The Watertown School District in South Dakota is being asked to take action after a teacher tried to dismiss students’ gender identities with a letter, a DVD and candy.
The letter was called a “pre-meditated attack” by parents of the children. It was given to four classmates and told them they were wrong to use masculine names.
The students and their parents didn’t appreciate the letter.
The letter, identified to be from Watertown High School German teacher Calvin Hillesland clumsily tries to equate being transgender to being bitten by a rattlesnake. Hillesland claims he feels wrong for not trying to talk to the students about being asked to “call [their] friends by masculine names.”
He goes on to claim while the student may feel differently about it, the feeling is “like a mirage” and their cells are “feminine”.
That’s the “biological truth” Hillesland claims.
The letter ends with an offer of a DVD he claims will explain the spiritual nature of the students’ assigned gender and implies he also gave them candy.
Finally, he signs off with a German valediction, part of the clues that led to his identity.
The whole thing reads like a fever dream.
The school district confirmed that the letter existed by informing parents. It was sent to four students at the high school earlier this week.
One of them was the transgender child of Ashley Bakke. When she was informed of the letter she went to the school to get answers about it.
Bakke was frustrated with the talk she had with the principal, comparing it to “talking with a politician.” After being frustrated that the district couldn’t do anything about her child being bullied all year for being trans, this was the final straw.
She pulled her child from the district.
Other students were devastated to learn that Hillesland had given four students this letter. He was a very popular and well-liked teacher before this incident.
Alex Rambow, a student at the high school said:
“We were all flabbergasted. Mr. Hillesland was always the nice teacher who always said hi to everyone, but he's lost all my respect.”
The district tried to come out in support of the students, saying:
“The Watertown School District does not support this sort of action, and we respect the rights of our students to be who they are.”
“We want to provide a safe learning environment for all students. We continue to work through the situation and ask for your support as we handle it.”
However, it was confirmed that as of Tuesday, Hillesland was still teaching. The administration says they are investigating the situation and assessing their course of action.
Leading to calls for the district to do something.
Hillesland is planning to retire at the end of the school year, but some of the parents want something done now. In addition to discipline for Hillesland, they’re calling for mandatory training in LGBTQ+ youth issues.