ELKO, Nev. – Not every school board in America is willing to be bullied by the federal government or the American Civil Liberties Union when it comes to student dignity and privacy.
The school board in Elko, Nevada unanimously voted last week to deny the request of a mother to allow her middle school daughter, who identifies as a boy, to use boys’ restroom and shower facilities.
The facilities in the school district will remain segregated by students’ actual gender, not what some perceive themselves to be. The student in question will continued to be allowed to use a special education unisex restroom, according to the Elko Daily Free Press.
“I strongly support the school board in their decision,” said Karen England, CEO of the Capitol Resource Family Alliance, who urged residents to lobby the school board to oppose the request.
“The Elko County School District’s policy supporting privacy while accommodating gender non-conforming students does not violate the U.S. Constitution or Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The school board has done its due diligence to ensure the protection and privacy of all students.”
The Elko board’s decision is rare and newsworthy.
Throughout the nation, dozens of school boards (if not hundreds by now) have agreed to allow transgender students use the restrooms and/or locker rooms of their choice, regardless of their biological gender.
That means biological boys are using girls facilities and vice versa.
This practice has been wildly unpopular with parents and other citizens in many school districts, but most school boards have allowed it anyway, largely because they’re afraid to do otherwise.
The U.S. Department of Education has decreed that transgender students have the right to use the facilities of their choice, based on Title IX federal regulations regarding non-discrimination in schools.
The federal government has threatened to withhold millions of dollars in school aid to districts that fail to cooperate with full transgender access. The ACLU has threatened (an in at least one instance followed through) to sue school districts that fail to comply.
Many school board attorneys are also telling board members they must comply, because it’s the law.
But the members of the Elko, Nevada school board are willing to take their chances, based on what they believe is right and wrong.
“We make policies that are best for all students according to our mission statement,” school board Trustee Cindy Elquist said at the meeting, according to the local newspaper. “Agreeing with the request would go against that.”
“The school board made reasonable accommodations for the student,” said board President Thad Ballard, according to the local newspaper. “The law doesn’t go that far to designate the student can use the restroom of the gender they identify with.”
Actually that may not be the case in Nevada right now.
SB 504, an anti-bullying state law rushed through the legislature earlier this year by the Republican majority and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, includes language that makes it illegal for schools to maintain single-gender student showers or restrooms.
Several legislators showed up at the Elko school board meeting last week and apologized for unwittingly supporting the bill without fully understanding it.
State Rep. Jim Wheeler said he only voted yes because he thought the bill exclusively addressed student bullying, according to the Daily Free Press.
“Had I known the provisions for (the bill), I would never have voted for it,” Wheeler was quoted as saying.
But there is also a provision in SB 504 that calls for safe learning environments for all students, according to England, and “having co-ed bathrooms completely contradicts that,” she said.
England did not seem shocked by the school board’s decision, but clearly appreciated it.
“I think part of it is that it’s Nevada,” England told EAGnews. “A lot of Nevada is very conservative, and they are shocked that any of this is even being brought up.
“The school board knows this is a balancing act. They know they have to balance the rights of all students, and they were willing to stand up.”