NAZARETH, Pa. — Sadie Flesher recently moved back to Nazareth because she needed support from family while dealing with long-COVID symptoms.

As a transgender woman, Flesher said she’s aware of the tensions between people in the LGBTQ community and those who are hostile to them. She said she waited until after graduating from Nazareth Area High School and moving away for college before coming out to friends and family.

“No one should have to leave to feel safe and comfortable and happy in their own hometown,” she said.

  • A member of the Parents for Choice group, who is also a NASD parent, wants school staff to notify parents if children request to use different gender pronouns
  • A parental rights bill is pending in the Pennsylvania legislature
  • Trans woman Sadie Flesher said such a policy would endanger students

Flesher voiced concern online after learning about a request last month to Nazareth Area School Board by a parent to create a policy she argues would put LGBT students in danger.

Aly Warner, a member of the local conservative group Parents for Choice, asked the school board to create a new rule that would mandate district staff notify parents if their child wants to go by different pronouns or comes out at school.

“I am up here to, number one, point out that there is no policy that requires the school to call me if my son was coerced or decides that he wants to be somebody else," Warner said.

Flesher said the idea of creating such a policy at Nazareth schools concerned her.

“I think it puts a lot of kids at risk,” she said. “Also, it doesn’t respect kids' right to autonomy.

In a response to a request for comment, Nazareth Area School District Superintendent Richard Kaskey said there are no pending policies at this time.

A bill introduced in the state legislature last month would create a parental right bill requiring all school districts to notify parents if there’s a change to a student’s mental, emotional or physical health. It also would limit teaching of gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through 5th grade.

It’s pending in the House Education Committee.

It’s similar to a law passed this year in Florida. Nicknamed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, it allows parents to sue school districts.

Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, said last summer that law and another Florida law were in part to blame for a spike in teacher vacancies.

Flesher also takes issue with Warner using the word “coerced.”

Some attendees at the school board meetings also have advocated for eliminating the high school’s Gay Straight Alliance Club. The school district’s website lists the club as inactive for the 2020-21 academic year.

Flesher said she feels that spaces for gay and trans people are being closed off.

“It’s just taking away our right to exist in public space," she said.

Activist April Gabriel-Ferretti is leading a “You Belong” campaign that aims to promote inclusion and safety in Nazareth. But Flesher said she doesn’t feel safe.

“Other trans people have had the experience of threats, and based on the conversations I’ve been having online for the past month, there are people who have really violent ideologies about us,” she said.

“It really only takes running into the wrong person with the wrong at the wrong time like once to be dead.”