EATON — According to local school administrators, the hot-button national debate on transgender access to public restrooms is not currently an issue in Preble County.
Last month, the Obama administration issued a directive to schools stating that transgender students must be allowed to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. This directive came on the heels of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 or the “bathroom law,” a controversial piece of legislation severely limiting transgender access to public restrooms. After the Department of Justice challenged the law, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory filed a lawsuit seeking government support to keep the law in place; the DOJ responded the state, the governor, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the University of North Carolina, seeking “a court order declaring House Bill 2’s restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement.”
Gov. McCrory said, “The Obama administration is bypassing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law and set restroom policies for public and private employers across the country, not just North Carolina. This is now a national issue that applies to every state and it needs to be resolved at the federal level.”
The DOJ countered that HB2 violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX, which states that schools receiving public funding are prohibited from discriminating against students based on sex; a letter from the DOJ clarified its use of “sex” to include gender.
“This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms,” said U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch. “This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them — indeed, to protect all of us. And it’s about the founding ideals that have led this country — haltingly but inexorably — in the direction of fairness, inclusion and equality for all Americans.
“This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation. We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry.”
“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” she said.
Eleven U.S. states disagreed, filing a lawsuit against the Obama administration two weeks ago, claiming that the decisions have “no basis in law.”
Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin combined powers for the suit, arguing that the DOJ’s current direction will turn U.S. schools “into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over common-sense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”
At a town hall in Elkhart, Indiana last week, President Obama said, “My reading of Scripture tells me that [the] Golden Rule is pretty high up there, in terms of my Christian belief. What happened and what continues to happen is you have transgender kids in schools and they get bullied, and they get ostracized, and it’s tough for them. I have profound respect for everybody’s religious beliefs on this, but if you’re at a public school, the question is, how do we make sure that children are treated with kindness?”
Ohio attorney general Mike Dewine issued a sharp rebuttal to Lynch and U.S. secretary of education John King, Jr., warning that if “the Obama administration takes action to remove these decisions from Ohio parents and local schools, I will vigorously fight against such overreach. As our state’s Attorney General, I don’t determine local school policies on these issues — but neither should federal bureaucrats or the President of the United States.”
Local school officials have yet to encounter these issues among their student populations in Preble County.
“We are not aware of any transgender students currently in our school,” said Eaton Community Schools superintendent Barbara Curry.
National Trail superintendent Jeff Parker knows that the issue will someday be a necessary conversation topic, but has not shown itself to be a factor that needs to be discussed at this time.
“It will be at some point. The board has not discussed it. We’re watching just like everyone else is, and we will do all we can to ensure every student’s privacy,” Parker said.
Reach Duante Beddingfield at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @duanteb_RH.