Below are the reactions of state leaders, parents and students to guidance from President Barack Obama’s administration’s directive that schools must permit transgender students to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
In Louisville, Kentucky, transgender student Henry Brousseau said he was denied access to bathrooms matching his chosen identity for much of his time at a private high school.
“I actively avoided going to the restroom,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “I would wait until I got home. I would hold it. It was just a bad situation.”
The 18-year-old finishing his senior year was born female, but has identified as a male since he was a 14-year-old freshman.
The school tried to handle the issue by setting aside a restroom for his personal use.
“That really singled me out among my peers, because they saw that the school wasn’t even treating me as an equal, so they didn’t need to, either,” he said.
During his junior year, school administrators allowed Brousseau to start using bathrooms consistent with his chosen identity.
“It’s made a world of difference,” Brousseau said. “I have not been harassed at school in the last two years. And that correlates to when the administration let me use the bathroom that matched my gender identity.”
EVOLVING POLICIES IN OHIO
The superintendent of a western Ohio school district that had some controversy when the school year began with a new policy on transgender students and bathrooms said Friday he hadn’t had time yet to look at the new federal directive, but said Troy City Schools allows transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender identity.
“We dealt with the issue in the fall and we’ve been following the policy,” said Troy City Schools Superintendent Eric Herman.
Some parents had voiced initial displeasure last year with the decision to grant access to a men’s bathroom for a transgender student who had previously attended school as a female. The district explained last August and in subsequent information provided to parents that it believed denying the student’s request would violate the federal Title IX law on discrimination based on sex. The district said students feeling uncomfortable or seeking more privacy could also use private bathroom alternatives.
CONNECTICUT: AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Connecticut education officials have had policies in place since 2013 to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
The state passed a law in 2011 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs scholastic sports in the state, also allows transgender students to play on athletic teams that match their gender identity.
Karissa Niehoff, the group’s executive director, says there have been several such cases since the policy took effect in 2013 of females transitioning to males and playing on boy’s high school teams. She said there have so far, been no complaints.
Dusty Rader, 25, is a Connecticut high school English teacher who began transitioning from female to male while in high school. He said that he often would spend the day in high school “holding it” so he did not have to choose which bathroom to enter.
Rader, who has fully transitioned since surgery in 2011, said he first used a boy’s bathroom in the high school a year after graduating, when he came back to visit. He said someone he knew was in there and it took some time for that student to process what was going on.
“Then he kind of realized, ‘Well of course you would use the men’s room and there was no problem,” he said.
ANGER AT OBAMA
Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said: “This is the most outrageous example yet of the Obama administration forcing its liberal agenda on states that roundly reject it. Public schools’ restroom policies should not be shaped by federal coercion.”
This week, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey asked an appeals court to rehear a case that overturned a Virginia school district’s policy forbidding a transgender teen from using the boys’ restroom.
In the brief, West Virginia joined Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and the governors of Maine and North Carolina.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory released a statement saying: “President Obama’s administration has instituted federally mandated edicts that affect employees as well as every parent and child within a public school system. This national bathroom, locker room and shower policy for almost every business, university and now K-12 school in our country changes generations of gender etiquette and privacy norms …”
ON OBAMA’S SIDE
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said: “In Washington state, we’ve adopted policies that ensure our schools are a place all our children can feel safe from discrimination, harassment or even assault based on their gender identity. The guidance issued today by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice affirms that Washington is doing the right thing for our students. .. I applaud the Obama Administration for establishing policies that will better provide all our children an opportunity to thrive.”
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin praised the Obama administration’s directive. In a statement issued Friday, Gov. Peter Shumlin said no student should ever feel discriminated against while at school for any reason.
A SOUTH CAROLINA CASE
In South Carolina last month, a high school student in Horry County was allowed to use the boys’ bathroom after the Transgender Law Center threatened to sue, and the student’s suspension in January over bathroom use was removed from his record.
On Friday, Horry County School Board Chairman Joe DeFeo said the Obama directive is essentially moot because the issue is already before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I think we read it and continue doing what we’re doing, and that’s handling everything on a case-by-case basis,” DeFeo told The Associated Press.
Schreiner reported from Louisville, Ky. And Eaton Robb from Hartford, Conn. Also contributing to this report were: Dan Sewell in Cincinnati; Jonathan Mattise in Charleston, West Virginia; and Seanna Adcox in Columbia, S.C.