PENDLETON — The South Madison Community Schools Corp. board has fired a Pendleton Heights High School counselor who brought attention to an apparent effort to withhold information from parents about student gender transition decisions.

In a decision that many community members expected but that was still met with angry outbursts at the conclusion of a special meeting Thursday, the district fired Kathy McCord on a 7-0 vote.

“This was not a decision that any of us wanted to make,” board member Angie Brown said after the meeting. “But it was the right decision. It’s heartbreaking.”

The decision followed a three-hour closed door hearing with the board earlier in the week that included administrators, McCord and her union representatives.

McCord was placed on indefinite leave in January, months after sending an email to teachers informing them of a student’s gender transition decision and asking them to refrain from communicating that information to the student’s parents, noting that the family was “not supportive of this decision.”

That email, dated Aug. 16, was later published in a story posted on The Daily Signal, a news website funded by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

The story, written by Tony Kinnett, described a school gender support plan that some interpreted as asking district personnel to not communicate to parents a student’s gender transition decision whenever a student says their parents are not supportive of the transition.

Immediately after the vote, board member Buck Evans read a prepared statement that pushed back against that perception, telling those in attendance, “It is never the intent of the board to keep anything from parents. I personally have been frustrated with the amount of time that due process takes, especially when I know there was no wrongdoing on the part of this board.”

District officials have remained largely silent about the plan and its specifics.

At the board’s regular meeting in December, Superintendent Mark Hall said that under the district’s nondiscrimination policy, “The school honors that request for any student who requests to be a called a different name without notifying a parent.

“For students who have requested gender-related accommodations, the district uses a document created to share an understanding about the ways in which a student’s gender-related accommodation request will be supported at the school,” he said.

At another regular board meeting on March 2, Board President Mike Hanna, responding to a pointed question from a parent about whether a gender support plan exists, described it as “a work in progress.”

Board member Evans said that McCord admitted to being untruthful about whether she provided Kinnett with a blank copy of the gender support plan and, according to Evans, did not “correct misleading statements within his article, although she did read it before it was published.”

He added that the story and the resulting backlash had harmed the school district’s reputation and “inflamed the public unnecessarily.”

“Mrs. McCord has not been dismissed because she gave the document to Mr. Kinnett, but because of untruthful statements she made to the administration,” Evans said. “I do not believe Mrs. McCord is a bad person, but she did make a poor decision and did not try to correct it.”

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