Mt. Sterling Advocate, Sept. 8, 2016
School district taking wait/see attitude on transgender issue
By Tom Marshall
The Montgomery County School District is taking a wait and see attitude on the matter of restroom access for transgender students while the subject works its way through the courts.
Two recent court decisions show the split over the issue.
In the most recent decision, a federal judge ruled that two students and an employee must be allowed to use restrooms matching their gender identity at University of North Carolina campuses.
The judge blocked the University of North Carolina from making the three plaintiffs follow a state law that said that transgender people must use restrooms in schools and public buildings that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates rather than their gender identity.
In the ruling, the judge wrote that the challengers “are likely to succeed” in their arguments that the state law violates a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination.
The North Carolina decision follows another ruling involving a federal judge in Texas that would prevent the Obama administration from enforcing new guidelines expanding restroom access for transgender students.
Superintendent Matt Thompson told the Advocate that the local school district cannot set a policy regarding transgender students until the courts fully sort out the issue.
Thompson said the rulings and lawsuits across the nation indicate that this topic has “little clear and final guidance for school districts.”
“Without clear and final legal rulings on this topic, it is difficult for districts to write a policy,” he said. “We continue to look forward to additional guidance from the state and federal governments as these cases work their way through the legal system.”
Restroom use by transgender students became an issue in Montgomery County last year when the public learned that a male high school student who identified himself as transgender was allowed to use female restrooms.
Several angry parents went before the board of education to complain. At the time, board members said the district did not have a policy.
Social conservatives contend that transgender people should only be allowed to use public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity at birth.
The Obama administration has argued that the rights of transgender people in public schools and workplaces are protected under existing laws against sex discrimination.
In May, local school districts received a letter from the federal Justice and Education Dept.’s stating that transgender people should be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities or lose federal funds.
Legal battles over the issue are expected to continue.