transgender_restroom

KCSD Transgender policy

The Kingston City School District Board of Education Policy Committee is working on a policy regarding the use of school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms by transgender students based on their identified gender rather than their biological gender. The BOE Policy Committee met with their lawyer on Friday March 4, 2016 seeking advice regarding the policy.

I shared personal concerns regarding a potential transgender policy during public comment at the KCSD board of education meeting on Wednesday March 2, 2016.  I know that some who read Jolyn’s Education Corner will not agree with the concerns that I raise regarding implementation of a policy to allow transgender access to school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms.  There are people all across the United States who are pushing for transgender access to be granted by schools, communities and states.  However I also know that some here in Kingston do agree with my concerns and I believe that many more will understand the validity of the concerns as they begin to consider the various implications of such a policy.

Personal statement from Jolyn Safron – presented to Kingston City School District Board of Education on March 2, 2016:

I am a parent of two young ladies at Kingston High School.

I am concerned that any transgender policy intended to create equality and remove discrimination for a transgender student by giving them unfettered access to school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms based on their identified gender will actually discriminate against far more students who are losing their personal privacy and are now forced to change with or be seen in undress by someone who is biologically a member of the opposite sex.

Gender identity is not well-defined or understood and yet we propose treating members as a protected class?  Transgender depends upon how someone feels and can change over time.  Facebook has 50 different gender identities to select from in the United States and 70 in Europe.  Some even declare their gender as ‘gender fluid’ with it changing from day to day or hour to hour.

Parents will have no recourse against policies that differ from what they want to teach their children regarding sexuality.  If they wish to teach modesty and that men and women should not see each other undressed outside of a committed relationship, students will just have to get used to the fact that it won’t apply in the school house.

Is it fair to our young people to ask/expect them to ignore the bodies of the opposite sex that transgender students bring into the bathrooms and locker rooms?  Most parents want their children to avoid viewing pornography because it adversely affects children as they grow and develop. Are our kids, who are learning and developing their sexual identity, mature enough to deal with seeing what they try to avoid other places in their school bathrooms and locker rooms?

There are also significant freedom of religion issues at stake because modesty/sexual expectations are integral aspects of several religions, particularly Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Will sexual liberty trump our constitutionally protected religious liberty?

I will end with an example put forth at a rally on this issue in Charlotte, North Carolina:

“When you have a blind student in a school, you don’t impose that student’s handicap on the entire school, forcing the other kids to read braille. But when it comes to those struggling with gender identity issues, the City Council wants to impose their struggles on the whole community, on impressionable little girls who will be traumatized by a man wearing a dress in the restaurant bathroom and on young ladies and women who will be forced to undress in the presence of a biological male in their gym locker room.”

I do not want any traumatized students, transgender or non-transgender.  I ask that the school board bring the community together to discuss this important issue in order to develop a solution that is in the best interest of all students and families within the Kingston City School District.

Since public comment is limited to two minutes, there is much that I was not able to share during the public comment period.  Here is a more detailed version of my concerns with some links if you wish to read background information.

It is my understanding that right now in KCSD transgender students are being provided separate spaces for changing for gym class but arguments are being brought forward across the country that “separate is not equal” and some school districts are putting policies in place to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their identified gender. In many cases these policies are being enacted despite a number of community members voicing concerns about the policies.

A variety of concerns come to mind regarding transgender students using bathrooms and locker rooms with non-transgender (cisgender) students. They are, in no particular order:

  • Any policy intended to create equality and remove discrimination for a transgender student by giving them unfettered access to bathrooms/locker rooms will actually discriminate against far more students who are losing their personal privacy and are now forced to change with or be seen in undress by someone who is biologically a member of the opposite sex.

  • Gender identity, which includes transgender, is not well-defined or understood and yet we propose treating ‘members’ as a protected class? Transgender depends upon how someone feels and can change over time. Facebook has 50 different gender identifies to select from in the United States and 70 in Europe. Some even declare their gender as ‘gender fluid’ with it changing from day to day or hour to hour.

  • Parents will have no recourse against policies that differ from what they want to teach their children regarding sexuality. If they wish to teach modesty and that men and women should not see each other undressed outside of marriage, students will just have to get used to the fact that it won’t apply in the school house.

  • Is it fair to our young people to ask/expect them to ignore the bodies of the opposite sex that transgender students bring into the bathrooms and locker rooms? Most parents want their children to learn modesty and avoid viewing pornography (naked bodies particularly of the opposite sex) because it adversely affects children as they grow and develop. Are our kids, who are learning and developing their sexual identity, mature enough to deal with seeing what they try to avoid other places in their school bathrooms and locker rooms?

  • There is fear of lawsuits against the school district from transgender students who feel they are being discriminated against by not being allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their identified gender. What about the potential lawsuits, which are actually much more numerous, from students who feel their constitutional right to privacy is violated by a member of the opposite sex seeing them undress? Also how does a transgender student undressing in front of a cisgnder student fit with New York State’s indecent exposure laws?

  • There are significant freedom of religion issues at stake because modesty/sexual expectations are integral aspects of several religions, particularly Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Will sexual liberty trump our constitutionally protected religious liberty?

  • The debate over transgender rights is not just occurring in the school house. Similar battles are being waged to pass SOGI (sexual orientation/gender identity) laws regarding public and business bathrooms and locker rooms. Concerns regarding the safety of women arise in public places if biological males are allowed to enter bathrooms and locker rooms. How does a woman determine upon entering a restroom whether the person that looks like a man is transgender and therefore not a threat to her or is a heterosexual predator who is using the new regulations to gain access to places where he can abuse women? Hopefully students will not have to deal with this level of concern in our school bathrooms and locker rooms but if our young girls become desensitized to the presence of “males” in the school bathrooms and locker rooms how will they learn to be careful in other public spaces?

In my opinion KCSD is essentially between a rock and a hard place. NYSED is giving no direction to school districts about how to handle transgender issues and each district has to figure it out on their own. Shenandowa School District passed policy allowing transgender access to bathrooms back in December 2014 despite community protest.  I personally know a parent from that school district who was involved and frustrated by the decision.  Hamburg NY passed a transgender policy with no community protest in December 2015.  Lancaster, NY attempted to pass a policy in December 2015 but had so much community response that the discussion had to be tabled after several hours.

The transgender policy debate also exists at a national level. A school district in Palatine, Illinois was forced by the federal government (U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights) to allow transgender Student A (biologically male student) to have full access to the girl’s locker room or else lose the school district’s Title IX funding and face additional penalties. Many people spoke both for and against the policy including six high school students who spoke, despite their fear of being called bigots, insensitive or homophobes, of their discomfort and their sense of invasion of personal privacy due to having to undress with a biological male in the locker room.

At the city/state level, the most recent SOGI battle that I have read about is from Charlotte, North Caroline where the City Council voted to pass an LGBT non-discrimination bill on February 22, 2016 despite massive protest. Some of the comments from the rally prior to the council meeting seem applicable to the transgender policy discussion here in Kingston.

“When you have a blind student in a school, you don’t impose that student’s handicap on the entire school, forcing the other kids to read braille. But when it comes to those struggling with gender identity issues, the City Council wants to impose their struggles on the whole community — on impressionable little girls who will be traumatized by a man wearing a dress in the restaurant bathroom and on young ladies and women who will be forced to undress in the presence of a biological male in their gym locker room.

I do not want any traumatized students, transgender or non-transgender.  I urge all members of the Kingston community to investigate this issue and determine what you are comfortable with for yourself and your children and then join the conversation, in a kind and respectful manner, to help develop a solution that is in the best interest of all students and families within the Kingston City School District.