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Some community members were outraged over Trustee Michael Allman's participation in a Facebook discussion that included transphobic statements. The Coast News graphic
Some community members were outraged over Trustee Michael Allman's participation in a Facebook discussion that included transphobic statements. The Coast News graphic
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Allman faces backlash over participation in ‘transphobic’ Facebook discussion

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story contains descriptions of transphobic language

ENCINITAS — San Dieguito High School District Trustee Michael Allman is facing backlash for his involvement in a recent Facebook thread featuring offensive comments about gender pronouns and transgender individuals.

The post originated in the private Facebook group SDUHSD Families for Students First, of which Allman is a member. The post claimed that a student at Canyon Crest Academy had been told to only use the pronoun “they” in class or risk getting in trouble.

The post drew over 100 comments from district parents and community members, with many mocking the use of gender-neutral pronouns, insisting that students should not be asked their pronouns at all, and sharing transphobic messages. Allman responded to several comments throughout the conversation thread.

In one interaction, an individual joked the singular “they” pronoun was as grammatically correct as using the phrase “fo shizzle” and said that “it” would be a more appropriate pronoun for gender-neutral individuals.

“When I need a good laugh to ease the tension of my day, I know I can always count [on] you! Fo shizzle!” Allman replied, which he later said could be misconstrued as him mocking people who use gender-neutral pronouns.

Canyon Crest Academy principal Brett Killeen told The Coast News that he spoke with the parent who made the original post and determined the claim about students being instructed to utilize solely they/them pronouns was not accurate. However, this was not clarified in the post.

“Sometimes, individuals request that we use specific pronouns that align with their identity, and we try to honor that out of genuine respect for that person,” Killeen said. “It’s as simple as that. No mandates exist about using one or several pronouns.”

The conversation’s screenshots, particularly Allman’s comments, enraged many community members. Over a dozen individuals attended the district board’s Thursday meeting with signs and transgender pride flags in hand, criticizing Allman for not taking a solid stance against transphobic statements and appearing to agree with some of them.

Allman insisted that he respects people’s pronoun preferences and expects district personnel to show this respect to students.

“Everybody should be able to be called by the pronoun of their choice, full stop,” Allman said. “If a student, or anyone, were to say in school, ‘My pronoun is he, she, they or anything else,’ the teacher should respect that.”

Several speakers at the meeting referenced a specific comment on the post made by an individual named Hugh Stewart, which said transgender and nonbinary individuals should die by suicide and compared them to pedophiles. The parents called the comment “transphobic” and claimed that Allman failed to denounce it.

“How am I supposed to go to school in this loving, beautiful school district knowing there are adults out there who think I should be dead for who I am?” said August Ruterbusch, a 2021 graduate of the district who identified himself as transgender. “How can you even pretend to support the kids that you say you do when these are real conversations with real people?”

Allman disputed this, sharing a screenshot of a text between himself and group administrators from the week prior, calling the comment inappropriate and requesting it to be taken down. The remark has since been deleted.

“Anyone can and does report comments, and the admins try to keep up. When I saw that comment, I found that offensive,” Allman said. “Suicide is not funny. We’ve all been affected either directly or one step away, and it is no laughing matter.”

However, residents noted that Allman left other joking comments and laughing reactions throughout the thread, including in response to other statements made by Stewart and comments which mocked the use of they/them pronouns.

In another part of the thread, Allman responded with a laughing emoji to a comment that stated, “What if someone chooses preferred pronouns such as: “El Macho/El Mucho”? Or the infamous combo: “I/She/it.”

“The sad part is, if a student said their pronouns were I/she/it, they would probably be charged with a hate crime,” Allman responded.

Community members emphasized that asking students’ pronouns is an inclusive practice that shows support for diverse identities.

“The cruelest part of the Facebook group is the self-pitying,” said San Dieguito Academy parent Kathy Stenger. “They lament the annoyance and confusion their children face for being asked to participate in inclusive practices at school and imagine the horror of being held accountable. Meanwhile, parents of transgender and gender diverse children agonize every day about the very real threats to the physical safety and mental health of their children.”

Some attendees called on Allman to resign and for other board members to publicly denounce his actions. Many also encouraged the board to undergo sensitivity training related to gender identities and make more actionable efforts to support LGBTQIA+ students.

Trustee Katrina Young shared a statement condemning the statements made on the Facebook post by Allman and others and supporting queer, transgender and nonbinary students on Saturday.

“It is never appropriate to mock, shame, or threaten another human being, especially a group of individuals who suffer from anxiety, depression, and self-harm at disproportionately higher rates than their peers,” Young said. “Far too long, the LGBTQIA+ community has felt misrepresented, misunderstood, and even shunned by society. But it is my hope that our schools and surrounding communities can work together to change the cycle of mistreatment (and worse) that is perpetuated when individuals forget or refuse to empathize with another human being.”

This is not the first time Allman has been in hot water for alleged inappropriate behavior. The first-term school board member has been called on to resign by several community members this year due to claims of bullying behavior against other administrators and staff and was the subject of an investigation focused on gender discrimination allegations levied against him by a former superintendent.

A July 15 notice of outcome by Best Best & Krieger found that while Allman can be “demanding and disrespectful,” there was not sufficient evidence of gender discrimination.

Allman characterized the individuals as simply using the Facebook situation as a way to disrupt the meeting, noting that many of them shouted over him when he attempted to respond to their comments.

On Monday, Allman told The Coast News he plans to speak with the administration about maintaining order at future meetings. Allman said he was told that “there are individuals who want to escalate the tension,” but declined to clarify where he obtained this information.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of August Ruterbusch’s name and the year he graduated.