EATON – An Eaton mother is challenging Eaton Community School’s Hollingsworth-East Elementary to follow Title IX in regard to her transgender daughter, Natasha Smiley.
Allison Smiley did not know much about transgender issues before her daughter transitioned. She knew about Kaitlyn Jenner, but other than that piece of pop-culture, she had no idea what it meant to have a transgender child.
The transition process started for the five-year-old roughly a year ago.
“Her clinical diagnosis was on Nov. 16, 2015,” Allison Smiley said.
She added, Natasha’s (then known as Logan) admission came “out of the blue.” According to Allison, Natasha knew what was going on, and she had “always known something was different about herself.”
Natasha came to Allison one day and told her an “elaborate” back story regarding who she believed she truly was.
“She started talking about how she was actually Natasha and she knew how to spell it and wanted to spell it,” Allison Smiley said. “That she wasn’t Logan and even though she had been Logan, she had to wait before she could tell us.”
Natasha wanted to come out as soon as she told her mother. She wanted to start going to school as Natasha, instead of Logan, right away.
Allison wanted to wait until they went to the doctor before anything was decided. They first went to the pediatrician and then a counselor, and that is where Natasha was clinically diagnosed with “gender dysphoria.”
The Smiley family lived in Florida when this diagnosis was given. The schools were accepting and so were Natasha’s peers. So when moving back to Ohio to help Allison’s mother, the Smileys expected the same acceptance from East Elementary in Eaton.
Allison Smiley reached out to the school district to let officials know Natasha was transgender and born biologically male. Only the people who “deal directly with Natasha” know this fact about Natasha – her classmates do not.
The school requested she use the clinic bathroom.
“I was like, ‘Well, that’s against the law for you to say she has to use a specific bathroom.’ They said, ‘No, it’s not, there’s no legislation in Ohio.’ I agree with that, there is no legislation in Ohio, and because of this, you have to go off the federal legislation. Which is Title IX — which says they cannot discriminate against sex,” Allison Smiley said.
“With the (federal) law that was signed this summer by President Obama, she has the right to choose whatever bathroom. (The school) actually said (Natasha) was not allowed to use the boys’ or the girls’ restroom,” she added.
“She’s been going to the clinic bathroom and the first couple of days she thought it was pretty cool,” Allison Smiley said. “Then it got to the point where I saw she was getting frustrated. I asked what is wrong, and she said, ‘I always have to go to the clinic, but I’m not sick.’”
Allison was tired of her child being frustrated with school and said reached out to the ECS Superintendent, who did not return her calls.
This past weekend, Allison Smiley sent her story to several media outlets, and then called the superintendent’s office and told them she had.
Allison says she has since received a voicemail from Superintendent Dr. Barb Curry.
In a statement released to The Register-Herald and area media, Curry noted, “The Eaton Community School District cares about the education and privacy of all its students. The school understands that the transgender issue is a complex and emotional issue for many students, parents, and community members. The school respects the rights of transgender students and also respects the rights of all students, including basic expectations of privacy. Ultimately, this difficult issue will be decided not by the Eaton Board of Education, but by the Supreme Court of the United States of America. When clear direction is provided by the courts, our school will follow that direction.”
According to Curry, she is not aware of any other transgender students in the district.
Since reaching out publicly, Allison said the family has received a lot of support from the community.
There are also negative comments being made which Allison Smiley and her family now have to deal with.
“There’s a lot of people who say, ‘this is a five-year-old, this is just the parents looking for fame and money.’ There’s no monetary amount that could ever be sufficient for my child being comfortable enough to be themself,” Allison said.
She continued, “We’ve got quite a bit of negative, and that’s okay, because everyone has a right to their own opinion – that’s the great thing about America. You get to be yourself; you get to have your own freedom of speech.”
Allison went on to say, people who issue negative comments “are not educated on the situation” and that even she herself was not educated a year ago.
“Natasha has been a huge support to us,” she admitted. “She’s like, ‘Mom, I’m different, it’s okay. I’m different.’”
Five-year-old Natasha has even stood up for herself against kids who claim she is a boy.
When her mother and her Florida school accepted Natasha’s identity as a girl, she went from being an angry child with attention issues to a well-behaved honor-roll child.
“Since the transition, Natasha has never acted out in school,” Allison Smiley stressed. However, at East she has been having issues with being “disruptive in class.” Smiley said Natasha feels like she is being hurt by having to take time out of her learning to go to “this different bathroom.”
Allison wishes she could “just pack up and go back to Florida,” but she is needed here, and her husband has gotten a good job – they cannot move back, only forward.
“I have to back her, because she’s my child and the suicide rate for transgender children is very high,” Allison Smiley said. “I choose to have my child in my life. I choose to support her. I choose to support all my children in things they wish to do.”
As for her next steps, Allison said, “I have contacted Lambda Legal, who deals with transgender, HIV, and LGBTQ+ rights. I have an email and phone call into them. I have decided that I’m going to pursue Natasha’s rights.”