Rural VA county school board’s “biological sex” based bathroom bill faces local opposition
Grayson County Public Schools has joined a small number of other Virginia school districts that required students to use restrooms aligned with their birth gender, not their gender identity, but one local activist and trasnwoman is speaking out.
The measure, passed by a unanimous 5-0 vote by the school board last May, was proposed by the deeply conservative state Senator Charles W. Carrico (R- 40) in Grayson County.
At a school board meeting held last week, activists on both sides of the issue came out to share their concerns, including The Senator who has continued to back the legislation.
“This was adopted to protect every student, not just single out one or the other,” said Sen. Carrico, who stressed every student has a right to privacy. He compared Grayson’s policy to Gloucester County’s which is currently facing a lawsuit from a transgender student. In that cases most recent development, the Supreme Court sided with the school board in denying the student’s request for a stay on the policy, forcing him back into the girls room as he returns to school this month.
“Without this policy this is something you really need to think about,” Carrico said. “Even though you may not have transgender in your school, if a visiting school comes to your district… and you have no policy, you could be facing a transgender going into the bathroom and that could be a transgender adult with teenage and children without a policy in place. You have to understand that the advocates are going to come at you.”
And “come at them” they did with a number of voices speaking out against the policy.
Charlotte Hanes, a local woman, said policies like this make a big deal out of a nonissue.
“We have no evidence this is an issue anywhere,” Hanes said. “I know a student who has gone through a near by school system and there was no issue; there was no policy.”
She also stressed that being transgender isn’t something folks just wake up and decided to be, but rather it is a life-long struggle many face and policies like this don’t make things any easier.
“If you have [a transgender person] in your system you will know about it. You will have talked to the parents… and that student is the one who can deiced at what point their safe to go into the bathroom otherwise they’re going to get beat to a pulp.”
There was at least one actual transgender voice at the meeting, that of local woman Kristin Plenger (top image, left.)
“When I was in school, I learned at an early age that I had to hide who I was to be safe. That did not stop the abuse I endured, but it did lessen how much abuse I received,” said Plenger, a native to the South West Virginia region who came out as transgender over a decade ago, but remembered how she endured bullying for being different in her formative years.
“I hope you will come to understand that a policy that negatively targets and separates transgender students increases that fear and widens the distance between transgender students and the world they want to be a part of,” she said, noting policies like these further ostracize an already persecuted minority.
In a separate interview with GayRVA, Plenger said she’s got involved with fighting the policy shortly after the policy was past.
She called the superintendent of Schools for Grayson County, Kelly Wilmore, and offered help where she could.
“He was respectful, he listened,” she said. “But it’s been three months… and in that amount of time nothings really happened.”
But she knows these things take time, and she’ll continue to do what she can to help. She plans to attended future school board meetings and offer help where she can.
While the Department of Education and the Obama Administration have both expressed support for trans students, the issue will most likely be decided by future Supreme Court hearings. GayRVA will continue to follow the topic as it erupts.
Photo from the August Grayson County School Board meeting via Carole Conrad
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