For the last four years, the Orange County school district's anti-bullying policy has specifically protected boys who dress like girls or vice versa.
Hardly anyone cared enough to take notice, much less make a big stink about it.
And for the last two years, Orange County government has protected people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, a term the county defines as including people who are dealing with issues of "gender identity" or "gender expression."
Not a single resident spoke against that policy, either, when it was approved in 2010.
So why this week, when the school district wanted to include transgender students and teachers in its anti-discrimination policy, did it suddenly become an issue big enough to pack a school board meeting with hundreds of people willing to spar into the wee hours of the morning?
There's nothing like contrived what-if scenarios to get people's blood boiling.
And that's exactly what this was: manufactured controversy.
Here's how it happened:
Last week John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, saw a post from a Tea Party blogger about the policy change.
Within days, he orchestrated e-mails and robo-calls to parents, all with the intended effect of frightening them into thinking their teenage daughter was now going to have to share a bathroom with transgender teenage boys.
The e-mails also called the proposal "sneaky" — an underhanded effort by the school board to dodge public debate.
In fact, the school board held a workshop on the policy in September. Nobody spoke against it. The Sentinel's story about it noted that the change would be up for a vote in November or December. Hardly a covert operation.
But the scare tactics worked.
More than 200 people showed up at Tuesday night's meeting, split about evenly between opponents of the change and supporters.
The opposition came armed with stickers that said, "Protect Children."
Supporters quickly embraced the stickers and wore them also. Because, really, who doesn't want to protect children?
Stemberger would have you believe the Orange County School Board doesn't. He contends that a board led by a former conservative legislator, Republican Bill Sublette, would come up with a policy that would result in mass co-mingling of genders in bathrooms and locker rooms across the district.
"Before the students had no right to use the bathroom, now they do have a right to use the bathroom," Stemberger told me. "Now they can say, 'Hey, wait a minute, you're discriminating against me. I want to dress like a girl and use the girl's bathroom.' "
It should be noted that in a district of 182,000 students, the board knows of five transgendered students enrolled in the last two and a half years.
In every case, the student, parents and school worked out a plan for the student to use a faculty bathroom or some other alternative to avoid just such a scenario. And lawyers for the district say that will continue.
If that wasn't enough, some opponents suggested that this change would somehow protect pedophiles, an assertion that is not only untrue but offensive.
Nobody mentioned that cases of inappropriate relationships between heterosexual teachers and students seem to happen on a semi-regular basis. There have been at least nine such cases in Florida so far this year.
Ultimately, the school board saw through this manufactured controversy and voted to adopt the policy, as have at least 11 other districts in the state.
And now, like the anti-bullying policy and Orange County anti-discrimination policy, I suspect we'll go back to hearing very little about this one, too.
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