OCALA, Fla. – A Florida school district is protecting the privacy rights of its students by requiring that transgender students use the bathroom that correlates to their biological sex.
A new transgender policy under review by the Marion County School Board would restrict transgender students to school restroom facilities based on their biological gender, rather than “gender identity,” and would go into effect on Wednesday if officially approved at Tuesday’s meeting, the Ocala Star Banner reports.
The resolution, discussed by board members Thursday, states that transgender students are “not a protected class under federal or state law or under Marion County Public School policy,” according to the news site.
“Male and female users of MCPS single-sex facilities reasonably expect not to be exposed to persons of the opposite sex while using those facilities.”
The issue surfaced after a Vanguard High School teacher alerted principal John Kerley to a transgender, biologically female student who was using the boy’s restroom, the Associated Press reports.
District officials attempted to work with the student and his parents by designating a special bathroom for the student, but he refused, and demanded full access to the boy’s restroom, according to the Banner.
District officials initially decided to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, but parent Hal Phillips objected, claiming his son’s constitutional right to privacy was violated by sharing a bathroom with someone of the opposite sex.
School board attorney Steven Lake also highlighted the Fourth Amendment during a recent presentation on transgender issues, and said the constitution protects student privacy, “including bodily privacy in the context of restrooms and locker rooms,” according to the news site.
The school district’s initial response to allow the transgender student to use the high school restroom facilities of his choice was based on advice from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which has repeatedly argued in “Dear colleague” letters that federal Title IX laws protect transgender students from discrimination.
The Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX laws, however, is disputed by numerous legal experts and is currently being tested in a West Virginia case that’s still pending.
Ocala board member Angie Boynton pointed out in support of the district’s new policy that other laws specifically prohibit adults from entering bathrooms designated for the opposite biological sex, so it doesn’t make sense to make special exceptions for transgender kids.
The district held a work session centered on transgender issues about two weeks that drew roughly 60 people, of which only one spoke out in support of transgender students, according to the Banner.
Marion County transgender woman Malody Lewis, 29, was the only person quoted by the news site who opposed the district’s proposed policy change for transgender students.
“Nationally speaking, the school board made a very poor decision,” Lewis said.
School board chairman Bobby James, meanwhile, signaled opposition to creating an official transgender policy in favor of evaluating such issues on a case-by-case basis using the same documents as other government agencies.
“My opinion is that we should look at viable and official evidence, such as birth certificate, that is required by both state and federal law when proving your identity,” he said last week. “Birth certificates are legally used for obtaining passports to be sued for traveling abroad. That birth certificate is needed to join the military, obtain a driver’s license, Social Security card and even to claim health care benefits.”