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The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights Division is investigating the transgender restroom policy of a Georgia school district after a 5-year-old girl was assaulted by a boy claiming to be “gender fluid.”

The parent of the girl, Pascha Thomas, filed a complaint with OCR through her attorney, Vernadette Broyles against Decatur City School District when it allegedly failed to provide a “prompt and equitable response to the Parent’s report that the Student had been sexually assaulted in the girls’ restroom by a male student who identified as gender fluid and who was permitted access to the girls’ restroom pursuant to the District policy (Policy) that permits students access to facilities, including restrooms, that correspond to their gender identity,” according to the complaint.

In previous year’s, Decatur City School District implemented the transgender-inclusive restroom policy when President Obama issued guidance in 2016. The school district continued the policy despite President Trump’s decision to rescind the policy in 2017. Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods released a statement at the time saying that the state’s education department will support school districts who remove the policy citing safety concerns. Woods also had the support of Governor Nathan Deal, both saying that President Obama’s policy exceeded federal authority.

According to the complaint filed on May 22, Superintendent David Dude announced to staff “a policy that required all Decatur Schools to admit boys who identify as female into girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, and shower areas on school premises…based solely on the stated preference of the individual student….”

Following the adoption of the policy, the complaint notes, “Superintendent Dude and the Board were repeatedly warned through written statements and public comment that the Policy would unacceptably inflict the loss of privacy and loss of safe private spaces for girls.” The school district made no changes to the policy and, in November 2017, a boy was permitted—because of the policy—to enter the girls’ restroom, where he assaulted the girl, known by the initials “N.T.”

The investigation will study whether the transgender policy’s implementation “contributed to the creation” of a hostile environment for all girls. The office is also investigating whether the school district retaliated against the girl’s mother for reporting the incident by reporting the mother to the Department of Family and Children’s Services. The investigation found no wrongdoing on the mother’s part but exposed the family to further indignity.

The school had no plans to discipline the male student after repeated requests from Pascha Thomas, the girl’s mother, asked the school to intervene. The school took no known corrective action against anyone at the school and refused to change or alter its policy, forcing the mother to remove her daughter from the school for her emotional and physical safety.

“A school’s top priority is to protect the safety and bodily privacy of its students, period,” said attorney Vernadette Broyles with the Georgia Adoption & Family Law Practice, who co-filed the complaint with Alliance Defending Freedom. “Decatur School’s policies have created a stressful, unfair, and, as in this case, even unsafe environment—particularly for girls. We are grateful that OCR is investigating this tragedy, and we hope the agency helps this school district and others adopt commonsense solutions that protect the privacy and safety of all students.”

School District Superintendent David Dude told parents that the policy allowed transgender students to use single-occupancy restrooms. However, he told school staff in an email that a male who identifies as female should be allowed to use whichever facilities he prefers, including overnight stays. Dude kept the policy in place after President Trump rescinded the guidance and the State School Superintendent honored the recension at the state level.

According to the complaint, the school district “sought to retaliate against a low-income, African-American single mother and intimidate her into silence by sending the Department of Family and Child Services to her door to interrogate her children and inspect her home.”

The letter from the Department of Education’s OCR stated they would be looking into all aspects of the complaint.

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Jeremy Spencer grew up in rural South Georgia and has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, school administrator, and state education official. Jeremy is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus is local news, statewide education issues, and statewide political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as an education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns. Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. Jeremy has lived in Camden County for over 17 years.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education has determined that it has jurisdiction over, and will formally investigate, a legal complaint that a school district policy permitting transgender students to choose which restroom to use creates an illegal “hostile environment” for girls at the Decatur City School District.

    The investigation as to whether a 5-year old kindergarten girl was sexually assaulted by a transgender anatomical male student because he was permitted to use the girls’ restroom could provide a vehicle for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to continue reducing if not totally eliminating the policy – established under the Obama administration but now rescinded – which permitted all students claiming to be transgender to use restrooms inconsistent with their anatomy.

    However, there are at least two ways schools can meet the interests of transgender students without endangering the safety and privacy of traditional female students in restrooms.

    If the Department finds that permitting anatomical males to use female restrooms constitutes a hostile environment for girls because it creates a real fear of sexual assaults and/or an invasion of long established protections of privacy related to gender and restroom functions, it could force school districts to abandon policies which permit any student – especially ones without the kind of medical or other evidence typically required to demand a reasonable accommodation for a disability – to use any restroom he wishes.

    A simple alternative would be to abandon the concept that any student claiming to be transgender should be able to use any restroom he chooses, and instead use the legal standard applied in other similar situations, and require only that a school must make a reasonable accommodation to the interests of a transgender student.

    As an example of the principle, religious beliefs are protected under Title VII by requiring that there be a “reasonable accommodation” to them. A similar scope of protection is provided by various Religious Freedom Protection Acts [RFPA] which are designed to protect religious interests. Under them, deeply religious persons are not granted absolute freedom to practice their religious identity and beliefs no matter what the consequences; rather, they are entitled to no more than a reasonable accommodation to them.

    As an even better example, a similar reasonableness standard is applied to protecting the interests of those with disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA]. For example, their fundamental right to enter and use a building is protected, but handicapped students do not have an absolute right to use each and every exit or entrance which may be available to others. Instead, the school need only make a reasonable number of entrances accessible to wheelchair users.

    Similarly, a school does not have to provide wheelchair access to all classrooms to adequately protect the rights of students in wheelchairs if there are a sufficient number of wheelchair-accessible classrooms to accommodate the small percentage of wheelchair-using students who do need them. Using the same standard, providing enough single-user restrooms to reasonably satisfy the requirements of the tiny percentage of transgender students might adequately protect their rights without opening up all female restrooms to anatomical males who might simply claim to feel female.

    Although most all-gender restrooms are designed, like those on airplanes, for only a single user, schools are beginning to experiment with all-gender restrooms which can be utilized by several males and females at the same time. For example, consider the two new elementary schools in North Kansas City High School which feature them.

    Having public restrooms that everyone can use addresses the concerns of transsexuals who object to being forced to use restrooms inconsistent with their gender identities, as well as of females who are often forced to wait on much longer lines to use restrooms, especially in theaters and sporting-event venues – a problem also being addressed by so-called potty parity laws and legal action.

    Single-user restrooms, while they address the main restroom problem transgender people face, are more expensive and less efficient than traditional paired separate multi-user male and female restrooms, and retrofitting existing buildings with such single-seaters can be very expensive because it often involves running new water and sewage lines.

    But there’s a much simpler inexpensive method to protect the interests of transsexual users, who do not want to be forced to chose a restroom inconsistent with their gender identity, and at the same time to protect the interests of concerned female users, and it’s being tested at the George Washington University Law School.

    It satisfies the needs of transsexuals (as well as transvestites) – who dress in a manner inconsistent with their anatomical sex – to be able to have ready access to conveniently located restrooms without having to declare any particular gender preference or identity, while at the same time insuring that girls and women will not find anatomical males (transgender or otherwise) in their female restrooms.

    It also avoids the need for schools and businesses to construct many more single-user all-gender restrooms (another popular solution) – which is expensive at best, and often near impossible in existing buildings – so it’s a win, win, win situation.

    What the GWU Law School has done is simply to re-designate what was formerly a typical men’s restroom – with 3 urinals, 1 toilet in a stall, and 2 wash basins – as an all-gender restroom. Since the percentage of students who are transsexual is very small, most of the time the room functions as any other male restroom would, with many men able to urinate in urinals at the same time.

    However any person – including not only transsexuals, but also transvestites, men who are bashful, have shy bladder syndrome (paruresis), etc. – can enter this restroom without exposing themselves to others or identifying with any particular gender, and relieve themselves in the privacy of the stall. Because typical women could even use this stall toilet if time is short and the lines at the nearby women’s room are too long, both F2M and M2F transsexual students can relieve themselves in the room’s toilet without revealing anything about their anatomical gender or gender identity.

    Since in most buildings large male and female restrooms are usually paired close together, this system would open up almost half of all restrooms to transgender students so they would no longer have to search for – and then often travel far to – single-user all-gender restrooms which are often few and far between.

    While GWU’s system would occasionally expose typical male users to an anatomical female, most men seem unconcerned about any potential privacy invasion and, unlike the reverse situation, have little fear about suffering sexual assaults or even rape from anatomical females who are transgender males.

    So if permitting anatomical males to use female restrooms is found to create an illegal hostile environment, school districts have at least two simple options which would still protect transgender students.

    The first would be to require individual schools to make reasonable accommodations by providing a sufficient number of single-user restrooms at convenient locations.

    The second would be converting all or most larger male restrooms into all-gender restrooms as the GWU Law School has done successfully.

    Either would probably solve most of the problems many states are now facing, and do so without adversely affecting transsexuals, nor typical girls and women concerned about privacy and possible sexual assaults.

    PUBLIC INTEREST LAW PROFESSOR JOHN BANZHAF

  2. I find it funny that people only care if someone with a penis sexually assaults someone with a vagina, but nobody gives a shit if somebody with a vagina sexually assaults someone with a vagina.

    One sexual assault by a male and there’s talk of rescinding trans policies, but a lesbian assaults a girl in the bathroom and people go “oh well.”

  3. It’s sad when Obama implements a law that jeopardizes the safety of females by allowing a transgender male to enter the female bathroom. He did it just to get their votes. Obama lacks common sense.

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