Parents express concerns over CCPS transgender policy
Email states students allowed to use facilities matching gender identity
As the debate on transgender usage of restrooms rages nationally, several parents have expressed concern about Charles County Public Schools’ allowing students to use the facilities matching their gender identity.
Parents attended in support of four parents who spoke out during the public comments portion of the May 23 school board budget work session regarding an email sent to CCPS families about facilities
usage by transgender students.
The email from Superintendent Kimberly Hill, dated May 19, 2016, was sent to inform parents that unless a transgender student prefers another option, school principals will generally approve a request to use the bathroom and locker room facilities matching their gender identity.
The email was sent in response to the national discussion regarding transgender restroom usage, as well as the May 13 guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education regarding allowing students to use the facilities that correspond with his or her gender identity.
Crista Fawls, a parent of four children in the school system, said the email raised red flags for her.
“I have concerns for my children’s privacy. I don’t want them undressing in front of people born with the other sex,” Fawls said. “When you open up that door of the opposite sex in the bathroom, it opens up all doors.”
Fawls said she initially did not see the email — titled only “Student rights information” — and said many parents may have missed it.
“I don’t think they’ve thought through this policy very well,” Fawls said.
Patricia Vaira, director of student services, said that allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity on a case-by-case basis has been the school system’s practice since it adopted gender identity into its nondiscrimination statement in 2014.
“We’ve been giving this guidance and guidelines from the state department of education for the past few years,” Vaira said. “It was already our policy that we do not discriminate against transgender students.”
Fawls said she was particularly concerned with the possibility a student who was not transgender might still use the policy to gain access to the bathroom of the opposite sex, particularly in regards to young girls.
Vaira said school system procedure is for transgender students to meet with their principal to request to use the facilities related with their gender identity. The principal would then have a meeting with the student, parents, school counselors and possibly others before granting permission.
“We look at all of the available options for the transgender student, as well as the general safety and comfort of the general student population,” Vaira said.
Vaira said the procedure would not allow a student to use the restroom of the opposite biological sex without permission. “If someone were to just declare that [they were transgender] and go in, they would be disciplined just like any other student who was in an area they shouldn’t be,” Vaira said.
Vaira said there were approximately 15 to 20 transgender students in the school system at any time. CCPS had 26,307 students in the 2015-16 school year.
During the May 23 board meeting, Hill said the school system risked losing federal and possibly state funding if it enacted a policy in opposition to federal guidance.
“Additionally, there was a court case in the 4th Circuit in Virginia, which we are under, which has upheld the right of transgender students,” Hill said. “This is a difficult issue for all of us; we’ve had parents have shared with us, students have shared with us, teachers have shared with us. What we are trying to do is to respect all students in a way that keeps everyone intact and comfortable, in our schools.”
Fawls said she would have preferred CCPS to make a stand with parents who are uncomfortable with the U.S. Department of Education guidance.
“I would like to see them stand up with the 11 states that said, ‘No, Mr. President, you’ve overstepped your bounds, you don’t get to do this,’” Fawls said.
Vaira said that any student, transgender or not, may request to use single-occupant facilities at a school for legitimate reasons.
Fawls said she felt it was unfair to require her children to use the single-occupant facilities if they are uncomfortable possibly sharing a bathroom with transgender students, and that her sons’ high school only has one single-use facility in the nurse’s office.
“What about the majority of the kids that identify as the gender they were born with? What about her feelings? Why does the minority get to decide, while the majority just has to accept it?” Fawls said.
Fawls said her sons would prefer to share a bathroom with a transgender female student than with one who was born female.
“If they’ve got boy parts, I don’t think they would have a problem. I think they would be more comfortable with that than with sharing a bathroom with someone who has girl parts,” Fawls said.
Vaira said CCPS strives to provide a safe, supportive environment for all students.
“We don’t want to discriminate against anyone, and we want to focus on the safety and comfort of all students,” Vaira said.