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.ThomasOnePageSummary
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