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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

Alumni Association co-president faces calls for resignation following his vote on a resolution to “review” guidelines on transgender student athletes

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Aki Benjamin
THHS alumni association co-president faces call for resignation.
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In March, Manhattan’s District 2 Community and Citywide Education Council (CEC) approved a resolution (#248) that quickly made headlines. Politico reported that the CEC vote is part of a “push to restrict transgender girls’ athletic participation” and “[brings] a national issue for cultural conservatives to the largest school district in the Democratic bastion of Manhattan.”

The resolution calls for the city to create a committee to review the DOE’s current policy, which allows students to participate in sports in accordance with their gender identity.

In the months since the vote, numerous outlets have reported on city and state reactions to the resolution. Most notably, NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks called the resolution “despicable.” In late May, The New York Times reported on a letter written by 18 Democratic elected officials from New York that described the proposal as “hateful, discriminatory and actively harmful” to NYC students. According to the Times, the lawmakers “demanded that the council formally rescind the resolution.”

One member of the council who voted for the resolution is Craig Slutzkin, the co-president of the Townsend Harris Alumni Association (THAA). Shortly after Mr. Slutzkin’s support for the resolution became public, class of 2018 alumnus Aaron Fernando, who has a large following on Twitter, now X, co-wrote an open letter calling on Mr. Slutzkin to resign or be removed as co-president and treasurer of THAA.

Almost 200 people signed the letter, saying that they “stand in full solidarity with transgender students and condemn Craig Slutzkin’s hateful targeting of them through this resolution.” The Queens Chronicle covered the letter in March, and spoke to THHS alumna and NYS Assemblymember Nily Rozic, who “said in a statement to the Chronicle that Slutzkin should no longer hold his post.”

In the weeks since, The Classic has interviewed various members of the THHS community about the controversy.

In response to the open letter, which characterized the resolution as demanding “that the Department of Education consider banning transgender girls from women’s sports,” Mr. Slutzkin emailed the following to The Classic: “There was no call for any bans. Unlike what the author’s statement and petition said, I did not ask for, nor call for, any ban on trans-girls in school sports nor have ever personally called for any bans.”

Resolution #248 called on NYC schools to convene a Gender Guidelines review committee that would include “evolutionary biology experts” and would be “authorized to propose amendments, changes and additions to the Gender Guidelines which are the result of an inclusive, evidence-based process concerning the impact on female athletes when the category of sex is replaced by gender identity.”

Mr. Slutzkin framed the resolution passed by CEC 2 as solely intending to create “a safe forum to have difficult yet respectful conversations about how school sports are organized.”

In a statement to The Classic, DOE deputy press secretary Chayann Tull said, “All students have the right to have their gender, gender identity, and gender expression recognized and respected. In our schools, every student can participate in sports and competitive athletics in accordance with their gender identity, and we prohibit any exclusion of students based on their gender identity.”

Principal Brian Condon spoke to The Classic before going on medical leave in May. He expressed his general support for Mr. Slutzkin, calling him “resolute” and a “man of good character.” He said that he “would not encourage him to step down” and thought people in the community should “let cooler heads prevail.” In addition, he said that Mr. Slutzkin’s role as a member of the CEC 2 panel was separate from his role as the THAA co-president, and that THAA members could better express themselves by seeking new leadership when voting in a new Board of Directors for the THAA.

Assistant Principal of Organization Ellen Fee is Acting Principal while Mr. Condon is on leave. She did not comment on calls for Mr. Slutzkin’s resignation but she said she agreed with Chancellor Banks and shared concerns for transgender students. Moreover, she said she believes that there is no need to review what has already been put in place.

“When policies and guidelines are constantly ‘reviewed’ it gives the impression that we are not supporting [students], but we’re putting things under review, and that’s not okay,” Ms. Fee said.

Alumna and recently appointed Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services Jessica Graf said she is determined to continue supporting students in participating on teams that align with their gender identity. “We have the responsibility to advocate and ensure that these guidelines are upheld as they are the policy issued by the Department of Education,” she said.

Junior Nadia Afifa was one of the students who signed Mr. Fernando’s open letter. After seeing the post circulating on social media, she said she was motivated to sign the petition by a “need to uphold [her] values of inclusion and wanting a safer space for all students.” She said she believes that Mr. Slutzkin should no longer hold his position on the THAA.

“I think keeping Craig Slutzkin on the Alumni Association with such a high authority does send a message that we’re willing to condone bigoted ideas even if it’s harmful towards some of the students in Townsend Harris who seek to have a safe space. Being able to hold such ignorant ideas shouldn’t be tolerated. I believe in upholding our school values and there should be consequences for such harmful rhetoric,” Nadia said.

Senior Angelice Jean-Remy found out about the open letter after her sister, a THHS alumnus, sent it to her. Angelice said she signed to add her name to the open letter after thinking about the transgender students at THHS and around the country that she believes may be harmed due to the resolution. “There’s a lot of anti-trans hysteria in the news and social media, and I think it’s important for this school to take a stand against transphobia,” Angelice said.

The Classic asked the leader of THHS’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) to comment on the resolution. GSA President Vee Shupty said, “Needless to say, transgender students should never be singled out in school, and neither should any student regardless of their identity. Trans kids are valid in their identities regardless of what anyone tells them or what situations they find themselves in.”

Numerous students whom The Classic interviewed asked to speak about the topic anonymously. Two PSAL athletes at the school expressed some support for the resolution, with one student saying that, in their experience, transgender athletes had unfair advantages and the other student saying that they didn’t want to ban transgender students from competing but supported a wider conversation about the subject.

A third PSAL student athlete at THHS called the resolution discriminatory and said that any attempts to debate the inclusion of trans athletes represents a step backwards for the city and the school.

Selina Lee, THAA co-president, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Though calls for Mr. Slutzkin’s resignation from THAA have died down since March, last month Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine chose not to reappoint Mr. Slutzkin to his position on Manhattan’s Community Board 5 (CB5), with news reports citing the CEC resolution as the reason Mr. Slutzkin was “ousted” from his position.

According to Our Town, though Levine did not comment on Mr. Slutzkin directly, in a later meeting he called the CEC resolution “reprehensible” and said “let’s be honest, this was not about youth sports. These are not people who care about youth sports standing up for youth sports.”

In a statement to the New York Post on the subject of CB5, Mr. Slutzkin said he had been “made aware” that the motive for his not being reappointed may have been his vote on the CEC resolution.

“I believe that it is incumbent on all of us to engage in difficult conversations with honesty and integrity,” he told The Post. “I want to make it clear that I harbor no bias of any kind, whether it is based on race, creed, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.”

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About the Contributors
Aiden Clarke
Aiden Clarke, Features Editor
Aiden is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. When he’s not on Face Time, hanging out with his friends, or stressing to finish that one assignment he forgot about before 11:59, he likes to read, write, and learn fun facts about random things.
Isabel Jagsaran
Isabel Jagsaran, Editor-in-Chief
Isabel is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. She enjoys exploring new recipes, listening to a plethora of music genres, and kindly asking her friends to take pictures of her. Her favorite memories with The Classic involve bonding with her fellow editors in places like Boston and Albany.
Aki Benjamin
Aki Benjamin, Editorial Board Manager
Aki is a sophomore at THHS. He loves writing, traveling, and eating. After being on the opinion team for one year, he is very excited to be editorial manager this year.
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  • W

    WFJul 2, 2024 at 1:03 pm

    I don’t understand this comment.

    When policies and guidelines are constantly ‘reviewed’ it gives the impression that we are not supporting [students].

    This is a policy made five years ago, with presumably little public input. As far as I know, this hasn’t been reviewed since. So what is Ms. Fee talking about when she uses the term “Constantly”? To me, every five years on an evolving issue doesn’t qualify.

    Reply
  • J

    Jennifer RJul 2, 2024 at 12:52 pm

    Mr. Slutzkin was not reappointed to the Community Board for reasons that had nothing to do with this resolution. Mr. Slutzkin was the chief opponent to the Borough President’s hand-picked chair who happens to be a real estate lobbyist who just formed a major PAC. Mr. Slutzkin has spoken out against the massive real estate lobby. It’s telling that over 30 members of the Community Board petitioned to keep Mr. Slutzkin – he was very well liked and respected. You should watch the last meeting he was at where everyone who worked with him on the Community Board spoke out with major support and adoration. This was all political. The Borough President had previously never spoken about this issue or really any education issue.

    Mr. Slutzkin has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. He also is an advocate for parents having a voice which is what this resolution advocated for.

    https://www.westsidespirit.com/news/cb5-in-revolt-against-boro-pres-mark-levine-fires-off-letter-urging-rescind-craig-slutzkin-s-ouster-ED3353699

    https://www.crainsnewyork.com/politics-policy/community-board-5-official-who-posed-challenge-new-chairman-pushed-out

    Community Board meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OhxzZjR3Ww

    Reply
  • C

    CWJul 1, 2024 at 6:59 pm

    The resolution simply asks for a discussion on a policy set by the Department of Education five or six years ago, with apparently little input by parents and even students.

    In a recent poll, 70% of New Yorkers oppose trans women in male sports, including 50% of Democrats polled. Should we call for all of those people to step down from whatever job they may have because they disagree with you? Or perhaps this is a difficult issue that deserves conversation.

    Your article shows the issue we have today: no one wants debate – it’s “my way or the highway”. The “woke” mob has made it so difficult for anyone to disagree with them. Students – Townsend Harris classmates – were afraid to put their names in the article, clearly for fear of cancellation. Is that what Townsend Harris is? A place where students are afraid to openly express opinions?

    Did you see the CEC meeting where adults were heckling high school students who expressed support for the discussion?

    Mr. Slutzkin simply voted for a non-binding resolution to allow for debate and conversation. And he was brave enough to do it publicly. And by the way, I didn’t read in the article where he said whether he was for or against the actual policy., which I take to mean he just wanted to allow for others to be able to express opinions. Good for him. And anyone who castigates him for that is clearly a fan of censorship and should be ashamed.

    Reply