Protect Access to School Restrooms for Transgender Students

Bathroom-gender-sign_Tombe

Targets: Nancy Stacy, Carol Ely, Angie Boynton, and Kelly King, Members of the Marion County School Board

Goal: Continue allowing students in Marion County to use gender-congruent restrooms.

A school board is poised to bar transgender students from restrooms corresponding to their gender identities. According to the Occala Star Banner, the proposed resolution would declare that transgender people are “not a protected class under federal or state law or under Marion County Public Schools (MCPS) policy. Male and female users of MCPS single-sex facilities reasonably expect not to be exposed to persons of the opposite sex while using those facilities.” The Occala Star Banner goes on to note that the language of the Marion County School Board’s resolution closely follows that of similarly discriminatory regulations in Virginia.

That similarity suggests that the Florida school board could soon find itself on uncertain legal ground. The fourth circuit court of appeals in Virginia rejected a lower court’s ruling that a transgender student could be barred from gender-congruent school restrooms, directing it to revisit the case.

Moreover, the school board’s declaration that transgender status is unprotected at the state or federal level is pure fantasy. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights views a transgender student’s ability to chose a gender-congruent restroom as a civil right, and according to the Department of Justice, “Under Title IX, discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. The term ‘sex’ as it is used in Title IX is broad and encompasses gender identity, including transgender status.”

Not only is the Marion County School Board’s proposed anti-transgender resolution discriminatory, it does not appear to be motivated by the same cisgender children whom it purports to protect. When Harrell H. Phillips told the board that his son’s right to privacy was violated by being asked to share facilities with a transgender boy, it was an adult addressing the school board, not his high school-aged son, who is presumably capable of articulating his own discomfort. Moreover, the issue of transgender restroom use in Marion County only came to light when a teacher, not a student, discovered a transgender boy using the restroom and reported that fact to the school’s principle.

The resolution barring transgender students from the appropriate bathroom appears to be based more on the fears of adults than the experiences of students themselves. Additionally, the proposed resolution violates the civil rights of transgender students and jeopardizes the safety of the school district’s federal funding. Tell the Marion County School Board to continue allowing transgender students to use gender-congruent restrooms.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Marion County School Board,

Please reconsider you plans to bar transgender students from gender-congruent restrooms. As countless authorities on education, most recently the president of Michigan’s Board of Education, have said, “absent a school environment that welcomes and supports them … school children who say they are lesbian, gay or bisexual—and the as yet uncounted but growing number of transgender students—won’t get the education they too deserve.” Not only does your board’s proposed anti-transgender resolution jeopardize the success of LGBT students, it threatens the welfare of all students in your district.

As you all must be aware, the resolution’s declaration that transgender people are “not a protected class under federal or state law or under Marion County Public Schools (MCPS) policy” is fantasy. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has held that denying a transender student the choice of a gender-congruent restroom violates the student’s civil rights.

The Department of Justice concurs, stating that “Under Title IX, discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. The term ‘sex’ as it is used in Title IX is broad and encompasses gender identity, including transgender status.” Even now, a lawsuit seeking justice against similar anti-transgender regulations in Virginia is advancing under that logic. By enacting anti-transgender policies, you would expose your district and your students to a loss of federal funds and costly lawsuits.

Make the right choice for all your students. Transgender students are like any others; they simply want to learn and be themselves. They are not a threat to the safety of their cisgender peers. Baring transgender students from gender-congruent restrooms not only undermines their prospects for academic and personal success, it jeopardizes the funding and the futures of all students in your district.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Tombe

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