide LGBTQ policy advocacy organization — was in attendance at the meeting alongside Sasha. PYC has been supporting Sasha and Gettysburg community members since this situation developed in early August. The following statement can be attributed to Jason:
“Unless they reverse course, the Gettysburg Area School District has taken dramatic action to effectively terminate an employee purely based on her gender identity.
This is like something out of a 1950s playbook when the federal government culled LGBTQ employees during the Lavender Scare — yet it’s 2023 in Gettysburg.
The school district has effectively fired her by attrition. Their conduct is outrageous and spiteful. Nearly thirty members of the greater Gettysburg community spoke out in support of her, with only two against. Many supporters shared deeply personal and moving public comments.
The Gettysburg Area School Board might have thought they could remove an LGBTQ staff member in the cover of a quiet August, but their communities will not let them do this without a fight. It’s sad that this school board feels driven to score political points for a game most people could care less about, over the wellbeing of incredible student athletes who just want their cherished coach back. Hopefully, this school board will vote to reappoint Coach Yates at their next meeting.”