ACLU Urges Against Scottsdale Partnering With Great Hearts Academies On Park

By Will Stone
Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 2:15pm
Updated: Monday, April 24, 2017 - 8:14am

Supporters of LGBTQ rights are urging the city of Scottsdale not to partner with one of Arizona’s most prominent charter school organizations on some sports facilities because of what the group calls its “anti-transgender” policy.

The Scottsdale City Council is scheduled Tuesday to consider a plan to develop a public park that would house the athletic fields and facilities for two schools run by Great Hearts Academies, which operates more than two dozen schools throughout Arizona and Texas.

Scottsdale owns the property next to the DC Ranch Community, but Great Hearts has offered to invest millions of dollars to develop the site. Sports teams from Scottsdale Preparatory Academy and Archway Classical Academy would use the park for athletic activities. In return, Scottsdale would get a new park that would be open to the public, except for when teams were using certain facilities.

Some residents have expressed concern about the venture, but opposition is also now coming from a different front.

As KJZZ reported this week, the Great Hearts Arizona Board of Directors quietly passed a “biological sex and gender” policy in June of last year that some families and LGBTQ advocates say discriminates against transgender students.

Under the policy, students must use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates. It also applies those requirements to pronouns, dress code and school activities. Under Arizona law, a doctor must provide written proof that the person has undergone gender reassignment surgery in order to change a birth certificate.

“The people who approved this are supposedly community leaders — and I’m just shocked that in today’s day and age, LGBT students are still discriminated against,” the mother of one Great Hearts transgender student told KJZZ.

The board of directors has current and former executives from well-known Arizona companies and sports teams, as well as elected officials like the Maricopa County attorney. 

Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has sent a letter to Scottsdale’s mayor and council members pressuring them to reject the park agreement “to do otherwise would make the city of Scottsdale complicit in discrimination against transgender people.” 

“Great Hearts’ policy isolates, stigmatizes, and delegitimizes transgender people. ... No person should ever have to endure the indignities that Great Hearts imposes on transgender students and their families,” ACLU Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler writes.

Great Hearts would not speak to KJZZ for its initial story or explain how the guidelines were developed.

The policy is already discouraging some parents from keeping their children enrolled in the charter school network.

Robert Chevaleau pulled his child out of a Great Hearts school in December because he didn’t feel comfortable sending his younger child, who is transgender.

“The Great Hearts policy directly creates an abusive environment for their transgender students and ignores all emerging best practices that ensure all students have an opportunity to thrive in school,” Chevaleau, who runs a support group for families with transgender children, wrote in an email to KJZZ.

“The question to consider is, does Great Hearts represent the City of Scottsdale? I would argue, that with this policy in place, they do not,” he said.

The City Council is expected to decide whether to begin the development and planning process with Great Hearts for the proposed park at its Tuesday meeting.

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