GREENVILLE — Providing transgender restrooms was the topic at a recent Greenville City Schools (GCS) District School Board Meeting.
Someone was scheduled to speak during the public participation portion of the meeting, but passed due to the fact that no others from the public were present to represent the topic of transgender restrooms. The discussions stem from a directive from the U.S. departments of Education and Justice.
In May, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice issued guidance to schools. The guidance summarizes schools’ Title IX obligations regarding transgender students and explains how the departments evaluate a school’s compliance with the obligations. Under Title IX the term “sex” no longer means physiological males and females, which is what Congress thought the term meant when the regulation was published, in 1972. Now the term “sex” is applied to persons whose gender identity diverges from their physiological sex. This means, for example, a physiologically female student who self-identifies as a male, must be allowed, under Title IX, to use the boys’ restroom.
Furthermore, students are not required to prove their sexual identity. Some of the language under the Title IX’s guidance is as follows.
“The departments interpret Title IX to require that when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, as appropriate, notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity. Under Title IX, there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity. Because transgender students often are unable to obtain identification documents that reflect their gender identity [e.g., due to restrictions imposed by state or local law in their place of birth or residence], requiring students to produce such identification documents in order to treat them consistent with their gender identity may violate Title IX, when doing so has the practical effect of limiting or denying students equal access to an educational program or activity.”
The American Civil Liberties Union believes that transgender people should have the right to use restrooms that match their gender identity, rather than restricting them to only using gender-neutral ones. Greenville City School District’s answer to the policy is to have two individual public restrooms.
“These are available to any student, any staff, any community member anytime they are in the building,” Supt. Doug Fries said. “That has been the decision. After doing our homework, this is the best way to operate and keep all the restrooms as they are.”
“I think we understand where everyone is,” Board President Fred Matix said. “Mr. [principal Jeff] Cassell and Mr. Fries have had meetings and I think it has been handled the proper way. We are trying not to offend anyone.”
According to Board Member David Madden, the district encourages respect.
“That is the unwritten policy we are trying to convey to the community,” he said. “We want to be respectful of any lifestyle you choose.”
Board Vice-President Brad Gettinger thinks the board’s decision was reasonable, that anyone uncomfortable using the group restroom can use a private one.
“I feel like it’s our mission to make sure we are supporting the safety and the privacy of our students,” he said. “Those are critical things for us to look at. I don’t think we need to make an accommodation just for transgender. Anyone who is uncomfortable, I hope they feel they can approach our administration. I feel that is reasonable. One of the other things that is important to note is making sure we treat other students with respect. I am not in the buildings to see the interactions in the buildings, but when it appeared on social media, I saw some talk that wasn’t respectful to folks. I was disappointed to see it, and I hope it is not coming from students or parents. I believe we can have different opinions on an issue without treating someone with disrespect.”
Others schools follow suit and or are regarding the issue case-by-case, such as the Upper Valley Career Center (UVCC) which some county students attend. According to Supt. Dr. Nancy Luce, UVCC routinely updates its policies based on recommendations from the Ohio School Boards Association’s legal division so that it is in compliance with any changes in laws or regulations.
“With regard to transgender students, any needs are addressed individually,” she said. “Our belief is that our students are young adults who should be treated with genuine respect. Requests are dealt with confidentially and professionally. With regard to restrooms, we have a number of restrooms in the building – some individual and some group. Consequently, we haven’t had any issues.”
Tri-Village School District Board of Education Supt. Josh Sagester said his district is similarly affiliated. “Our district has not been confronted with this topic but the district does have several unisex restrooms in the facility,” he said.
Ansonia Local Schools has not done anything specifically with the transgender restroom issue, according to Supt. Jim Atchley. “If we have a student with any concerns we would try to work with that student and his/her family on an individual basis,” he said.
Franklin Monroe Schools Supt. Jeff Patrick said he would ask for legal advice from the district’s attorney, Bricker & Eckler if presented with questions into transgender. “My suggestion to our Board of Education would be to follow the advice of our attorney, whatever that may be at the time,” he said.
Arcanum-Butler’s School District Supt. John Stephens said, “Our building provides access to individual student restrooms throughout to allow for privacy for any and all students.”
According to Supt. Aaron Moran, the Versailles Exempted Village School District Board of Education adopted the policies, in 2012, that address non – discrimination and Title IX: AC, ACA and ACAA . “The district will continue to update policies where needed to ensure support for all students,” he said. “It will also address any changes to the law or its interpretations through policy updates.”
Other Darke County school districts, such as Bradford Exempted Village School (BEVS) are awaiting on an outcome from the lawsuit involving Ohio, and nine other states, that are suing the Obama administration to stop a directive that requires schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms aligned with their gender identity under the threat of losing federal funding.
“We are waiting on a decision before we do anything further,” said BEVS Supt. Ken Miller.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Nebraska, in July of this year. Ohio is united with nine other states: Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.
“This matter is stayed by the U.S. District Court of Nebraska pending the outcome of Gloucester County School Board vs. G.G. in the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Spokesperson Dan Tierney.
In addition to the restroom discussion, a point was made about this year’s GHS’s graduation gowns all being the same color, instead of the tradition of men wearing green and the ladies white. Was this a transgender consideration?
“No,” Fries said. “It was decided after last year’s graduation for different reasons. For one, the attire shows through the white gowns. Secondly, it is tough to balance two colors of gowns when people choose not to go through graduation at the last minute. We end up with all one color at the end of the line anyway.”
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