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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Pupil's Cross-dressing Father Ruffles Feathers in Francis Howell District

[ST. LOUIS, MO] - School principals encourage parents to become involved, but when a cross-dressing father chaperoned a recent field trip, he raised a few parental eyebrows.

About 180 fourth-graders from Castlio Elementary School in the Francis Howell School District traveled to Jefferson City last month as part of their Missouri history studies. Parent Vickie McMichael became concerned about what her daughter had learned on the trip after another parent called her the next day. The parent, who had been on the trip, told her that a student's father had gone on the trip dressed in women's clothing. McMichael, 40, the mother of four children, was concerned enough that she addressed the Francis Howell School Board on Thursday night.

"The sad part is, people are accepting this as normal behavior, that he has a right to do this," said McMichael. "I don't say that he doesn't have that right, but my problem is that he is exposing my daughter to those views. The school is supposed to be protecting our children."

Francis Howell Superintendent Dan O'Donnell said he had discussed the issue with the district's attorney, and there was nothing the district could do after the trip. If the issue comes up again, he said, the district probably will ask the school principal to talk with the cross-dressing parent before the trip. But the parent has constitutional rights, he said.

Principal Nancy Jamieson said she could not discuss individuals.

"We do encourage parents to attend activities with our students," she said. "We like them to be our partners in educating our children."

She said the school had a lot of active parents. Fourteen parents volunteer each week in the library, for example, and the school's parent-teacher group helped the district add a second computer lab.

Jeff Wunrow, executive director of Promo, a Missouri statewide civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, said the field trip provided a teaching moment.

"It seems to me, you could start at that age level saying that not all men grow up to be cowboys and construction workers, and not all women grow up to be ballerinas ...," he said. "There are all different ways to be a boy, and all different ways to be a girl, and they're all right."

Matt LeMieux, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, said he didn't think the district should take a position on whether or not cross-dressing was wrong.

"They most certainly, however, should facilitate understanding," he said.

But McMichael disagreed. She said 9- and 10-year-old children didn't need to spend 15 hours that day being "influenced" by a man in women's clothing.

"It is difficult enough as parents to sit down and talk about the birds and the bees, much less to discuss cross-dressing," she said.

School Board members and administrators did not respond publicly to McMichael's comments. She said a couple of board members had asked her to submit her concerns in writing. She said she would return to talk with the board if it took no action.

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