New Kent County School Board considers bathroom policy for transgender students
The New Kent Chronicle is reporting the local school board is prepped for a fight over a policy for transgender students bathroom use.
A meeting held at the New Kent High School’s auditorium played host to 23 members of the public as they spoke about the nearby case of Gavin Grimm, a Gloucester County transgender teen who is fighting against his school board for passing a policy requiring students to use the bathroom of their birth gender.
“We have at least two unisex bathrooms in each school,” said New Kent School superintendent Dr. Dave Myers. “I believe we have taken steps in the right direction for now, but we obviously need guidance on the issue.”
A collection of documents on the New Kent School Board’s website shows the school board looking into how other counties have handled transgender students, and the legal ramifications when enacting a new policy. Both Fairfax County’s trans-inclusive and Gloucester County’s trans-non-inclusive policies are included, as well as legal briefs from Grimm’s case.
Public comment on the issue was diverse ranging from supportive:
“I applaud the progressive stance of a neutral gender restroom,” said Sam Fuller, who works as a clinical psychologist. “With a lot of the studies I have done with patients, a child will identify by the age of four to six their gender as a male or female.
“I’ve learned that the more a parent tries to suppress this issue by forcing a child to be a boy or be a girl, the more psychological damage it can do. I do believe the board’s intentions are good, but sending a child to a neutral gender bathroom away from everybody is not a good message.”
To less supportive:
“Parents want a safe, loving, nurturing environment,” said Laura Robertson. “An unsexed restroom for transgender students in addition to the segregated same-sex restroom is a solution that will meet everyone needs while upholding the integrity of each child’s privacy.”
“I’m concerned about the safety for kids,” Sarah Ferrell said. “I don’t want someone claiming they are transgender when they are really not. Kids are very curious nowadays, especially at the elementary level.”
In what had to be one of the most moving moments of the meeting, the sole student to speak on the issue, Junior Destiny Martinez, showed support for trans students if and when they arrive in New Kent Public Schools:
“I understand that it’s a big issue and I understand how a child can feel confused when they are young,” she said. “But you’re confused on every subject when you’re that young [elementary age].
“In today’s society it is good to learn about issues at that age,” Martinez continued. “I do not feel threatened and take no offense if a transgender wants to use the bathroom. If they do, good for them for standing up for what they believe in, but personally it doesn’t bother me.”
The Department of Education supports trans-inclusive policies where students use the restroom of the gender they currently identify with. The DOH has argued this issue before, and wrote a letter supporting their argument when Grimm went to District Court in July.
“Under Title IX, discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex,” read the statement, which goes on to say the rural Virginia County’s new bathroom policy, which requires students to use the restroom of the gender they were born with, violates this condition.
“There is a public interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination.”
The New Kent work session did not end in a vote, but the The New Kent Chronicle reported board chairwoman Sarah Grier Barber saying “as a board, we have a lot to think about, but we are going to do what’s best for the children of New Kent.”
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