State Rep. Kera Birkeland spoke out on social media in response to reports that she sent a letter to school administrators regarding transgender students, explaining that she hopes to help protect children in the state.
"Everyday I grow more and more concerned about the future our kids and grandkids will face. Kids should not be pushed or encouraged to make adult decisions. They shouldn't have to wonder if they are racist or if they'll be safe at school. Kids are naturally kind and curious. Let's let them flourish without being used as political pawns in our culture wars," Birkeland, R-Morgan, posted on her official Facebook page Monday.
She said protecting children "will take bold leaders who are willing to stand up and insist that all children are respected and Parents' Rights are first and foremost upheld."
In a letter last week sent on official Utah House of Representatives letterhead, Birkeland expressed concern about what she calls the "transgender phenomenon, where an increasing number of children are seeking to be identified as something other than their biological sex." The representative also included a pamphlet titled "Navigating the Transgender Landscape School Resource Guide," which she encouraged principals to distribute to staff members.
A House spokeswoman said leaders learned about the letter early Friday and researched state law regarding use of the letterhead. There are no rules against its use by representatives, the spokeswoman said, adding that she does not know if that could change in the future.
Salt Lake City School District leaders said Tuesday they were sending a letter to school principals to "clarify" information sent in the letter from Birkeland and to reiterate their board policy of inclusion.
LGBTQ advocates contended the letter created an "illusion" that it was official state guidance. Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said he believes the letter was an "attack" on transgender students, after Birkeland passed a bill this year that prohibits transgender girls from competing on girls’ high school sports teams.
In a separate public post on her personal Facebook page, Birkeland urged her friends: "Don't believe what the media and special interest groups are saying."
Birkeland did not respond to requests for comment on Friday and did not immediately respond to another request for comment on Tuesday.
"In case you're new to knowing me — I love and support all people. I recently sent out a letter to all school administrators within Utah, providing Utah Law and a resource guide that schools are free to use or ignore. The underlying message in what I sent was, first and foremost, Respect Parental Rights and Respect All Children," Birkeland wrote.
In series of tweets Tuesday, Utah House Democrats called the information Birkeland sent to school principals “misleading and misguided.” They offered links to what they called “legitimate and local resources” regarding gender-diverse individuals.