Why 4 districts are struggling with transgender bathroom policies

Lawsuits are leading school systems to become more inclusive
By: | December 6, 2019
Districts are adopting transgender bathroom policies that are more inclusive after various parties file transgender lawsuits against them.

Numerous districts are the subject of transgender lawsuits for not allowing transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. While many of these schools have adopted more inclusive transgender bathroom policies as a result, one district recently had to reverse a more progressive initiative due to community backlash.

From DA: Schools create inclusive climates for transgender students

Yesterday, three judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sets legal precedents for Georgia, Alabama and Florida, asked lawyers questions regarding a civil rights lawsuit against St. Johns County School District in Florida for not allowing a high school transgender student to use the boys’ bathroom, reported Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The federal appeals court will rule whether the district should be ordered to allow students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, reported AL.com.

In Illinois, Township High School District 211 recently voted to ease bathroom and locker room restrictions after two parties filed transgender lawsuits against the district, reported Chicago station WGN9.

In Indiana, a federal judge ruled in June that Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation violated Title IX for not allowing a transgender boy to use a men’s restroom—even though the district let him use a gender-neutral lavatory, reported Courier & Press.

Related: Transgender rights: What administrators need to know

Related: Suicide prevention program focuses on LGBTQ students

Meanwhile, “death threats, student harrassment, and vandalism of school property have forced Pickens County Public Schools in Georgia to backtrack a decision that allows transgender students to use restrooms of their choice, the district superintendent told ABC News

Transgender students will have to use single-stall private bathrooms until Pickens County has consulted with law enforcement and safety professionals, reported the news outlet. 

Debunking myths about transgender bathroom policies

Concerns about allowing transgender students to choose which bathrooms to use are often misplaced, Jenny Betz, director of education and youth programs for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, told District Administration. “There is zero evidence that shows other students are unsafe when a transgender student uses the bathroom,” Betz says. 

Related: How to develop an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum

In Minnesota, Saint Paul Public Schools addressed concerns that some community and staff members felt about adopting more inclusive transgender bathroom policies. Some believed that a student would pretend to be transgender to use a certain bathroom to see others naked or to play on a sports team to gain a competitive advantage, reported DA. 

“Some of the folks who were really concerned about the policy started to have a better understanding about what it means to be transgender after hearing from several of our youth and our parents of transgender students,” Ryan Vernosh, Saint Paul’s policy and planning administrator, told DA. “It helped tremendously to broaden some people’s perspectives.”

Resource: Transgender Students and School Bathrooms: Frequently Asked Questions